Co-op: leave those naked women where they are!

Walk into any supermarket, newsagent or corner shop and naked boobs are a common theme.

Walk into any supermarket, newsagent or corner shop and naked boobs are a common theme. Not, thankfully, in the form of the cashier, which could cause some very awkward conversations and eye aversions, but on the infamous “top shelf.”

Full of thoroughly horrific, degrading titles such as Loaded, Nuts and Zoo, so called “lad mags” have been at the forefront of the feminist assault for years.

“Cover up! Put those airbrushed tits away! It’s offending my eyes and objectifying women. Are we nothing more to you than a semen stained tissue? You’re ruining the children!” Valid arguments I’m sure, or at least the Co-operative seem to think so after last week issuing an ultimatum to such publications—cover up or you’re out.

Up and out

If publishers fail to supply their fine publications to any of Co-op’s 4,000 UK stores in anything other than modesty bags by September 9th they’ll be sent packing. Literally.

It seems to be part of a growing trend to try and pretend these atrocities don’t exist. Last month the retailer introduced modesty covers in an attempt to hide any explicit content and in 2006 Sainsbury’s brought in similar covers after complaints from customers. A 2010 campaign by Mumsnet similarly saw Tesco, BP, ASDA and Morrison’s pledge to move the magazines to higher shelves or introduce plain covers.

Perfectly reasonable you may say? Except the whole thing stinks of censorship and hypocrisy.

Censored hypocrisy

Would I buy a “lad mag” myself? Most likely not, mainly because I believe strongly in the power of imagination and would rather use the money on cake, but that doesn’t mean they should shut up shop and go home.

We live in a supposedly free society where, within reasonable limits, we can publish and read whatever we like. And like it or not this includes magazines with semi-naked women on the front. We can’t just pick and choose what we censor based on our own personal taste. A closer inspection of these over the counter boob-fests will also reveal the content can only be described a super soft porn at best—not a heathen shaven vagina in sight.

Of course, I have my fair share of gripes with such magazines—airbrushed perfect women with massive tits are hardly a realistic or healthy representation of women. Neither are massive pictures of bronzed men with six packs. Hell, I don’t even like six packs. Just how many women’s magazines lead with pictures of almost naked men, make jokes about the size of his dangly bits and proudly proclaim “phowarrr” – but only if he fits our superficial image of man beauty. And, why my feminist friends, is it “dirty and offensive” to show a picture of a sexualised women top up, but if it’s a guy?

Hell, show me five. That’s fine.

It’s easy to shout and point the finger at lad culture in magazines as the manifestation of all things evil in the world, but you can’t do that and forget how equally awful some women’s magazines are. If we’re arguing that Zoo and Loaded promote an unrealistic image of women then what about the hundreds of glossy magazines devoted to diets, stick thin celebrities and telling you how much slap you should shovel onto your face?

It’s easy to jump on the anti-lad magazine bandwagon, but we all need to think about exactly what we’re saying first. Do we really want to go down the road of a censorship society, just because we’re not a fan personally? And if we really want to help the important task of abolishing frankly ridiculous stereotypes about how a “beautiful woman” looks then we should also be challenging women’s magazines and the idea of a “fit bloke”.

So, for the meantime Co-op, leave those boobs right where they are.

What do you think of lads mags? Should they be pulled from shelves? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.