In Defence Of Lads' Mags

Lads Mag Covers Opinions are like genitals. Everyone has them but we neither want nor need people to start parading theirs around in public for all to see. If we want to see them, we€™ll actively search for them. This school of thought doesn€™t apply to a lot of people including protestors, religious zealots, and most recently the UK feminist groups UK Feminista and Object who are attempting to bring us one step closer to a recreation of 1984 by spearheading a new campaign to ban lads€™ mags that is aptly titled €œLose The Lads€™ Mags€. It would be supremely unfair of me to instantly dismiss these groups as whining idiots because in some areas, they do make a good point. As an earnest supporter of healthy body image, I can understand the concerns of some people about skinny bikini-clad women in the media not helping young girls to be comfortable in their own skin. But trying to outright ban lads€™ mags is not the answer. Many consider the women in these magazines to be attractive so why is it so bad for them to be able to buy magazines featuring photos of them? €œBecause it€™s sexist€ €œIt€™s objectifying women€ €œThey€™re exploited and treated like pieces of meat€. On goes the argument ad infinitum. It€™s the go-to response of anybody criticising these magazines, pornography, and practically anything featuring naked or semi-naked women. Recently I found an incredibly misguided comment on Facebook about the €œLose The Lads Mags€ campaign that sums up the opinion that any woman who does choose to work in this industry is automatically exploited by men. It went something like this €œWhether or not the model €˜chooses€™ to sexualize herself, the fact remains that she's still being exploited and objectified.€ Objectified perhaps but that€™s entirely dependent on how the readers of these magazines perceive her. As for people who choose to be glamour models being exploited, that€™s just totally incorrect. Glamour modelling is big business and the women who appear in these magazines are shrewd enough to see that there€™s easy money to be made and to take advantage of that. In my opinion, any woman who makes use of the fact that there€™s big money to be made by having photos taken of her (regardless of how clothed she may be) is intelligent and resourceful. Definitely not exploited. Of course there may be one or two women who are being forced into this kind of thing by somebody but that€™s not the fault of the magazines, the readers, or the industry. And appearing in these magazines doesn€™t automatically mean somebody is vulnerable, exploited, or stupid. That€™s a brush that people like the ones running these campaigns are wrongly tarring them with. Let€™s take a look at Abi Titmuss as an example... Abi_Titmuss Titmuss completed a nursing diploma in 1998 and worked as a nurse before becoming a reporter on Richard & Judy. She then moved into glamour modelling where, in 2004, she was able to command a fee of up to £30,000 for appearing on the cover of something like Nuts or FHM. She eventually went on to start paying for her own photo-shoots, a smart business move that meant she owned the copyright to the photos of her and was able to dictate when and how many times they were sold, and how much they were sold for. That kind of thing shows great business acumen and is a prime example of how glamour models aren€™t broken and exploited women. The thing that irritates and unnerves me the most about this campaign however is that the people behind it and the equality lawyers supporting it are trying to take advantage of genuine equality and sexual harassment laws to further their own agenda. The laws that are in place to actually protect people from being abused and mistreated by real sexists are being misused to try and censor the media based on what a few dozen left wing feminists think. The full letter to the Guardian threatening legal action against retailers that stock lads€™ mags can be read here but the two most pertinent quotes from it are "Displaying these publications in workplaces, and/or requiring staff to handle them in the course of their jobs, may amount to sex discrimination and sexual harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010€ and €œSimilarly, exposing customers to these publications in the process of displaying them is capable of giving rise to breaches of the Equality Act." Having to handle lads€™ mags as part of a job in retail isn€™t in any way sexual harassment or a violation of anybody€™s rights. It€™s just something that comes with the job. Much like how having to deal with drunk people is part of working in a nightclub. It doesn€™t always happen but it comes with the territory and if you aren€™t prepared to knuckle under and deal with that, it€™s not a job that€™s for you. And having to hold a lads€™ mag when stacking shelves or running it through the checkout doesn€™t mean you€™re being forced to read it. I can only hope that if any of these cases does come to court, they get thrown out immediately since they€™re a gross misuse of this country€™s legal system and the perfect example of a frivolous lawsuit. Away from the legal side of things, demonising lads€™ mags makes no sense because there are widely available magazines that have broadly similar content. Let€™s look at something like Cosmopolitan as an example. It€™s filled with articles about sex and lists on things like sexual positions and technique. Yet I don€™t hear UK Feminista and Object on the march to ban it and make handling it as part of a job illegal. Cosmo and Men's Health Covers But the biggest double standard about this is that these activists aren€™t getting all huffy about magazines that feature semi-naked men. If it€™s legal and socially and morally acceptable to publish a magazine like Men€™s Health that frequently features a shirtless man on the cover, then why is it such an abhorrence to have a magazine that has something like Lucy Pinder in a bikini on its cover? It shouldn€™t be. To have true equality in this field, it has to be all or nothing. Trying to ban lads€™ mags on the basis that they supposedly objectify women while ignoring magazines that do a similar thing with men is only widening the gender divide because it€™s suggesting that women should not be shown as objects of attraction in the media while men can be. Also, what people seem to be forgetting is that lads€™ mags aren€™t just page after page of semi-naked women. They have a lot of other content including jokes, film reviews, agony uncle columns and other features. It€™s called a men€™s interest magazine because its content interests men. Or what the marketing divisions broadly consider men to like. Half naked women are just a component of a larger whole. And the reason the models in bikinis are put on the cover is simply because sex sells. It€™s a marketing ploy as old as time itself. And before people start making arguments that that kind of marketing is degrading to women, have a look at this Diet Coke advert... Another reason not to ban these magazines is that they have substantial circulation figures, employ a large number of people in multiple countries, and are a significant part of this and other countries€™ publishing industry. Make them illegal and that€™s a huge amount of tax on the companies€™ earnings lost and thousands of people unemployed. All so a few dozen feminists can feel smug and delude themselves that they€™ve won some great battle of equality. In reality, it would a be a pyrrhic victory since they€™d have put thousands of people out of work and brought us one step closer to a Mary Whitehouse level of censorship. By attempting to limit the media people are allowed to consume based on what they personally find objectionable, these groups are doing real harm to the feminist groups that are out there fighting real inequality. As much as I hate to admit it, there is still sexism in this country. But it€™s not on the shelves of newsagents and supermarkets. I€™m confident that this campaign will come to nothing because in order to get this attempted censorship made a reality, to quote Edmund Blackadder €œthey€™d need a case as watertight as a mermaid€™s brassiere€. Whereas the case they have at the moment is about as watertight as the Belgrano. But regardless of whether or not their Orwellian vision will come true, these groups are trying to control what is and isn€™t allowed to be published in magazines. I say nuts and boo to these self-appointed media police. Forcing your views on other people without them having a say in it is the core tenet of fascism. And if someone wants to read a magazine full of scantily clad or naked women, that€™s entirely their business. I€™m not going to judge. And neither should UK Feminista and Object.
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JG Moore is a writer and filmmaker from the south of England. He also works as an editor and VFX artist, and has a BA in Media Production from the University Of Winchester.