Co-op Tells Lads Mags to Cover Up

Posted on 30 July, 2013 by Kirsten Kennedy

Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a crackdown on internet pornography will come into effect by October, with adults having to “opt in” for access with their broadband provider. The change in law followed calls by various parenting groups to protect children from inappropriate content which, at present, is easily accessible from computers, tablets and smartphones.

Now, one of the UK’s leading supermarkets has followed suit by demanding that “lads’ mags” such as Nuts, Zoo and Loaded cover up their front pages or risk being removed from sale. The Co-Operative, which operates 4000 stores in the UK, has set a six week deadline for all such magazines to introduce sealed “modesty bags” which hide the contents from its young customers.

Although the Co-Op already uses opaque screens to shield magazine covers featuring scantily-clad female models, it claims that members and customers feel that this move has not tackled the root of the problem. Yet even if lads’ mags do choose to comply with new regulations, campaign group Lose the Lads’ Mags believes that the retailer, and in fact all supermarkets, should go a step further and refuse to sell such items as a matter of policy.

Campaigner Kat Banyard called lads’ mags “deeply harmful”, saying; “By portraying women as dehumanised sex objects, they send out the message that it’s normal and acceptable to treat women this way, and we know from extensive evidence that lads’ mags like Nuts and Zoo fuel sexist attitudes; attitudes that underpin violence against women.”

Furthermore, Lose the Lads’ Mags has warned retailers that forcing staff to handle magazines of this genre could amount to sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. This would breach the Equality Act 2010 and could potentially see some of the UK’s largest supermarket chains embroiled in a legal battle with members of staff.

Retail chief executive of the Co-Operative Group, Steve Murrells, believes that the move is in the best interest of the chain’s customers.

He says; “As a community-based retailer, we have listened to the concerns of our customers and members, many of whom say they object to their children being able to see overt sexual images in our stores.

“Whilst we have tried to mitigate the likelihood of young children seeing the images with a number of measures in store, the most effective way of doing this is for these magazines to be put in individual, sealed modesty bags.”

However, the measures face opposition from former Front magazine editor Piers Hernu, who claims that the decision amounts to little more than censorship.

While the move will certainly lower the risk of exposure to X-rated materials by small children in stores, the fact remains that many different mediums such as films and TV shows also contain potentially damaging imagery. The question, then, is whether shielding under-18s from all inappropriate content is in fact achievable, or if this decision by the Co-Op will simply be a drop in the ocean.

Meanwhile it has been announced that supermodel Kate Moss will grace the cover of the September issue of Esquire. It is the first time in 17 years that Moss has been photographed for a men’s magazine.

Editor Alex Bilmes says the 39 year-old has been ‘monopolised’ by women’s magazines for too long and he is thrilled to have persuaded her to appear in Esquire’s special ‘Made in Britain’ issue.

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