The ultimatum was made in light of complaints from employees and consumers about the topless women on the covers of magazines such as Zoo, Nuts and Loaded – all aimed at young men. Campaigners warn that images of women with surgically enhanced breasts not only objectifies women but also sets unattainable standards and fuels low self-esteem.
The supermarket already displays these titles from behind opaque screens to protect the public from images of scantily clad women but now it wants the magazines to come with their own ‘modesty bags’.
Women and equalities minister Jo Swinson has described the announcement as ‘very welcome’ and feminist campaigners have hailed it as a victory for women’s rights.
The question is: are so-called lads’ mags the biggest problem or is this all, as Telegraph reporter Max Pemberton believes, ‘lazy feminism’?
Pemberton believes a number of more complex and troubling issues are being ignored here. For starters, what about publications that feature half-naked and impossibly muscular men on their front covers, such as Men’s Health? What about women’s glossies and gossip magazines that dedicate whole features to various celebrities’ so-called flaws? What about the airbrushed images we see on billboards and online? Should all of these be covered up to protect the public too?
“I’m not convinced that it’s lads’ mags that are the biggest problem here. The real problem with the objectification of women originates with women’s magazines. I am frequently horrified at the torrent of critical, waspish comments about women’s bodies made by female journalists, working under female editors, on magazines marketed solely to women,” writes Pemberton.
These are the magazines that play on women’s insecurities alongside adverts that claim readers can be beautiful too, if only they buy this make-up, or that outfit. He also argues that although they may be overtly sexualised, the women on the front covers of lads’ mags are ironically healthier-looking than the size zero women we see in glossies.
If you struggle with body image issues, whatever your gender, you can talk to a counsellor about it. It is important not to let insecurities develop into problems such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. To find out more, please visit our Low Self-Esteem page.
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