Thursday, 6 June 2013

Lad's mags are not a great evil of society.

I should point out before I begin that, yes I have bought Lad's mags in the past, especially in my teenage years but I also am no sexist - far from it. I am inspired by strong women, one of my heroes as a youth was a strong female lead (albeit fictional) and I've always had a strong leading woman in my life - I even married one! For me equality and society free of degradation is essential.

Lads mags have always been a contentious issue since their inception in the 1990s. They portray a lifestyle of booze, sport, boobs and cars. For many they're no more than Soft pornography filled with scantily clad celebrity women and semi naked models and unwholesome imagery and articles that degrade women.

However this is really not the case. In fact the Ladsmag is a window into a culture that is very prevalent in the UK and that both gendres are involved in equally and, without sounding classist, is something that a lot of critics do not experience.

As Journalist Rowan Pelling said;

We live in a world where people masturbate with bottles on Big Brother. Page 3 in comparison, is a cradle of innocence, and the models - virtually Vicars daughters. [1]

In deed should you have the misfortune to watch Geordie shore, TOWIE, The Valleys or the Channel 4 Documentary on Kavos it exposes this party culture of the UK's 17-24 which revolves around beer, laddish behaviour and sex. On reveller was quoted as saying that he was in Kavos for booze, pulling a few birds maybe shag a few and the female party goers are in for the same thing. The rise of the so called Ladette has been around for quite some time. In comparison, if you were to read a ladsmag you will see that they are no where near as bad as this culture. Magazines like Nuts and Zoo, rather than encouraging this lifestyle are in fact documenting it and giving a voice to it and why shouldn't there be a voice in a society based on freedom of speech?

Today, purely for research purposes, nothing to do with Kaley Cuoco being on the cover, I bought FHM and on a cursory glance through there are articles on men's fashion, health care, games and Movie reviews, articles on survival, sex and summer festivals and a full spread interview with Ms Cuoco dressed sexily but not naked or provocatively in any way.  In fact when I was a student I read a great article in a copy of Esquire on segregation in the deep south of the USA in public schools - yes I bought it because Caprice was on the cover but the articles were very thought provoking. Lure young men in with the promise of semi naked women but educate them at the same time. Surely that is a good thing?

The biggest criticism is that these magazines are degrading to women - yet the women I've spoken too disagree and are not bothered by them. The defence is two fold, one is that it provides a positive body image for young women as well as for young women too and that is all voluntary.

When asked about how she felt about whether or not Ladsmags were degrading to women, Lucy Collett (2011 Page 3 idol winner) responded (via Twitter DM):

Well, I have 1,000s of female followers who look up to me for my body. So it's not just a lads mag, women read them too.

I myself have always read lads mags as I find fashion and what celebratory is f**king who a load of sh*t. I'd rather look at a half naked pretty woman and read some comical banter and stupid pictures any day.

I don't see nothing wrong with it. Everybody had a body, some ladies and men like to show there's off.

Look at Fashion models on runways! They parade down half naked! Why not ban that? With the skin and bone bodies making girls turn anorexic.

I have a healthy body image for a lot of women, hence why I show it off and I help women be happy with themselves. On my Istagram I have 100s of women commenting that I am their role model. I make them happy.

Indeed the Ladsmag community features curvy, natural girls rather than the pneumatic surgically enhanced models from the 90s and early 00s or the waifer thin fashion models whose body image is not an example of everyday women's shape and perpetuates a dangerous myth that all women should be the same shape and only eat sparsely.

I am very grateful to Miss Collett for allowing me to reproduce her Instagram images and have done so (above) to demonstrate the above point.

Lads mags can be seen to be demonstrating to young men that - yeah, curvy women are more attractive than the fashion world's idea of beauty as well as saying to young women that men do fancy women like Lucy, Sophie Howard and Kelly Brook and they should be themselves and have the same healthy body image.

In an interview with the Independent back in 2006 the first Page 3 idol winner, Keeley Hazell said;

I'm happy doing it for now, but who knows? In years to come maybe I'll look back at all this and regret it. Perhaps I'll think it was degrading to women. I know some people think it is, but then not everything in life has to be academic, you know? An artist is someone who paints and is creative, but they are not necessarily using their brains too much. And it's the same in modelling... I know there is a stigma to topless modelling, but I'm not sure I understand it. Kate Moss is always photographed without her top on, but she doesn't get any grief. Why me? [2]

Indeed it is also a voluntary business. At no point are the models forced into these poses so where is the harm? As Lucy pointed out, some people are proud of their bodies and want to show them off to the public. Indeed both models that are quoted have won a competition to go into modelling. The weekly magazines Nuts and Zoo run weekly slots for non girlfriends to send in pictures and then appear within the magazine, Lucy Pinder, a long running model, was approached on a beach by a photographer and started her career. Indeed Lucy Pinder is an interesting case as she refused to show her nipples in any of her modelling for the first four years of her career. If this was truly a forced occupation then she would not have continued to make the covers week in week out and probably have been dropped for someone more willing by the editors. The fact is that she wasn't and her career was not negatively impacted by her decision. Surely this shows that the magazine editors are not the insensitive sexist and brutal force that is often suggested and were in fact willing to negotiate and allow Miss Pinder her modesty. None of this is forced upon women, it is just as it seems a modelling opportunity that they can feel free to walk away from.

We as a nation are bombarded by sex and sexual imagery be it in the form of magazines like FHM or Maxim,  the more blatant end of the market on the top shelf, your Escorts and Mayfairs but also in mainstream advertising and billboards. I'm not just talking about obvious things like Lynx deodorants (the Lynx effect still doesn't work and I've been wearing Africa for nigh on fifteen years!) but in other less obvious things too. A Moonpig advert with the shirtless guy with ripped abs laying on a sofa whilst Dawn French's voice over descends into that of a drooling school girl, the Galaxy advert with the two girls blatantly objectifying the Male strippers who are about to come on stage, women scantily clad indulging in sexual encounters to sell perfume or aftershave, draped over cars - it is absolutely everywhere! If you want to go after Ladsmags for sexual imagery fine, but let us also attack advertising too - lets go all Mary Whitehouse and Puritan and let the Mumsnet people decide what is right and wrong or just let things slide and stick to our own likes and dislikes.

Interestingly, last week, it was announced in the Guardian that Supermarkets could be sued for sexual harassment for stocking Ladsmags;

For too long supermarkets have got off the hook, stocking Lad's mags in the face of widespread opposition, but this time we have the law on our side, every shop that sells lad's mags - publications which are deeply harmful to women - are opening themselves up to legal action. says Kat Banyard of Feminista. [3]


I understand that they are not to everyone's taste and yes - there is a scale with magazines at Front at one end and GQ and Esquire at the other. I do agree, and teenage Chris is kicking me right now, that maybe there should be an age limit on the purchasing of the magazines set at 15, the same rating as if it were a movie for nudity however that is it.

As for the staff, I'm afraid it is your job to restock the magazines whether you appreciate the content or not. I dislike the Daily Mail, intensely, I think that it is a vile rag filled with hate and opinions from the 1950s. I also dislike the Sun as I think it uses its popularity to mislead people to going where Murdoch's lackeys want you to but those are my opinions - for my working wage I would still restock them and move them around the warehouse as it is my job. If you have fundamental problems with it then speak to your supervisor and they can find you another part of the store to work in but someone else will move them around.

Ladsmags are not this evil thrust upon civilised society, nor does it reduce all women into sex objects made to strip for our pleasure, far from it. They are a window to the Lad/ladette culture of the UK, they are entirely voluntary, they encourage a positive body image in female readers and models and are part of the Sex sells attitude that is modern Britain. Like them or Loathe them, they are here to stay and so they should.

1 comment:

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