The Shouty Woman

June 29, 2006

Lad’s Mags

Filed under: Feminism — by Lucy @ 9:28 pm

So the latest hot feminist topic seems to be MP Clare Curtis-Thomas’s bill to have lads’ mags placed on the top shelf. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m with her all the way – although not for the reasons Ms Curtis-Thomas seems to be suggesting.The MP’s main objection to these magazines appears to be that they are placed where children might see them. This to me is a secondary concern. What MPs should really be debating is the vicious hatred of women shown on every page. Just in case you aren’t aware of what the lads’ mags really contain, have a look at these examples (via Charliegrrl and the Protest now Yahoo group):

  •   “Ladies’ underwear. A sacred colour-coordinated menagerie of exotic fabrics…[The Temptress, The Seducers, The Slouchers, The Teddy…] the Holy Grail: the knicker drawer… Every week, we’ll be stalking, sorry, ‘tracking down’ your pick of the hottest women in the
    UK and persuading them to strip down to their scanties. You lucky people…” (Zoo).
  • Even though Liz Hurley is ‘somewhat long in the tooth…’, ‘the mum-of-one still has absolutely fantastic kahunas. Catch them now before they’re covered up again. With a thick coat of real estate tycoon ejaculate, if history’s any guide” (Zoo)
  • ‘We like hilarious promo shots as much as the next man. But, and call us stupid, we prefer pictures of Jessica Alba in a bikini. Or slowly bending over on a beach. Or, preferably, naked and bound in our loft.’ (Zoo)

These examples are just a bit of fun, you might be thinking. They can’t seriously be talking about stalking and tying up women. It gets worse, though, and less easy to dismiss. According to Protest Now, a recent feature in FHM listed various ‘misdemeanours’ a man might commit, and what he should do for his girlfriend to show he’s sorry. For example, if he doesn’t turn up for his wedding, he should pay £6500 for ‘laser vaginal rejuvenation’: “tread carefully here. It’s a one-and-a-half hour op to bring her wizard’s sleeve back to teenage tightness. In man talk it’s- snug again.” If he ‘shags a lapdancer’, he should buy gift vouchers for plastic surgery. According to Rachel Bell of the F-Word Blog (in a fantastic piece that’s worth reading in its entirety), Nuts described sailor Ellen MacArthur – a woman who’s accomplished more than any of the women featured in their pages – as a “miserable, sobbing, whining bitch in a boat…basically a frigid dyke-looking, yauchting cunt.”

Still think it’s funny?

I’m sick and tired of all this. I’m fed up with having to pretend this shit is OK, that it’s just a laugh, that women’s magazines are just as bad, that I shouldn’t take it so seriously. It is fucking serious. If you can’t see hatred and contempt in the list above, you’re not looking hard enough. The message is that however skinny we are, however blonde, however large our breasts, however willing we are to strip for the camera, we’ll never be good enough. At best we’re a collection of holes to be fucked and discarded. Our bodies are not our own, they exist for the pleasure of others and if they don’t measure up, we’d better buy new ones or risk becoming invisible. Our brains and our voices count for nothing unless we’re willing to use them to fulfil men’s vacuous plastic fantasies. Open one of these magazines and the message that screams from every page is ‘you’re nothing’.

I’m not asking that Nuts and Zoo be banned, lovely though it is to imagine a world free of them. All I ask is that I get the chance, just once, to walk into a newsagent and not feel angry and miserable. Just once to feel that my life and my accomplishments are worthwhile, and that there is more to me than my sex, and that women are human beings not blow-up dolls. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it, to be allowed to keep our humanity?

So yes, I support Clare Curtis-Thomas’s bill. I’m optimistic enough to think it’ll get a fair hearing – things have at least moved on from the days when Clare Short was shouted down for daring to debate Page Three girls. However I can’t extend that optimism much further. The Bill is unlikely to become law, and these magazines will be allowed to sell their hatred unchallenged. Until then I’ll stay angry.



  1. “What MPs should really be debating is the vicious hatred of women shown on every page.”

    I totally agree.

    I know it’s been said before but if there were publications that promoted racial or religious hatred the way pornography promotes misogyny the Government would act against them – and act swiftly.

    So what I want to know is why it’s not ok to promote racial or religious hatred but it’s somehow ok for misogynists to promote hatred of women and girls. The effect on the hated is the same.

    Comment by witchy-woo — June 30, 2006 @ 10:24 pm |Reply

  2. This quote from Claire Curtis-Thomas sums alot up for me.

    “Recently the Sport produced an article about a girl murdered by a necrophiliac. It wasn’t put there with a view to getting people to feel deeply concerned that somebody’s life ended tragically. It was about sexual titillation, surrounded by adverts for hardcore porn.
    Even an appalling tragedy like that which has sexual overtones is used to encourage depraved acts.”

    Harmless fun anyone?

    Comment by LB — July 1, 2006 @ 9:52 am |Reply

  3. WW – exactly. These magazines are basically promoting hate speech, but if anyone tries to point this out they get attacked or laughed at. As you say, misogyny seems to be the last ‘acceptable’ form of hatred.

    LB – I saw that quote too. It’s terrifying, and really sums up why this issue should be taken seriously.

    Comment by Lucy — July 2, 2006 @ 8:57 pm |Reply

  4. You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth and summed up brilliantly everything that is wrong with lad mags. Just the other day I was in the newsagent and found myself seething when I couldn’t reach a music magazine that was on the top shelf, yet the lad mags were right in front of me, within easy reach! I guess that’s capitalist patriarchy for you…

    Comment by Michelle — July 5, 2006 @ 6:18 pm |Reply

  5. Wow! These quotes are absolutely vomit-inducing! I don’t want to even imagine what other bits of “harmless fun” they might include. Thank you for discussing this.

    Comment by bint alshamsa — July 11, 2006 @ 3:58 am |Reply

  6. I came onto the net to look for feminist arguments against lad mags and page three and the first page that came up was this! Im so glad other people feel the way I do. Im so sick of hearing people like Abi Titmuss go on about how she is empowering women by getting her kit off! And sadly it seems there are SO many women who agree with her. Im gutted to think women out there can’t see the devastation that lads mags and porn does to the female image and to women as a gender! The rise of plastic surgery and the growing popularity of such mags is a sad and telling sign of the real value placed on women in today’s society.

    Mind you, when I go to the doctor’s or some other place and pick up a women’s mag off the table every soddin article is about someone who put on weight, lost weight, looks crap, looks great, how so and so lost fifty stone in two days, how YOU can look great for summer by starving yourself stupid! Women perpetuate the growing and disturbing attitude that we are somehow imperfect and always in need of something to make ourselves attractive so that someone will fuck us. It disgusts me! Thanks for bringing this up Lucy

    Comment by Sian — July 21, 2006 @ 9:01 pm |Reply

  7. Grrrrls:

    OBJECT ( have been campaigning for Lads Mags to be put on the top shelf, as well as LM’s (rightful) classification as pornography. Find out more about this campaign and the others by visiting the OBJECT website.

    Also, there is an online petition you can sign at

    At the first reading of the Bill last month, we had about 20 protestors outside Parliament. We NEED you there for the second reading of the Bill. Although the date is likely to change, it may be on the 20th October 2006 – keep checking the OBJECT website for updates – sign up for their newsletter to keep with campaigns, dates, news and events.

    Let’s show everyone that porn, even unclassified porn, is not suitable to be sold amongst COMICS, women’s mags, and TEEN mags. Yes, ideally, these hateful publications should be eradicated from the face of the earth – but currently they are regarded as “men’s lifestyle” and with only voluntary codes in place and no legislation, can be sold anywhere (and they are).

    I’m sick of walking into my local shop and thinking it’s an Adult Bookstore! Fake boobs ‘a plenty’. Grrrr!

    I’m mad-as-hell, and I’m certainly not going to take it any more!

    Please join us in our fight.


    Comment by Stormcloud — July 24, 2006 @ 1:25 pm |Reply

  8. Thanks everyone!

    I’m already aware of Object, and would have liked to come to the demo recently but had to work.I’ll certainly sign the petition.

    Comment by Lucy — July 24, 2006 @ 5:39 pm |Reply

  9. Jeez. Well, I had wondered who actually was voicing support for the “vaginal rejuvenation” besides the actual surgeons. Ech.

    I have/had my own feelings about What Is To Be Done wrt actual porn (as in nekkid/sexy pictures); and I did wonder, when I heard about the fight to put those mags on the top shelf, what the point was.

    it sounds like they’re more hate speech than anything else, though. “bitch in a boat?” “yauchting cunt?”

    i don’t think even Playboy writes crap like this. vacuous and sexist, yes. i could be wrong; it’s been a while.

    i wonder if Maxim writes that sort of crap (the closest approximation to the “lad mags” we have here, I *think*).

    Comment by belledame222 — July 24, 2006 @ 11:55 pm |Reply

  10. Horrible, isn’t it?

    I gave serious thought to the idea of putting them on the top shelf, and decided that actually it was a good idea. I don’t object to naked bodies per se, it’s the sheer hatred in these magazines that gets to me. It is genuinely hate speech. If a magazine printed similar attacks on black people, the would (rightly) be vilified. Why is it that women are still a legitimate target?

    Comment by Lucy — July 25, 2006 @ 10:18 am |Reply

  11. Well, and now I’m wondering what kind of activism would be levelled (if it were attacks on black people). Boycotts? Organized letter-writing? Parody mags? Y’all are probably doing all that already, of course…

    Comment by belledame222 — July 25, 2006 @ 5:14 pm |Reply

  12. I’m not saying that all racism always gets the reaction/activism it deserves. Of course there are publications etc that promote vile racism. I just think that if a mainstream magazine (remember these aren’t fringe publications, they’re available in every newsagent in the country) used the same language about an ethnic minority, there would be more of an outcry. There would almost certainly be boycotts etc.

    I didn’t mean to imply that racism is less of a serious problem than sexism.

    Comment by Lucy — July 25, 2006 @ 5:58 pm |Reply

  13. Oh, i wasn’t either–just wondering what tactics were being used.

    Comment by belledame222 — July 27, 2006 @ 7:14 pm |Reply

  14. Oops, I misunderstood your comment! Sorry. Yes, there’s a lot of campaigning going on including letter-writing and protesting. Some women held a protest outside the Houses of Parliament recently, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to, but I hear it was very successful.

    Comment by Lucy — July 30, 2006 @ 9:19 am |Reply

  15. Over here, what seems to be the most common and/or successful (mileage varies, I expect) tactic is the boycott of the advertisers/sponsors. anyway I think this was a goodly chunk of what was done wrt the Dr Laura now-cancelled TV show (American talk show radio host, widely viewed as virulently homophobic, among other hatefulnesses).

    I’ve wondered if there was quite as much emphasis on this form of protest in other countries; between people who are still very very adamant about protecting what’s left of the First Amendment (as much as possible anyway) and the particular emphasis on profit as the bottom line, here, I am thinking that we’re perhaps more likely to go this route as the main or first avenue, at least when it comes to media. (huge broad generalization alert; just speculating out loud).

    Of course there were people who argued that any attempt to shut down Dr. Laura (for instance) was an abridgement of her free speech rights and a form of censorship. I never agreed with this. Admittedly I’m biased because I loathe the woman and I do think she is/was spreading pernicious hate and misinformation, not just “opinions;” but also, freedom of speech doesn’t particularly guarantee any one person a TV show of their very very own.

    Not sure if “lads’ mags” would work in quite the same way; for one thing, Dr. Laura was one person/TV show and here you’re talking about a number of publications, if not a whole genre; for another, I imagine that it’s easier to just keep publishing more magazines than it is to keep an expensive TV show running, when there a number of competitors just waiting for the slot.

    still, hitting them in the pocketbook tends to work rather well, if you can pull it off…

    Comment by belledame222 — July 30, 2006 @ 10:04 pm |Reply

  16. If lads mags had men in such sleazy positions on the front cover they would soon be moved to the top shelves.

    Have a look at my blog to see what I mean.

    Comment by partykillgirl — September 16, 2006 @ 4:54 pm |Reply

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