In today’s news, Tesco has gone the same way as the Co-Op by announcing a modesty deal with “lad mags”. Covers of these magazines will now be toned down or covered with a bag. They will also be age restricted to over 18s. And it’s taken this long to reach this half-way house.
Publishers of Zoo magazine, who intend to remain on sale with less offensive covers said the magazine’s cover imagery and phrasing had been changed as a response to the “mood of the public”. There would also be “more non-girl editorial” content. Nuts magazine say they are now producing more conservative covers. Bizarre magazine has decided to stay as it is, and will be supplied pre-bagged. They say they are “preserving their brand.”
Also in today’s news is the announcement that two teenage boys, both 17, have been charged with the brutal rape of a 12 year old girl in east London.
Lads mags portray women as dehumanised sex objects, fuelling sexist behaviours and attitudes that underpin violence against women. You know what I feel like doing today? I feel like going into shops and making a huge fuss and tearing up these magazines until I get arrested. My husband is not keen and has suggested I stay home.
Feminism during the seventies, which I remember very clearly, included a great deal of well-targeted vandalism – the word SEXIST was daubed across advertising hoardings and there was plenty of protesting going on. Red paint is particularly eye-catching, and now comes in handy spray cans.
I believe there is something that we can all do if we want shot of this one aspect of everyday sexism. Every time we go into a store selling these magazines, we should tell the staff, preferably the manager, loud enough for many people to hear, that these magazines should be taken off sale. That there is no place in a grocery store or sweet shop for pornography. Speak up and make yourself heard. Other voices will join you.
Small Ones Are More Juicy
Remember that headline for Outspan oranges featuring a bra-less woman in a tight T-shirt? I used to work in advertising and spent quite a few years in some of the big London ad agencies. One of them, Intermarco Publicis I seem to recall, had a particularly awful media man with wandering hands. I had been ordered into a meeting to serve coffee. In those days, men sat at tables and were incapable of handling their own refreshments. As I poured, he patted my bottom and said to the meeting: “isn’t she lovely?”. I emptied the rest of the pot into his lap, (causing him to leap out of his chair with scalded goolies), before calmly leaving the coffee pot on the table and walking out without a word. I then went to the HR department, which in those days was still called “Personnel”, told the woman in there what I had done, and asked her to forward me my P45 and any due wages. I swear I have never seen anyone look so thrilled as her. I was about 22 at the time and quite used to the status quo that my principles would regularly cost me my job.
Fancy a stroll down memory lane? Take a look at the BBC archive on Second Wave Feminism in the 1970s. There’s a great collection of television and radio programmes remembering some of the major feminist thinkers of those years and highlighting the issues they addressed and the attitudes they contested.