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

Darkesteyes Sat 12-Oct-13 17:28:38
Darkesteyes Sat 12-Oct-13 17:33:07

Mitchvon It was #fatshamingweek on twitter this week. Shaming women who didnt meet the male realm of desirability.

They are also encouraging people to take photos of overweight women who are out excsrsising and put the photos up on Twitter so that they can take the piss.

I see this as emotional violence.

mitchvon Sat 12-Oct-13 17:56:10

No grimbletart, that's not what I'm saying. I was looking into the view that lads mags and porn in general fuels violence against women. The anti lads mags/porn lobby don't appear to have provided any actual concrete facts or evidence to support this view. Therefore I decided to look into this. And no wonder they don't produce any evidence or concrete facts - 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.
All I am saying is - there's nothing to suggest that lads mags and porn increase violence against women. If there was, then the massive growth and availability of porn via the internet to over 90% of the population would have led to a noticeable increase in such violence - but it hasn't.

grimbletart Sat 12-Oct-13 18:07:50

Glad you are not saying what you appear to be saying mitchvon. I must admit I couldn't imagine any normal person implying that porn mags are protective smile

It's just that your sentence

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.

is worded in such a way that that it could be inferred that is what you were saying.

MummyBuckers Sun 13-Oct-13 08:56:16

What Kat omits to say here – and was widely reported at the time – is that the lads mags' actually withdrew themselves from Co-op shelves because they didn't want to be sold in 'modesty' bags when they'd already toned down their covers as demanded by retailers AND agreed to be sold up high behind modesty boards (which Tesco, Sainsbury's, WH Smiths and all the other big retailers have already been selling them behind for years). I believe in the consumer's freedom of choice and unless you actively go searching for lads mags – holding your kids aloft to find them on the upper shelves! – I don't see why the supermarkets should bow to UK Feminista's obvious bid for censorship. I also agree that women's magazines are far worse - most which are sold on children's eye levels in supermarkets. Earlier this summer, Kelly Brook was papped on a beach in a bikini. Nuts magazine ran the images on their cover saying she looked gorgeous. Heat magazine and other celebrities mags ran the same pictures and said she looked fat. I know which magazine I would rather my four-year-old daughter be influenced by! I also don't have a problem with lads mags because I feel the threat from easily accessible internet porn is far worse for our children and I wish UK Feminista would tackle that rather than go after magazines that sell less copies combined every week than In The Night Garden magazine! Internet porn now piped into households via Tesco's broadband service, ironically. Finally, I recently read this defence of lads mags in the Feminist Times. It was very interesting to read about the other side of the coin. http://www.feministtimes.com/index.php/lads-mags/

I do agree with what Sal was saying upthread. If you don't agree with the campaign, that's your perogative. If you think women's mags are worse (as I do) and would like to see a campaign against them, that's good too.

What's not okay is to tell Kat she should direct her efforts elsewhere. This is her campaign on an issue she cares deeply about, and I have nothing but respect for her and her determination to actually do something.

Women are constantly told what they should care about (men's needs, mostly hmm); please let's not do that here too.

MummyBuckers Sun 13-Oct-13 09:55:22

Annie, I agree that no one has the right to tell Kat what to do. But losing the lads mags won't make the slightest bit of difference to society other than put a lot of people out of work because if supermarkets stop selling them they will almost certainly be closed down by their publishers. Clearly people are listening to UK Feminista, and that's why many of us would like to see them focus on something that WOULD make a massive difference, like tackling the Government's blinkered approach to internet porn.

meditrina Sun 13-Oct-13 10:03:08

You can deal with Internet porn by using good quality device based filters (such as K9). There really isn't a need for Government action.

And of course the argument 'but if we ban it, it'll put people out of jobs' applies just as much to video porn as printed.

But of course, that's missing an important point - removal from family retail spaces (by pervert pouch) isn't a ban as supermarkets could still sell them. It's a question of what images are suitable and where.

Sorry, but I absolutely cannot accept the premise that something which negatively impacts on society should be allowed to continue because people would lose jobs! What a ridiculous concept.

If the lad's mags had a choice between changing their content or going out of business, sure as eggs is eggs, they'd change their content! The editors aren't operating from any standpoint of deep-seated belief in the exploitation of women. They just want to make money. They will not throw themselves upon their swords with cries of "give me titties or give me death!"

utreas Sun 13-Oct-13 12:31:52

Why doesn't anyone have to do anything, its surely up to the retailers what they do or do not sell on their shelves.

libertarianj Sun 13-Oct-13 13:11:13

Sorry, but I absolutely cannot accept the premise that something which negatively impacts on society should be allowed to continue because people would lose jobs! What a ridiculous concept.

but as Mitchvon very nicely pointed out there is ZERO evidence of any negative impact to society from lads mags. Also the campaign is about 15 years too late blush, as everything is moving online now anyway.

If you peeps are really that offended by a few (now toned down) magazine covers with pretty women on them, then there is always the option of shopping online or you could just shop at the Co-op, Waitrose, M&S, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland, Farm Foods to name a few.....

Agreed Utreas How about they let market forces determine the fate of lads mags? , rather than try and force their control freak attitude and censorship on to other persons.

StephanieDA Sun 13-Oct-13 13:17:45

The gradual spread of publicly visible porn has increasingly been damaging for women over decades - women's mags are just a reflection of how fucked up we are about our bodies.

Lads mags do not 'celebrate' women. Has anyone ever read a lads mag and seen what they say about women, and what attitude they feed to our young men? Women are simply commodities - you can even customise yours ('Win your girlfriend a boob job!') There was a study done comparing the language of lads mags to the language of rapists and people couldn't tell the difference - in fact more people thought the lads mags quotes came from rapists than the other way round.

Lads mags treat women with contempt, their only role is to 'get their tits out for the lads' and of course they will 'praise' women who do this on their covers. But any woman who isn't young, slim and toned with big tits, predominantly white, and willing to share herself and play the game doesn't even exist for them.

In lads mag world, women exist only to sexually service men, they have no other value. This has become so normalised a view that we don't even notice it, but you can't separate it from other 'worse' inequalities, they spring from a background belief in what women are, which is what lads mags create.

If women are represented as dehumanised commodities and that's accepted by our society, then you have 'permission' to treat them as such. And women themselves feel less right to complain.

You can't put two unrelated things together and imply a causal relationship. Sexual assault and domestic violence figures are REPORTED crimes. We know that that's the tip of the iceberg. Victim-blaming is probably a bigger cause of crimes going unreported by women, and I would think that a 'lad culture' promoted by the lads mags can only add to a man's 'right' to control his woman, and lessen a woman's feeling that she has a 'right' to complain.

libertarianj Sun 13-Oct-13 13:32:30

Stephanie, as i said before there is ZERO evidence of any negative effects from things like lads mags to society. You are just making assumptions and trying to use lads mags as a scapegoat for persons poor behaviour. Also loving the way how you have made yourself a spokesperson for all women and men hmm

You'll forgive me if I don't accept a lack of an increase in domestic violence and sexual assault as evidence that these magazines have no negative impact. Women are resorting to ever more drastic measures, to the point where cosmetic surgery is now a common and accepted part of daily life, to appear more attractive. I can't help but believe these magazines and their unrealistic portrayal of women contributes to this. Not in isolation, certainly, but as part of a bigger problem in how women are currently perceived by society.

mitchvon Sun 13-Oct-13 14:17:47

AnnieLobeseder, why can't you accept the figures regarding domestic violence and sexual assault? Is it because to do so would practically invalidate the whole losethelads campaign?

Not at all. Just because my conviction in the necessity of the campaign is not rooted in statistics of domestic violence, but rather in how women are perceived by society, and thusly, by themselves, to have value only in how they look.

Where did I say I didn't accept the figures? I just don't see them as a) relevant or b) any kind of proof that these magazines aren't damaging to women.

mitchvon Sun 13-Oct-13 15:41:22

Your argument can equally be applied to any number of women's magazines. There's just so much rubbish in print. However, we are much stronger if we accept that some viewpoints we might not like or agree with shouldn't be censored. Censorship or a clampdown on views is not a sign of forward thinking. It's a sign of weakness and a lack of conviction on your own argument . Ideas are won by openness and debate not censorship .

Yes, mitchvon, and I have said as much on this very thread.

I accept that people have different tastes and there will always be a range of media that caters to these tastes. I don't want these magazines censored as in removed completely, I just don't want my children, or anyone elses', to have no choice but to look at them in our local supermarket.

StephanieDA Mon 14-Oct-13 10:31:14

I'm not trying to be a spokesperson for all men and women, I just know how the brain works and that it is impossible not to be influenced by the messages of the images we see all around us. Even if consciously we know an image is a lie, or a fantasy, unconsciously the message goes in that it is true. That's just how it is, (it's how advertising works.)

If a teenage boy lives on a diet of lads mags he can't avoid taking on an unconscious belief that that's what women are - and girls growing up seeing these images on view also imbibe that message.

There is so much research now about the effects of looking at sexualised images of women - that the brain sees them as 'objects' and that this view is extended to women as a group for example, and loads of research on the detrimental psychological effects on girls of 'self-objectifying'.

What we can't do (with anything) is make a direct causal link from one thing to another, like lads mags = more violence against women. But we can say that constant exposure to these images in public conditions us all. That's why there are cries of 'censorship!' - people see this representation of women as normal, so getting rid of it is 'extreme.'

If we imagined living in a culture where only men were offered up to women as sexual commodities, we would see that as 'normal' too.

There is also research into young people's views, we know the prevalence in girls of insecurities, low self-esteem and the pressure to always look 'hot' and we know that there is a high acceptance (by girls and boys) of some degree of violence within a relationship.

And no, you can't blame lads mags for all of this, but they are a publicly visible reminder of women's place and role, and we can't minimise the effect they have.

libertarianj Mon 14-Oct-13 14:10:27

No you are still trying to assume how everyone thinks and behaves and lots of people are not sucked into advertising gimmicks either.

There is no reliable research at all and most of it is agenda driven by the anti porn lobby.

As i have said on previous threads objectification is just a made up term to try and make normal physical attraction into something sinister. I think you would find that men/ women would still try to make themselves look 'hot' regardless of any media influences. It's a natural instinct to attract the opposite sex (or same sex in some cases).

and Annie as i said before there are already numerous places you could shop at/ get home delivery where you kids would avoid seeing any lads mags. Even if you do insist on shopping at the 'big four', then they already have measures in place anyway. The magazines are now on the top shelf and they have modesty screens in place, so you can just see the title of the magazine. So YABU.

emcwill74 Mon 14-Oct-13 15:45:41

'Objectification' is not a made-up term. Made up by whom? According to the OED it has been in use since the mid-19th century. And FYI this is a blog discussion not an AIBU thread.

Darkesteyes Mon 14-Oct-13 17:23:00

If a teenage boy lives on a diet of lads mags he can't avoid taking on an unconscious belief that that's what women are - and girls growing up seeing these images on view also imbibe that message.

I had a youngish lad scream something out at me from the passenger seat of a car while i was out excsersising today. he basically tried to scream in my face as the car was going past.
Stupid boy did it just before traffic lights so i was able to memorize the number plate.

SinisterSal Mon 14-Oct-13 21:14:57

The fact that they are in public spaces, everyday spaces is another factor as nicely illustrated by Libertariaj

there are already numerous places you could shop at/ get home delivery where you kids would avoid seeing any lads mags.

They are basically saying this is what i think of you, my right to ogle young women's tits trumps your right to feel comfortable in public spaces, and if you don't like it stay at home. Why should it be us to be discomfitted/offended/psychologically harmed? Who will be harmed by by waiting til they get home to be titillated?

Whether porn is acceptable or not is one thing, but public porn, even the 'soft' kind is a big fuck you to women and children. It serves no purpose. Well. It doesn't just serve the purpose it pretends to.

libertarianj - you think I should hide in my house to avoid exposing my children to questionable things? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, and is victim-blaming at its best. Should everyone who is insulted, marginalised, spat at, beaten and generally considered "less worthy" or "other", like Muslims, the disabled, blacks, homosexuals and women stay home if they don't want to experience these negative things. Do you really advocate all of us going into hiding so that heteronormative, healthy, male white male Christians can run amok doing what the fuck they like. Because of course, they are only people who actually matter.

Your privilege is showing.

libertarianj Tue 15-Oct-13 13:15:28

No i didn't say that, i just said that there are numerous options if one shopping store doesn't suit your requirements, i wasn't implying you lock yourself up at home. Slight over reaction there me thinks. shock

Oh and Christians and other religious bigots are normally on the side of the anti brigade with issues such as these. You make too many assumptions.

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