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.