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Column: Should ‘lads mags’ be in modesty bags?

Removing ‘lads mags’ from the top shelf won’t make much of an impact when it comes to the bigger picture, writes Aoife O’Connor, who says there is a lot more things objectifying women that need to dealt with first.

Aoife O'Connor

WE’VE ALL DONE it, don’t deny it… throwing a quick eye up to the top shelf to catch a glimpse of who’s knockers are on show this month.

But the guilty pleasure that is lads mags has come under fire recently after the Co-op franchise in the UK issued an ultimatum to publishing houses demanding that come September 9, lads mags must be placed in pre-sealed modesty bags. Any magazine tempted to flout this order will no longer be sold on the shelves of its 4000 plus stores.

Co-op presently uses opaque screens that are put in front of lads mags so as to shield the general public from such titles as FHM, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo, and any offence they may cause. But is this reaction to cover up a bit of skin all a bit much?

Dwindling circulation

For the lads mags in question, it comes as another blow to their already dwindling circulation. Lad culture peaked during the mid-nineties when the Gallagher brothers became glorified role models and drinking, watching football and having sex were the only pastimes worth having.

It was this type of laddish behaviour that spawned Loaded magazine, which ticks all the boxes when it comes to your typically brash lads mag. At one point Loaded was selling over 450,000 copies every month, but the death of mainstream lad culture has seen it drop to under 35,000 nowadays.

Other lads mags have been clever and broadened their appeal as a publication rather than just having scantily clad women on almost every page. FHM is one example that is more subtle in its sex appeal, branching out into men’s fashion and newsworthy features with some sexy girls thrown in for good measure.

UK Feminista is the movement responsible for the Lose the Lads Mags campaign launched at the end of July, arguing that lads mags portray women as dehumanized sex objects for the purpose of sexually gratifying men.

Sexualisation of women

But their agenda fails to acknowledge that lads mags are not the only culprits when it comes to openly sexualising women in print media. The objectification of women is a social norm that has been reinforced generation after generation, but it is our generation that has taken the obsession with the female form to a disturbing new level.

Female sexual objectification and a distorted view of women and their sex appeal does not necessarily have to involve tanned, slim-waisted, big breasted, sultry looking women in various stages of undress on the cover of a lads mag. In fact, some women’s magazines are as guilty as any lads mags when it comes to sexualising women and reducing them to body parts that shouldn’t be anything other than perfect.

But instead of in-your-face vulgarity, women’s magazines have a roundabout way of objectifying the very audience that purchases them. Rather than empowering women to be proud and not paranoid about their image, editors and publishing houses alike see nothing wrong with honing in on our body-consciousness selves, by portraying women in a skewed, unrealistic ideal.

Week-on-week you will see the same celebrities splashed across certain titles, admonishing them for any weight gain, balking at the notion of them being spotted in public without any make up on, and commending them for having the perfect body shape and size.

Photoshopping women

But you don’t see a fuss being made over this camouflaged objectification of women, whereby readers are coached how be more desirable and more aesthetically faultless – basically a photoshopped version of you.

Who takes offence when it comes to lads mags varies from person-to-person. There are those who despise them and everything they stand for arguing that they encourage violence towards women. There are the loyal readers of lads mag who religiously buy them just like anyone else would buy their preferred newsstand title. And there are those who really don’t care. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. It’s as simple as that.

Personally I think there are worse things out there than a lads mag. Removing them from the top shelf won’t make much of an impact when it comes to the bigger picture. Think of it this way: Lads mags versus internet porn. Now let’s talk about women as sexual objects and encouraging violent behaviour.

Aoife O’Connor is a journalist from Kerry. You can view here LinkedIn page here or follow her on Twitter here. For more articles by Aoife for TheJournal.ie click here.

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