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Lads' mags in children's sight: the game is ON!

(171 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 14-Dec-10 13:55:26

After canvassing your views, we're extending Let Girls Be Girls to cover the issue of lads' mags on display where children can see them in newsagents, supermarkets, stationers and petrol stations. Have a look at our press release and survey results here. We're contacting all the major retailers to ask them to sign up, and will keep you posted about how that goes. If you'd like to cull some copy from the press release to compose your own letter to your local independent newsagent, please feel free, and post here to let us know what you've done.

Some of the retailers have asked us for examples of individual stores that are presenting problems, so if you've seen material inappropriately displayed in a specific branch, again, please post here and we'll pass the information on.



JessinAvalon Wed 15-Dec-10 23:31:49

So I read the responses on LibCon and all I saw was 'we'll end up like Iran', 'thin end of the wedge', 'just because SOME people are offended', 'what next, covering up women in bikinis'.....


Is moving some soft porn mags to the top shelf and putting a cover on them really so much to ask? Really? I know the poor lads buying them will need to save the strength in their wrist for after they've bought the magazine but surely reaching up a few shelves and OMG! pulling the magazine out from a behind a cover (shock, horror!) isn't going to be too taxing for the poor things?

JessinAvalon Wed 15-Dec-10 23:47:05

I couldn't help it. I have posted the following on LibCon:

On reflection, I’ve changed my mind. It doesn’t matter if a large section of the population is offended by these mags or that children are exposed to degrading sexual images of women. No, I have realised that we should be thinking of the poor men here. They’ll need the strength in their wrist for after they buy the mag and we shouldn’t expect them to have to reach up a few shelves and pull a mag out from behind a cover. They need to save their strength! I think it’s very thoughtful of retailers to consider the lower arms of the boys who need to buy these mags. God forbid they’d pull a muscle in having to reach behind the cover.

Well done WHSmith et al! They understand what it’s like to be a teenage boy! Sod all those who don’t want to see these mags. They can go elsewhere for their newspapers, milk, petrol!

Someone should start a “Save the wrist” campaign in response to the MN campaign. Obviously we’d need good empirical evidence on wrist harm but I’m sure that Nuts/Zoo could help us out on that front.

NormaStanleyFletcher Thu 16-Dec-10 00:17:31

Jess - I like it smile

walkinginaWUKTERwonderland Thu 16-Dec-10 00:25:37

grin Jess

NetworkGuy Thu 16-Dec-10 01:11:06

Jess - had heard of Object, but not their Friday actions. While Object has every right to do as it wishes (within the law), I suspect part of the problem is that the level of action, and the intention they have is far stronger, so Tesco can (legitimately in some eyes) decide not to be bullied into the cessation (I assume that's the intent/request) of stocking such magazines.

Fortunately, MN's idea is far more "gentle" insofar as not asking for a ban at all, so Tesco cannot choose to ignore it so easily, and I think they will react when they know that Mumsnet is taking action on this.

To be named as the only chain of supermarkets which chooses to ignore the feelings of customers in relation to children seeing low quality smut dressed up as 'lads' mags may make them think again.

Perhaps some of the staff working at Tesco and participating on MN can gently point to the fact they could lose market share which would be something the City would notice...

PosieParkhersleigh Thu 16-Dec-10 07:44:18

I genuinely feel that now more than ever Feminism is massively needed, let's hope our newly active students start their own pathway into feminism. Perhaps Feminists networks should be out recruiting on protest days?

JessinAvalon Thu 16-Dec-10 08:49:35

I think Object are pretty successful in recruiting on their protests. On the first one they ever did, an armed police van was called who were very bemused to turn up and find some women with paper bags! They even signed the petition when they got off their shift.

Network Guy-Object and the Front Page Campaign have been calling for an age restriction on these magazines. I don't think they are calling for a ban. Their action with Tesco highlights the fact that Tesco banned people wearing pyjamas in store because some customers found it offensive yet they won't do anything about their prominent displays of lads mags.

My local Tesco Express has them on sale low down (no shelf in there is very high) next to birthday cards for children. I won't go in there until they change their display policy. I have had ongoing correspondence with WHSmut, Tesco and now Shell. The typical response is polite but dismissive and then they ignore any further requests for clarification, eg me asking Smut's where they get their 1.2m height requirement from. My offers to meet with them were ignored too.

NetworkGuy Thu 16-Dec-10 09:56:38

Thanks for clarification, Jess. I remember seeing a video where items were turned around on shelves (though sometimes there are ads on the back which might be worse than the front covers!) and there may be charges applicable for some of the things they do (though armed police is a bit too silly for words - wonder what the store said on their 999 call ?)

I suspect that while individual complaints are treated as a diversion, bit of fun, or inconsequential, it is partly because Tesco has as much market share as Asda and Sainsbury together that they feel they are getting it right and may (stupidly) ignore public opinion.

Swedes1 Thu 16-Dec-10 10:57:02

Good campaign.

My gut instinct is you need to start with Page 3; its existence in our best selling National newspaper paves the way for pernicious acceptance of something that is actually deeply offensive. Why is it acceptable in this day and age to have to sit next to someone on a train who is staring at a pair of breasts in the Sun? I would ask the coalition why they think this is acceptable. Is this the sort of Big Society they had in mind? If the coalition won't take it up as a cause, try Boris, he's not scared of rocking the Murdoch boat.

And if our political leaders won't do it, why not ask First Capital Connect and Transport for London etc. Perhaps the time has come for the sexist equivalent of the 'quiet carriage'? A women freindly coach? (They would get much better advertising so it's a winner if you think about it.)

Swedes1 Thu 16-Dec-10 11:03:37

Oh yes and well done to Morrisons. Is there any way MN could award Morrisons with a certificate of family friendliness for this thoughtfulness towards their customers? It would make a very good press release, with photos.

NetworkGuy Thu 16-Dec-10 11:07:56

While a Page 3 campaign might seem worthwhile (never bought the Star or Sport so don't know if that would be translated to a "stop all the pages" campaign (!)) it guarantees a higher level of rebelliousness and argument - trying to ban something gets put into the authoritarian "blocking freedoms" bag, even if (on the opposite side) one could argue your freedom to be able to be in public without having yourself or your children offended by such images as a result of someone opening their news paper.

However, I am not sure whether there is any 'right' for someone to be stopped from opening a 'bums and boobs' (mens) magazine either.

Public decency suggests it would be bad, but has it ever been tested in a court, that someone caused affray (or whatever the charge) for opening a copy of Mayfair, say (thinking back to what was popular some 20 years ago among my collegues [female and male] at work, oh and they did read Mayfair at work by the way, at least on late shift), on a bus or train?

Swedes1 Thu 16-Dec-10 11:15:33

I think you have to go about making change by being astutely commercial: advertisers will run a mile if you start mentioning social studies and psychologists' reports.

Swedes1 Thu 16-Dec-10 11:17:20

I am absolutely against banning pretty much everything. Except perhaps pony tails on men over 40. grin

Page 3 is very welcome to its miserable existence, I just demand not to sit next to it on public transport.

Eleison Thu 16-Dec-10 11:20:22

I like the idea of a No Wankmag carriage on trains. I've also been sold on the idea of women-only carriages since a particularly outrageous example of frottage on a train in Mexico City when I unwisely rejected the option of the women's carriage.grin

I think I may have said this before on an MN thread, but seeing an image of a woman in a humiliating sexual pose on a shelf feels exactly like being flashed at. It is flashing. It is men confronting you, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, with the identification of your body with their arousal; they don't even need their penis to do that. They are so self-assured that they can use your very own body, colonised by their eyes.

NetworkGuy Thu 16-Dec-10 12:11:42

Eleison - No idea what the models for magazines get (posing with gadgets and cars, for example) but there's surely quite a number of 'publicity' related jobs which you'd also need to stop, because, let's face it, at lots of exhibition halls up and down the country, [young] women are paid to hand out leaflets, sell exhibition guides, and/or pose with fast cars etc.

How many adverts seen on the posters up and down the London tube escalators include some model in skimpy clothing, and how many TV ads suggest some degree of sexual "success" from using certain products (thought that was banned so I suspect it depends on the type of claims being made).

It's one thing to try to stop Page 3, but how much further would you need to go - would you wipe out all promotions jobs too? It's been the same for many hundreds of years that sexy sells, and while a massive proportion of women would not take those jobs, just as they would not consider lap dancing or working in a strip club, there will always be plenty of women in advertising and I suspect in lots of other jobs where 'presentation' may be exploited to get a deal/make a sale, whether it is a sales representative for some firm, the receptionist one first meets, or the staff on aircraft, cruise ships, and so on.

Yes, it is wrong, and I don't know whether such jobs are less likely in Norway (where there is legislation in place to make company boards more equal and presumably this has consequences all the way down in businesses and thus alters advertising policy, and so on), but it is a radical change that may take another 20, 50, 100 years.

(NB I am not trying to associate work on aircraft or cruise ships, let alone promotions staff at exhibitions, with stripping or lap dancing, but at the same time I respect the right of women who work in lap dance or strip clubs to do as they choose, as long as it was done with a free will.)

NetworkGuy Thu 16-Dec-10 12:13:46

NB I have not been in London for several years do have no idea what ads are displayed these days, but from 30 years ago, I always noticed a tendency to go a "little bit further" on tube ads than out of the capital.

BeenBeta Thu 16-Dec-10 13:18:05

Thinking practically again about how to move this forward if retailers refuse to do anything address this issue.

Does anyone know what legislation or regulation there is to force retailers to put explicit magazines on the top shelf or is it just a voluntary code?

Just wondering if that legislation/regulation/ or voluntary code could be extended as part of the current Govt investigation into the sexualisation of children.

JessinAvalon Thu 16-Dec-10 14:07:09

Just a quickie- code for displaying mags is voluntary at the moment.

There has been a campaign to ban porn on London transport. Someone at Object made up a brilliant fake newspaper cover called The Stun as part of the campaign featuring men instead of women. I'll post a link later.

There is a campaign to ban page 3 called Turn Your Back on Page 3 (check out the FB group). Claire Short did try years ago and was derided but I agree-it needs to be consigned to history. It was page 3's 40th anniversary a month or so ago and that renewed calls for it to go. A petition went around about it. It was discussed on Woman's Hour but they always try to be balanced so we got the whole 'empowerment' argument too.

(Not helped by the BBC breakfast news interviewing Cher tomorrow morning about her new film, Burlesque, which has been discussed elsewhere on MN.)

The Front Page Campaign (see google) along with Object are campaigning for legislation on age restrictions and displays. There was a number 10 petition going round a few months ago.

NetworkGuy Thu 16-Dec-10 14:11:15

It's a voluntary code that was welcomed in the spring of 2006 by Diane Abbot, MP, though she warned that it would only work if it was adhered to.

When another MP in 2008 put forward a bill under the 10 minute rule to have age certification, it never went on to become law, and the Periodical Publishers Association claimed that a voluntary code is "far more effective and flexible than any statutory regulation". -demand-lads-mags-be-given-18-certificate.html - sizeable extract follows:

6:26PM GMT 07 Dec 2008

The Top Shelf report, commissioned by Labour MP Claire Curtis-Thomas, will be published next week.

It is expected to recommend that popular men's magazines and newspapers such as the
Daily Sport be given age-appropriate '16' and '18' certificates.

The report will also find that newsagents across the UK are flouting current guidelines and displaying such 'lads mags' at the eye-level of children aged six to 15.

The display of such magazines is currently governed by a voluntary code of practice drawn up by the Periodical Publishers Associations (PPA) and the Home Office, which recommends that retailers display them well above children's eye level and away from children's titles or comics.


Clearly the voluntary code is being flouted, and I don't know why it even needs to be flexible.

Maybe there should be a further survey of say 10,000 sixth formers so the arguments over statistical sampling can go away...

Maybe MNHQ can get a copy of the original report and see what they survey asked... and how about contacting women MPs across all parties, to see if they would support such a bill... Of course they would know that to decline such an offer could mean they would lose their credibility!

sethstarofbethlehemsmum Thu 16-Dec-10 14:12:12

I think the idea of campaigning for 'No wankmag' carriages on trains is quite brilliant.

NetworkGuy Thu 16-Dec-10 14:22:42

"There was a number 10 petition going round a few months ago."

I had a number 10 petition in last year, but once it got to the election being announced, all petitions were put on hold.

Currently the petitions part of the Number 10 site says

"November 2010 - The overall future of all HMG digital comms and engagement is bound into the Martha Lane Fox review, which will be announced imminently. The future of e-petitions will be part of that review."

So whether there will be E-Petitions depends on Martha Lane Fox - has she ever been in to Mumsnet HQ for a web chat ?

BeenBeta Thu 16-Dec-10 14:30:18

Jess - thanks for that. I had a dim distant recollection there was some kind of code.

After Googling I found this summary in a document published by Object on the National Federation of Newsagent code of practice.

"Adult Top-Shelf Titles

With the expressed permission of the publishers of Adult Top Shelf titles, the NFRN publishes and recommends the following Code of Practice:-

• That Adult Titles should be displayed on the Top Shelf only and out of the reach of children
• That Adult Titles should not be sold to any person under the age of 18 years.
• That Adult Titles should only be acquired from bona fide trade channels (on the basis that these will have been vetted by the suppliers' lawyers for compliance with legislation)
• That care and sensitivity be exercised over the display of Adult Titles with explicit front covers."

I know Object has also made recommendations on displaying Lads Mags in the same document but I just wonder if the simplest solution is to extend that existing code to 'Lads Mags' and other other titles with explict pictures in. I know the last Govt declined to extend this code into legislation but it seems to me that it could be extended.

I suspect that defining exactly what constitutes a 'top shelf title' might be open to legal challenge by publishers if it hit their sales.

Swedes1 Thu 16-Dec-10 14:37:09

<<BIg white letters on black screen>>

"Are you degrading the women in your life by reading chug mags or the Sun?"

<<Fade to man reading The Sun on the train sitting next to a woman and a young teen girl.>>

<overlay big white letters>>

"Don't be a wanker"

NetworkGuy Thu 16-Dec-10 14:47:29

"chug mags" would get a confused from me.

Call them "lads mags" (if that's what you mean) as I think everyone would include Nuts, Loaded, Front and Zoo...

BeenBeta Thu 16-Dec-10 15:18:14

NetworkGuy - xposted with you @ 14:11:15.

I agree with your suggestion of writing to women MPs. Dont see why male MPs shouldn't get a letter too.

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