Women: not objects

Lads’ mags- what’s the big deal? Well, quite a lot actually. After successfully removing the magazines from the union shop’s shelves, Professor Mark Blagrove, The head of the University of Swansea’s Psychology Department, told the union’s student paper: ‘The University should have higher standards than the outside world. The University should be like BBC 4 and that’s it, and then you suddenly get the worst bits of cable television.’

Whilst I wouldn’t quite describe the issue in those words, Professor Blagrove is correct.

In these sex saturated times, many people don’t find lads’ mags offensive, but that’s because the blatant objectification of women has filtered into our social consciousness. However, just because they’ve existed for as long as you can remember doesn’t mean you shouldn’t question them.

After conducting my own somewhat amateur study into lads’ mags -I spent my hard earned money on a copy of both Nuts and Zoo- I came to the conclusion that they’re soft porn.  All that’s missing are vaginas on show.

A university is an educational institute. Our student union promises to ‘make life better for students’, whilst our university promises to ‘to promote gender equality’. The sale of lads’ mags in the student union directly undermines both of those statements. Whilst these magazines are obviously harmful to women, they’re also seriously detrimental to men, as they advocate tired, restrictive stereotypes. Both women and men are so much more than this.

Putting the images aside, there’s the issue of the content in these magazines. In May this year, perennial laddish  icon Danny Dyer caused an widespread furore when he advised a Zoo reader in his column to “cut your ex’s face, and then no one will want her…” –  simultaneously endorsing domestic violence as well as the notion of women as possessions. Dyer cried misquotation, and in a statement, Zoo blamed it on a “regrettable production error” – but there’s no denying that his quote stank of misogyny. Anyone with a social conscience can see that allowing this kind of crass, vulgar attitude towards women in a university’s student union is objectionable in the extreme.

In February, growing calls to move lads’ mags to the top shelf were fuelled by a report commissioned by the Home Office, with the argument that they add to the pornification of the mainstream media. And more recently, human rights group Object have targeted Tesco after the supermarket chain banned customers shopping in their pyjamas on the basis that the sight may ‘cause offense’. Object retaliated by donning pyjamas, creating a conga line through the aisles, chanting anti-sexist slogans and covering up lads’ mags with paper bags that read ‘lads’ mags lie about women’.  I can’t help but agree. These magazines promote the idea of women as nothing more than sexually available objects- always on standby; waxed, primped and preened – legs parted and lips pouting, all for your pleasure. That is a lie.

So yes, lads’ mags should be removed from our university’s shelves. I’ve no place to judge if you’re intent on getting your rocks off, but there’s no place for porn in our student union. Students primarily come to university to be educated. These magazines reinforce and encourage the objectification of women. If student consumers are that desperate for a soft porn fix, they can always leave university premises to find some.

Originally written for Pluto’s debate section.