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.

Kat Banyard

Lose the Lads' Mags campaign

Posted on: Thu 10-Oct-13 14:37:51

(103 comments )

Lead photo

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

SinisterSal Thu 10-Oct-13 21:52:36

No, indeed, there's no contradiction whatsoever, didn't mean to imply otherwise.

So is the answer that all magazines which are displayed where children can see them should have bland, harmless covers? How about newspapers? (Whole other issue on how much more/less harm is done to children if they see 'Benefit Scroungers Ate My Hamster' or a photograph of a burning building surrounded by corpses on fire). Just how much do children need to be 'sheltered' from the idea that people have different opinions and that sometimes bad things happen?

NoComet Fri 11-Oct-13 00:26:37

"depicting women as sex objects and including articles that feature strategies for manipulating women.”

And what on earth does Cosmopolitan do? No, how to get and keep your man articles and how to get him to give you what you want in bed.

No it's all cup cake recipes and book reviews of homely novels.

karmakoala Fri 11-Oct-13 02:55:19

I'm sorry but I think this is taking feminism a step too far.

Actually, no I'm not sorry.

I agree with what the others have said about weekly magazines aimed at women etc and that the headlines on these are possibly more distressing than the covers of lads mag.

But when did being a feminist give any person the right to dictate what should be on the shelves in the magazine section. Maybe McDonalds should stop selling burgers as vegetarians don't like it, pubs shouldn't sell alcohol in case someone tee total walks in.

Maybe we should just ban reading, ban the internet and make everyone walk around with their eyes closed so that no one gets offended at what they perceive to be wrong.

karmakoala Fri 11-Oct-13 02:58:29

Cosmo Magazine

This is acceptable though, because it empowers women, right?

anon2013 Fri 11-Oct-13 07:32:02

Lads mags are terrible, I mean they claim a woman who may look a little bloated must be heavily pregnant, have stories about incest, rape and murder all over there front page each week and make the fact that you're not a size 6 feel like you're obese. They also run stories about footballers wives fantastic lives each week to show young girls what to aspire too.

oh....

(sorry to rant but I hate mags like Ok/Hello etc as much)

I worked part time in a newsagents a couple of years ago and zoo/Nuts were age restricted by the way.

Sausageeggbacon Fri 11-Oct-13 07:39:34

The whole issue of censorship because you don't like it sounds like something you would find in Russia. I don't like Banyards books... does that mean I can get them banned?

No doubt at the end of this she will come out with a new book and guest speaking gigs so her purse will be filled,

JumpingJackSprat Fri 11-Oct-13 07:43:31

if lads mags are going to be restricted because children might see it then what else are we as a society looking at restricting? theres a whole lot more damaging stuff than some boobs in a magazine. yeah i get the feminist principle and i agree to a certain extent. but if you took this further, what else would we have to ban to make every environment squeaky clean for children?

SinisterSal Fri 11-Oct-13 09:21:36

I don't know of many feminists who defend Cosmo.
At least not nowadays. Maybe in the past it had a different slant, I think so but don't know.
Cosmo is all about what you can do to keep your man happy - that's the opposite of empowerment surely.

I don't get the argument that there is lots of shit out there so lets throw our hands up to heaven in despair and do nothing at all.

scaevola Fri 11-Oct-13 09:52:50

I agree about Cosmo - how it was in the 1970s is absolutely nothing like the mag now.

But the issue here isn't really censorship. I wouldn't call for any of these magazines to be banned. I am however very concerned about what images are readily on display in ordinary shops.

SkivvySkiving Fri 11-Oct-13 14:54:48

I've never heard a bloke harassing women, inspired by reading cosmo.... Imagine that hanging off the scaffold "Errrrr you look like you've been taking on 10 tips to really drive your man wild darlin'!"

When real life men judge and harass women in the street, or pressure them in intimate relationships - they use the language and mind-set of lad's mags and tabloid sexism. Lad's mags make that harassment of women seem normal and something to be put up with. If you object you are accused of being a prude.

So lads mags and women's mags are not on a par because encouraging men to act like arseholes has an impact women can't avoid, but you can more easily stop cosmos messages affecting you - not that I think that corrosive shit is above reproach either.

Vickiw1 Fri 11-Oct-13 15:06:27

Speaking as a mother whose 6 year old daughter was sexually assaulted at school and with 1 in 3 girls suffering same fate (NSPCC) and with schools not dealing with this at all, I think both lads mags and women's mags that sensationalise violence against women and children are part of the same problem - they are chauvinist or women and children hating in their editorial bias. They are both setting a climate where girls are seen as inferior humans that are only good for sex or baiting, and both sexes can believe in male supremacy rather than equality and respect. The lads mags have been pro porn for years and have acted as a gateway to an on line media that references women and children by dehumanising names such as wh*re and bi*ch and has storylines that portray female or child rape victims as liars who have trapped or conned men into sex and then turned on them. Remember, it was the feminist movement that fought against child abuse victims being called child prostitutes and for the right to rape being taken out of marriage. That only happened 20 years ago ... those were chauvinistic values. Is that really what people here want to return to? These chauvinistic values which are pushed by the lads mags are what shielded Jimmy Saville for years, even up to the editor of Newsnight stating that they wouldn't expose JS because they 'only' had the victims words for what happened, as if women were inherantly less trustworthy than men, now where would he have got an attitude as biaised as this? Could it be the media he watches ... since 98% of men between 18 - 44% use porn media up to 2 hours a week ... they say you can tell a lot about a person from the kind of media they use and I think people are beginning to lose their ability to assess equal human rights for women and children through using sexualised hate media such as porn.

StephanieDA Fri 11-Oct-13 15:59:29

Lads mags used to be called 'porn' they were age-restricted and put on the top shelf and covered. By calling them 'lad's mags' and not 'porn' Nuts and Zoo have been able to market them to teenage boys. That makes seeing women as sex entertainment normal and influences boys in the way they view and treat girls.For those who scream 'censorship' or say 'it doesn't bother me', fine, but have you talked to the young girls this attitude affects? These magazines teach boys how to be 'real men', the power of conditioning is huge. The public visible display of these mags conditions both boys and girls to accept that women's role is to sexually entertain men.

Women's mags are the result of decades of publicly accepted sexual objectification of women, which has led women to self-objectify and compete with each other to be the 'perfect' lads mag ideal woman whose only purpose is to have a slim body with big tits to win her man.

Yes women's mags are awful but we need to challenge the root cause of women's body-obsession and insecurity, which is the drip-drip of social conditioning over the years through Page 3 and lads mags.

Oh FFS. SO before there was any mainstream porn, women lived happy lives as complete equals of men? We've had centuries of superstitious bullshit to the effect that women are men's property; women within living memory (ie ask your gran) were not allowed to get a mortgage or open a bank account or rent a flat without ^permission from their male owner^; less than 100 years ago rape victims were locked up in mental homes on the grounds that they were 'morally inferior' or something... We still have men insisting that their imaginary friend allows them to force women to cover themselves up on pain of beating or execution, we still have men allowing women to die rather than terminate failing pregnancies... and yet twats like Banyard are far more concerned with wailing and flailing about 'porn culture' than anything else.

anon2013 Fri 11-Oct-13 16:48:04

Fact of the day, nothing bad in the world happened towards women before page 3 or pornography were invented. It's too easy to point fingers at magazines etc nowadays.

SinisterSal Fri 11-Oct-13 17:02:24

Oh FFS SGB right back at you.

There is a problem here, as clearly outlined by previous posters, including someone whose daughter was assaulted.
If you think pop culture has no impact on people I think you are not paying attention. If I'm wrong argue the point. If there's no need to oppose objectification of women women that would be superfantastic and we can all cross that off our do-to lists.

That has nothing to do with your imaginary friend hobby horse, but hop up on it anyway.

SGB, there is such a wide variety of ways in which women are wronged by men that I really can't take issue with women fighting back at any particular section of the overall bullshit that they choose. Every woman to her own personal battle; all are equally valid.

MolehillAlchemy Fri 11-Oct-13 18:32:22

Most humans are interested in sexualised imagery aren't they? Whether they admit it or not. We're programmed to be interested in it, just look at the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, and for that matter that the most searched for terms on the internet are all to do with sex.

What needs to happen is a realisation by their readers that these magazines don't do anything to inspire, beautify, enlighten and fulfill our sexual inquisitiveness, but do the exact opposite. They dull the human experience of sexual knowledge to a vapid, dull, homogenous depiction of objectified beings.

The objectification of women is everywhere, it permeates from so much of our mainstream media. Once you open your eyes to it, you see it everywhere.

I'm not against literature that enhances and informs our sexual journey in life, but that won't be found in Nuts or Zoo.

Supermarket shelves are definitely NOT the place for this stuff to be on show.

dorisdog Fri 11-Oct-13 19:11:14

When the Co-op started putting modesty bags over Nuts and Zoo (and then stopped selling them when threatened by the magazine owners) it was such a brilliant moment.

For once, the treatment of women was being put above profit.

Magazines like Zoo are giving our boys the impressions that it's ok to act like sexism is sexy and giving girls the impressions that their bodies and looks are the most crucial things about them.

Next stop: let's sort the nonsense that's in loads of women's magazines! and let our girls grow up as humans not objects :-)

SkivvySkiving Sat 12-Oct-13 09:11:55

SGB Oh FFS. SO before there was any mainstream porn, women lived happy lives as complete equals of men?

What are you saying there? - That because some things have got/are getting better for women then all things are getting better for women and nothing is getting worse for women? Backlash perhaps?

We've had centuries of superstitious bullshit to the effect that women are men's property; women within living memory (ie ask your gran) were not allowed to get a mortgage or open a bank account or rent a flat without ^permission from their male owner^; less than 100 years ago rape victims were locked up in mental homes on the grounds that they were 'morally inferior' or something... We still have men insisting that their imaginary friend allows them to force women to cover themselves up on pain of beating or execution, we still have men allowing women to die rather than terminate failing pregnancies...

So clearly your main gripe is with religious patriarchs and their oppression of women. But you don't seem to take exception to the whore/madonna dichotomy stemming from religious patriarchal notions of female sexuality, which has been the major misogynist justification for controlling women for centuries. Themes of sexual women being 'dirty', 'whores' who 'need' to be punished by violent and humiliating bodily exposure and violation (or alternatively need to be 'modest' & covered) - don't stem from secular egalitarianism do they? 'Porn culture' is the modern commercial bi-product of religious patriarchal control of women's bodies and its misogynist themes run throughout.

and yet twats like Banyard are far more concerned with wailing and flailing about 'porn culture' than anything else.

I find your inconsistency in railing against religious misogyny, but not its bi-product of porn culture, and your level of aggression about others who have a more consistent view, says more about your conflicted feelings about your own porn use than your feelings about Kat Banyard.

SilverApples Sat 12-Oct-13 15:54:28

This is where I get confused again.
I disagree with porn, lads' mags on general view and the objectifying of women by women's magazines that turns them into nothing more than continuous works in progress that only need to have the right diet, sex tips, makeup and the rest to be Real Women.
But if there was a Lads' Mag with this uk.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/2013730/rs_560x415-130830150852-1024..miley-cyrus-twerk-vma.ls.83013.jpg on the cover, is that exploitation, or empowerment of women?
To me it is verging on pornographic.

mitchvon Sat 12-Oct-13 16:09:47

If lads' mags do indeed "fuel … violence against women", you'd expect an increase in violence against women to coincide with increased sales of lads' mags. In fact, the opposite is the case. Lads' mags first appeared in the mid-90s and the most popular ones, such as Loaded, sold upwards of 450,000 at their peak, yet between 1997 and 2009 incidents of domestic violence fell by 64 per cent, according to British Crimes Survey.

If there's a link between pornography and violence against women – as UK feminista claim – you'd expect sexual and domestic violence to increase year on year, as more and more people gain access to pornography on the Internet. But according to the Office of National Statistics, the number of victims of sexual assault decreased between 2004/05 and 2008/09 and "has shown no statistically significant change" between then and 2011/12.

This suggests that if there is a link between sexualised images of women and sexual and domestic violence, it is the opposite of the one groups like UK Feminista imagine.

grimbletart Sat 12-Oct-13 16:52:11

So mitchvon: is the suggestion then that women can reduce violence against themselves by tolerating (or even embracing) porn?

If so, that sounds like the familiar blaming the victim syndrome i.e. let yourselves be objectified women, then you are less likely to get attacked.

I'm sure that cannot be what you mean, can it?

Darkesteyes Sat 12-Oct-13 17:17:39

While i agree with some of what you say (i prefer mags like Psychologies but their sales have dropped by 45% in the last year according to ABC circulation figures) it is not women who have abused me in the street in the past because of my size (i used to be a size 28 then dropped to a 14 , am now a 20) it is MEN who have shouted out all sorts of nasty mysogynistic sizeist comments in the street and i really dont think they have been reading Glamour.
I was on a rare night out a while ago with a friend and a bloke commented on the size of her chest. She is slim and small His comment “Blimey you are hardly Nuts material are you?

THIS is why i would prefer the lads mags to go first and then we can start tackling the celebrity rags

Darkesteyes Sat 12-Oct-13 17:25:39

I completely get what Solid is saying though. Most religions are mysogynistic and reinforce ownership of women. And the climate we are in today does exactly the same thing.

Having said that i HATE Heat and Closer with a passion. And if you look at mags like Woman and Womans Own they are now VERY celebrity orientated as well.
Woman and Closer seem to have it in for single mums on benefit and will occasionally run a "story" about a single parent whipping up both mysogyny AND class hatred.

Closer even did it to a carer once. I started a thread on it on here I will see if i can find it.

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