Tag Archives: Feminism

You can’t just ‘Lose the Lads’ Mags’

The Co-Op has decided to pull Lads’ Mags from their stores and the case they put forward for doing so is a noble one. They’ve decided they value the custom of people that object to having headlines like “BIG BOOBED BRUNETTES” glaring at them more than they do your typical ‘lad’ that is yet to realise you don’t have to pay £2 a week to gawp at boobs or read about ‘men’s lifestyle’. This isn’t a case of over bearing censorship; it’s perfectly reasonable to not want to expose your customers to soft porn whilst they pick up their soft loaf.

Whilst this is a victory – albeit a small one – for feminist groups, the “Lose The Lads’ Mags” campaign that has targeted these publications is in danger of ignoring the elephant in the room. Lads’ Mags are a symptom of a culture that degrades women and there are deeper issues at play.

Sure it’s a good thing that Jack the Lad is going to have to get his smut at a different time to his weekly shop, and it is a good thing that sales have plummeted for magazines which contain degrading descriptions of women which most people can’t distinguish from comments made by convicted rapists. However, this campaign does little to tackle misogynistic attitudes or a culture that says for a woman to be worth something she has to be a sexualised, attractive individual.

Tacky Lads Mags aren’t the most dangerous propagators of harmful values  – they are more a symptom of a culture that is in part bred through the backdoor by “women’s magazines.” Every week catty articles in publications such as OK!, Heat, More! and Cosmopolitan snipe celebrities and instil in women’s minds the idea that their body just wont ever be good enough. They teach that to be ‘worth something’ you better lose the belly, cake on the makeup and criticise and bitch other women in to oblivion. When you look at sales and the circulation of popular women’s magazines they dwarf the likes of Nuts, Zoo and FHM by hundreds of thousands.

So whilst Lads’ Mags slipping in to obscurity and being ‘de-normalised’ is a good thing for gender equality it detracts from deeper issues about how women’s bodies are portrayed and doesn’t begin to challenge why someone would ever want to appear in a Lads’ Mag. Hiding away Lads’ Mags is one thing but just because the magazines are out of sight, it doesn’t mean the attitudes within them are. Campaigns like “Lose the Lads’ Mags” are good at getting the gender conversation in to the mainstream but ultimately they are treating a small symptom of a problem that can only be solved with greater education, awareness and a more democratised discussion of sex.

 

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The Only Crisis Here Facing Men Is….Dianne Abbott

An analysis of Shadow Minister for Public Health, Dianne Abbott’s, ‘cry wolf’ statements lamenting a “crisis in masculinity”.

This week Diane Abbott declared that we are facing a ‘crisis of masculinity’, I believe that she is right to raise the importance of men’s issues and how gender equality needs to be analysed from all angles. However her narrative about the causes and fear-mongering about a ‘crisis of masculinity’ does nobody any favours.

Diane Abbott is no stranger to controversy of course; half her Wikipedia page covers her various political misdemeanours.Now, in a week when the Shadow Minister for Public Health thought using the word demented pejoratively was fair game, her latest assertion that Britain is facing a ‘crisis of masculinity’ provokes more than it aims to help.

‘Male issues’ and discussions over masculinity are important and this article’s aim is not to discredit that or any discussions regarding gender issues. Gender inequality is still a vast contemporary issue for men and women and the incorporation of men’s issues in to feminism is of great importance. However, Diane Abbott’s attempt to create a moral panic over masculinity is misguided and unhelpful.

 To her credit, Diane Abbott draws attention to issues facing men that are often not discussed in mainstream politics. She identifies, “the first rule of being a man in modern Britain is that you’re not allowed to talk about it”. There are various men’s issues that need to be tackled and Abbott highlights them. Issues such as, the reality that men are more likely to take their own lives than women. Men have lower educational attainment at all levels of the education system. Men are more likely to be homeless. Common psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety, are under diagnosed in men and men are less likely to access NHS services available to them.

These problems need to be addressed but the way Dianne Abbott frames the debate is counter productive and comes across as disorderly. Abbott argues that rapid economic change is warping male identity and encouraging machismo and misogyny leaving us in a crisis like situation.  This is like putting two and two together and getting five.

What this assertion ignores is that society and its attitudes towards being macho and issues regarding masculinity have changed. This is not to say that there aren’t issues to be dealt with, but we are not entering a new era of crisis. The notion that the economic crisis causes men to lash out in a macho and misogynistic manner is grounded in little evidence and appears to be little more than a tribal attack on the government.

Diane Abbott has identified male issues, but has wrongly asserted the causes. Abbott contends that Britain is facing a crisis of masculinity that celebrates heartlessness and normalises sexism and homophobia.

Firstly, one of the successes of feminism over the past century has meant that men’s attitudes to women have improved dramatically. Tony Parsons’ argues in response to Abbott that ‘Men have never been better than they are today. More involved in bringing up their children. More genuinely supportive of their partners. More willing to discuss their fears with those closest to them.’

The idea that this contemporary crisis of masculinity normalises homophobia conflicts with evidence that suggests that homophobic attitudes are vanishing in schools.

Abbott also contends that porn is part of this concoction that has led the modern man to crisis point. Whilst the jury is still out whether or not porn causes violence, assertions like that are not helpful.

In regions such as The Middle East, Asia and Africa where women are treated worst, access to the Internet is also more restricted. Violence against women is a problem that needs to be addressed, generalising the problem is not the way to do so.

Albeit tongue in cheek, this clip from comedy film 21 Jump Street exemplifies changing attitudes to masculinity. Being violent, macho and homophobic is far more socially unacceptable in contemporary society.

Abbott is right to raise men’s issues, it’s just a shame that her narrative is about men who she contends are still massively homophobic, misogynistic, hyper-macho and obsessed with pornography and drinking. If we are apparently entering a crisis of masculinity, then what has been happening over the course of human history? We certainly haven’t had the ideal golden age of masculinity.

@harry_fraser

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