MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Thu 10-Oct-13 14:37:51

Should we Lose The Lads' Mags?

The Lose The Lads' Mags campaign is calling on the 'big four' supermarket chains to stop selling lads' mags in their stores. Kat Banyard, author of the Equality Illusion and founder of UK Feminista, explains why she thinks it's time for them to listen.

So - is it time to Lose The Lads' Mags? Tell us what you think on the thread below.

Lead photo
Kat Banyard

Lose the Lads' Mags campaign

Posted on

Thu 10-Oct-13 14:37:51

(103 comments)

Only the Co-op has stopped stocking lads' mags on their shelves

There’s been a deeply damaging screw-up at the headquarters of the ‘big four’ supermarkets – and it’s been dragging on for years. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons all have a policy of not selling pornographic or 'adult' magazines. And yet day after day, year upon year, these stores have been stocking their shelves with sexist porn mags like Nuts, Zoo, Loaded and Front.

Lawyers have told the retailers that selling them can violate equality legislation. Anti-violence organisations say they fuel attitudes underpinning violence against women. And yet, there they still are, lining the shelves. So just what’s going on when self-declared ‘family retailers’ are willing to breach their own rules and risk legal action in order to sell magazines known to fuel dangerous and misogynistic attitudes towards half the UK’s population?

That’s exactly what UK Feminista and Object tried to find out when we met representatives from one of these retail giants - Tesco - back in July. Tesco insisted they don’t stock magazines classified by the industry as pornographic, that Nuts and Zoo are ‘Men’s Lifestyle’ magazines. Customers writing to them on the issue were told much the same: “Please let me assure you that when selecting our magazine range, we always keep at the front of mind that we are a family retailer and that the product choice needs to be appropriate. We do not stock any publication that we deem would be not suitable to our customers, including any adult titles.”…and… “We do not stock any magazines classified by the industry as pornographic”. Interesting, because when we posted images from the current editions of Nuts and Zoo on Facebook, another corporate giant with a 'no porn' policy, they were removed. The social networking site issued a message stating the images "violated our Community Standards".

Even staunch lads’ mags defender Barry McIheney, CEO of the Professional Publishers Association, admits “these titles certainly contain adult imagery”. Barry should know. Back in the early 2000s, as CEO of EMAP Elan publishers, he was the man responsible for launching Zoo. We also commissioned legal advice on the pornographic nature of Nuts, Zoo, Loaded and Front from Hugh Southey, a leading QC at Matrix Chambers. His judgment: “..the images in the editions of Nuts, Zoo, Loaded and Front <here assessed> are plainly pornographic”. So why, then, are the ‘big four’ still actively choosing to stock the likes of Nuts and Zoo - in direct contravention of their own policies?

Why does all this matter so much? Because as the Government- commissioned Sexualisation of Young People Review reported in 2010, “lads' mags promote an idea of male sexuality as based on power and aggression, depicting women as sex objects".

Could it be that the supermarkets have been getting some duff advice on magazine classifications from the industry? We contacted publishers and trade bodies to find out. Turns out, the only part of the industry that classifies Nuts and Zoo as ‘Men’s Lifestyle’ rather than ‘adult’ or pornographic are Nuts and Zoo themselves. It is a self-assigned classification. It’s really not hard to fathom why these magazines would describe themselves as ‘Men’s Lifestyle’. What’s harder to understand is why supermarkets would swallow it.

It's even more perplexing when you consider these stores are risking legal action by stocking Nuts and Zoo. Years ago society decided it unacceptable to have 'girlie calendar'- style images on workplace walls because they can create a hostile and degrading environment for women. The ‘big four’ supermarkets would never allow the 'girlie calendar'- style covers of lads' mags on their office walls, so why do they have them on their supermarket shelves? It's a question that's prompted 18 leading lawyers to write to retailers warning them that exposing both staff and customers to lads' mags could constitute sexual harassment or sex discrimination under the Equality Act.

Why does all this matter so much? Because as the Government- commissioned Sexualisation of Young People Review reported in 2010, “lads’ mags promote an idea of male sexuality as based on power and aggression, depicting women as sex objects and including articles that feature strategies for manipulating women.” The American Psychological Association has concluded that viewing media that portrays women as sex objects leads people to become more accepting of sexual harassment, interpersonal violence and rape myths. In essence, lads' mags fuel attitudes underpinning violence against women.

Right now, we have a crisis of violence against women in this country. Rape Crisis report that 85,000 women are raped every single year in England and Wales alone, while one in three girls has been subjected to sexual abuse from a boyfriend. If we're serious about tackling this, we need to join the dots between sexist violence and the cultures and attitudes in daily life that give rise to it. A society in which the biggest 'family' retailers deem it so normal and acceptable to view women as dehumanised sex objects that they choose to line their shelves with magazines dedicated to it is a society in which women and girls can never be safe.

That's why Women's Aid, Imkaan and the End Violence Against Women coalition are among the organisations urging the ‘big four’ supermarkets to stop selling sexist lads? mags like Nuts and Zoo. They’re joined by 1.3 million member strong trade union, Unison, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, 18 top lawyers and thousands of customers. Together we're not asking for any new laws or regulations. Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury's already have policies in place (and legal responsibilities) that mean harmful lads' mags like Nuts and Zoo should never have been added to their product order lists in the first place.

So far, only the Co-operative has taken significant action. As a result of lads' mags failing to meet the retailer’s new packaging demands, Nuts, Zoo and Front are no longer sold in the Co-operative's 4000 stores. It's now vital the ‘big four’ listen to the anti-violence organisations, shareholders, customers, lawyers, trade unionists and teachers all urging them to lose the lads' mags.

Do you think the 'big four' supermarket chains should stop selling lads' mags? Tell us what you think here on the thread.

By Kat Banyard

Twitter: @UK_Feminista

EdithWeston Thu 10-Oct-13 15:32:50

Didn't the Co-op do something about 'cover or we won't stock these magazines'?

They had a deadline - has that expired now, and did anything happen?

Onesleeptillwembley Thu 10-Oct-13 15:59:59

As I've put before, the 'women's' ones are just as bad. 'Beast father raped me' 'my baby murdered' etc. and they are at children's head height a lot of the time. It's not solely a sexism problem. It's a complete boundaries problem. I don't want to see those things, tbh, and wouldn't want children to. Tackle the whole issue.

TEErickOrTEEreat Thu 10-Oct-13 16:09:18

edith It's in the last paragraph of the above post: "So far, only the Co-operative has taken significant action. As a result of lads' mags failing to meet the retailer’s new packaging demands, Nuts, Zoo and Front are no longer sold in the Co-operative's 4000 stores."

And onesleep is right. It's not just the 'lads mags'. It's the 'true life story' mags and the women's mags with objectified men or women on the cover.

Gunznroses Thu 10-Oct-13 16:55:58

Yes, yes, please let's get rid, they are disgusting!

AfricanExport Thu 10-Oct-13 18:02:00

I would rather my 12 year old daughter be exposed to nuts and zoo than to any of the , apparently, acceptable shit that is in the womans magazines. those things are far more damaging to young girls than any guy magazines.

I think we are focusing on the wrong thing.

EdithWeston Thu 10-Oct-13 18:11:53

And I thought I'd read it properly blush

TEErickOrTEEreat Thu 10-Oct-13 18:15:33

I don't think it's the wrong thing AfricanExport but I think it doesn't go far enough.

Moxiegirl Thu 10-Oct-13 18:17:20

Yes, horrific covers on the true life magazines. Can't bring myself to get worked up about the lads' mags tbh.

Onesleeptillwembley Thu 10-Oct-13 18:29:55

I'm glad I don't have daughters, African. smile

AfricanExport Thu 10-Oct-13 18:38:04

oh. I don't know. If I look at the guys magazine they are in fact celebrating the Female form for its beauty ( I understand the issue some have with this) but regardless it is not nearly as demeaning, they are not ripping every woman to shreds, making fun of them because of things that are irrelevant, ridiculing woman for having not lost all the baby weight or for daring to wear the same dress more than once. angry We won't even go into the 'Real life stories'. ..oh my god!! There are so many things wrong with those magazines.

I would really let me dd look at Nuts or Zoo.she is not stupid she knows Boys like looking at pretty girls, long before I allow her near the so called woman's magazines.

AfricanExport Thu 10-Oct-13 18:46:20

onesleep

It's blooming scary... honestly. Trying to get some sort of balance smile smile

Louise1956 Thu 10-Oct-13 20:09:31

people should be able to read what they want to read. bossy feminists should not be able to censor men's reading. women's magazines are full of rubbish too, but I wouldn't stop women reading them.

I'm another one who thinks the women's weekly mags are far more distressing to children. To a young child, the sight of a woman in her knickers on the cover of Nuts is simply not that interesting, whereas a photo of some poor baby with three eyes or the close up of someone's face after their lover-who-is-really-their-grandparent hit them with a chair leg is instantly upsetting.

Mintyy Thu 10-Oct-13 20:24:31

Whilst I wouldn't want to minimise the damage done by magazines like Nuts, I just think it is pointless to try and censor them whilst we still allow the unstoppable tide of violent online pornography that is available in two clicks to absolutely anyone who wants to see it.

I would like to see the issues dealt with by the most offensive first, tbh.

I started a thread on the Women's magazines a few days ago.

I'm glad it's not just me who thinks that both the Lad's Mags and the horrific sensationalist headlines in the Women's Weeklies need to go. Children should never be exposed to either.

SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 20:56:55

well that just means we have two problems, doesn't it?

It doesn't mean lads mags are fine because other mags aren't.

Onesleeptillwembley Thu 10-Oct-13 20:59:14

I can see your point, Louise, my beef is the ridiculously offensive titles on display. Mainly to children, but some of them must be triggering to adults. Hell, if I find them distasteful, they must be bad.

Indeed Sal, both need tackling. But many of us feel that the women's mags are more of a problem, and if you're going to campaign against children being exposed to inappropriate content on supermarket shelves, why not deal with all of it at once instead of targeting only one kind?

SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 21:21:19

well, with all due respect, let Kat run her campaign and you run yours! i am sure you will have lots of overlapping support, because the two issues have a lot in common

(Not trying to be bitchy am shattered and I can't tell how that reads back confused maybe it sounds ok)

TEErickOrTEEreat Thu 10-Oct-13 21:26:11

Why can't we all just work together if our common goal is protecting children?

SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 21:35:12

isn't that what I said about overlaps? But with slightly different focuses

TEErickOrTEEreat Thu 10-Oct-13 21:36:14

No, you said to let Kat run her campaign and 'you run yours.'

That's not working together.

SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 21:41:51

That was in response to Annie saying that the women's mags were more of a problem. Kat thinks it's the lads mags. We don't need to choose - there are enough problems in the world to keep everyone of us busy. Like I said I'm pretty tired and maybe not putting things too well. I think it's pretty clear to anyone reading now what I mean.

How would you solve both problems without taking ownership of both problems?

I support both, btw, both are awful, but this thread is about the lads mag side of things.

I do support the Lose the Lad's Mags campaign. Absolutely. I'm not saying it should be stopped in favour of a Lose the Women's Weeklies campaign. confused The No More Page 3 is also running at the moment and I support that too - these campaigns don't need to be in any sort of competition.

But while we're discussing inappropriate content being on display in supermarkets, I'd like to highlight that there is other content which I think should also be targeted.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now