On Monday the Guardian published an article pinned to a letter signed by ten lawyers and a QC threatening supermarkets with legal action unless they stopped stocking so called 'lads mags', claiming displaying the magazines "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."
The letter is written in support of the Lose The Lads Mags campaign started by UK Feminista and Object, two lobby groups that have a history of opposing free speech. Indeed, Object lobbied Leveson to grant the new press regulator the power to investigate third party complaints from 'representative women's groups', though who they claim to represent besides a few extreme feminists I'm not sure.
The crux of their complaint is that magazines such as Nuts and Zoo are harmful to women, exploitative of the models who appear in them, and promote a misogynistic and sexist culture amongst their readership. This is a view shared by the likes of Harriet Harman who wants to ban page 3, for example. It never occurs to any of these so called feminists (we'll get to that shortly) that the girls who appear on the pages of these magazines, might actually enjoy their work. Most girls who work in this industry that I've come across appear to be genuinely enthusiastic about it, get excited for new shoots, love appearing in magazines and newspapers (though I use the term newspaper extremely loosely in this context), and love the lifestyle it affords them. Let's not forget that they can make a hell of a lot of money doing this type of work. By extension too, lap dancers/strippers - some of whom supplement their income by doing glamour modelling - at least the ones I've met (when you play in hard rock bands, you have the pleasure of meeting these people from time to time) take a lot of pride in their work. You have to be incredibly fit to work in an industry like that. Where your work depends on your image, taking great pride in your appearance and your figure is a must and the hours these girls must spend in the gym, maintaining their physique is ridiculous. Not to mention those that have a talent for pole dancing as well. There is immense skill in that particular art, not to mention a herculean amount of upper body strength.
It appears to me that complaints of these types tend to originate from groups that call themselves 'feminist' when, in reality, they're anything but. In fact, they're far more conservative than they are liberal. Feminism was once about the empowerment of women, and their sexual liberation too! However, today there seems to be an increasing number of feminists who, far from wanting women to have the power to do whatever they want, including flaunting what god (or their surgeon) gave them, want women, and men, to become increasingly gender neutral. There is nothing unequal or oppressive about celebrating femininity, masculinity and the differences between the sexes. There's also a certain hypocrisy at play here too. The lawyers aren't going after say Attitude mag, which is basically FHM for girls. Plus, if they're concerned about women becoming depressed by comparing themselves to the models, there's a far greater problem to be addressed with fashion mags and their size zero models than the women who appear in lads mags, curves and all. Also what's the difference between the cover of the Sunday Sport and say, an M&S underwear ad? Or the Diet Coke ads for that matter?
But the main point here is this: it's just a magazine. There's nothing illegal about the retailers stocking it. The majority of places put the mags on the top shelf. There's never any hardcore sex pictures, it's just topless modelling - much like David Beckham's underwear ads, and I'm not hearing any women complaining about them. Finally, and most importantly, these are privately owned stores. If someone really, really has a problem with handling them, don't work there. It's HUGELY unreasonable to expect massive national retailers to stop stocking a well-selling range of magazines because of the vocal nature of a prudish minority. If you don't like the mags don't buy them. If you find Page 3 offensive, don't buy the Sun. But don't force your particular hang-ups on the rest of us. Some girls like to get their kit off, feel sexy, and earn a bucket load of money posing for pictures, and believe it or not, some of us enjoy looking at them. It's not an outrageous notion to believe that men can find women sexually attractive and appreciate that they have a brain, personality, thoughts and feelings as well.