Stuff magazine is dropping the scantily-clad cover stars. Photo: Joe Loong on Flickr, via CC
Show Hide image

Lads’ mags are starting to drop the scantily-clad cover stars – sexism is over now, right?

Loaded magazine has relaunched without topless cover stars, while gadget mag Stuff has dropped the scantily-clad girls, too. Is the “buy a magazine, get some misogyny for free” idea finally dead?

Sexism is dead. I don’t want anyone to get ahead of themselves but the UK has definitely sorted gender equality out and it’ll soon spread to the rest of the world. Probably by around lunch time tomorrow.

The country’s biggest-selling gadget magazine, Stuff, has officially dropped cover girls from its front pages. Loaded, meanwhile, has relaunched without its traditional topless women. That’s right. A magazine about technology has managed to feature technology without draping naked women around it and the picture editor of Loaded has discovered there are images other than boobs. It’s a really big day for everyone involved and I’m just glad we can all be a part of it.

“We’re going to be far more discerning and sophisticated from now on,” confirmed a spokesman at Simian Publishing, which took over Loaded last year.

The new issue will feature actress Olympia Valance who, apparently, will in fact not be naked.

“She’s beautiful but she’s fully clothed and it’s a Q&A,” said the spokesman, establishing both that women can simultaneously be attractive to men and keep their clothes on, and that you can ask them questions and their brains will sometimes give you answers.

Like all progress, there’ll be some people who are upset about it, strangely attached to a bygone era where everything’s a bit more gross. Like before inside toilets. But the thing many miss when we talk about getting rid of the idea men can’t buy a lifestyle magazine without a naked woman on it is that it benefits men as well as women. (Even sexist men – aka the only type of men who would object to half the population being able to walk into a shop and buy a Twix without also seeing their sex stripped and commodified, like a human blow-up doll.)

We’ve unknowingly convinced ourselves we’ve entered a bizarre barter system where men can’t complete an economic transaction without some part of a human woman attached to it.  

“Okay Sir, here’s your new washing machine.”

“What sort of breasts does that come with?”

“Sorry?”

“It comes with some breasts, right?”

“Um. Well no, it’s just a washing machine.”

“What?”

“It’s a washing machine.”

“How about a nipple? I’ll take a nipple.”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying to me.”

“Boob.”

In “lad culture”, women get to be degraded pieces of flesh who are only useful for creating hard ons, sure. But men get to be complete morons.  

Sexuality is a positive, bloody brilliant thing. Sexualisation – where women are the arousing illustration to men’s interaction with every part of the world – isn’t.  

This isn’t just symbolism (and in a society where women are still deemed not important enough to get paid the same as men or be in a relationship without the risk of dying, symbolism alone is pretty powerful). It’s the literal spread of ideas – in image and words – that say women exist to be always up for it (it being whatever you want to do to them). Words that research says people can’t differentiate from the ones uttered by convicted rapists.

The relatively innocent days of a few scantily-clad women devolved into a hundred decapitated, naked bits of meat. The market was once the excuse for lads’ mags to enter a race to the bottom (or, as the case may be, breasts) but it’s now the impetus to stop it. The sales of lads’ mags have been plummeting for years. Editors at Stuff magazine had aimed to attract readers by getting the magazine positioned alongside them but focus groups and cover trials showed sales actually increase when there isn’t a naked woman involved. The “buy a magazine, get some misogyny for free” idea isn’t working anymore. No one’s buying it. Funnily enough, some of us never were.

Frances Ryan is a journalist and political researcher. She writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman, and others on disability, feminism, and most areas of equality you throw at her. She has a doctorate in inequality in education. Her website is here.

Getty
Show Hide image

Harriet Harman warns that the Brexit debate has been dominated by men

The former deputy leader hit out at the marginalisation of women's voices in the EU referendum campaign.

The EU referendum campaign has been dominated by men, Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman warns today. The veteran MP, who was acting Labour leader between May and September last year, said that the absence of female voices in the debate has meant that arguments about the ramifications of Brexit for British women have not been heard.

Harman has written to Sharon White, the Chief of Executive of Ofcom, expressing her “serious concern that the referendum campaign has to date been dominated by men.” She says: “Half the population of this country are women and our membership of the EU is important to women’s lives. Yet men are – as usual – pushing women out.”

Research by Labour has revealed that since the start of this year, just 10 women politicians have appeared on the BBC’s Today programme to discuss the referendum, compared to 48 men. On BBC Breakfast over the same time period, there have been 12 male politicians interviewed on the subject compared to only 2 women. On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, 18 men and 6 women have talked about the referendum.

In her letter, Harman says that the dearth of women “fails to reflect the breadth of voices involved with the campaign and as a consequence, a narrow range [of] issues ends up being discussed, leaving many women feeling shut out of the national debate.”

Harman calls on Ofcom “to do what it can amongst broadcasters to help ensure women are properly represented on broadcast media and that serious issues affecting female voters are given adequate media coverage.” 

She says: "women are being excluded and the debate narrowed.  The broadcasters have to keep a balance between those who want remain and those who want to leave. They should have a balance between men and women." 

A report published by Loughborough University yesterday found that women have been “significantly marginalised” in reporting of the referendum, with just 16 per cent of TV appearances on the subject being by women. Additionally, none of the ten individuals who have received the most press coverage on the topic is a woman.

Harman's intervention comes amidst increasing concerns that many if not all of the new “metro mayors” elected from next year will be men. Despite Greater Manchester having an equal number of male and female Labour MPs, the current candidates for the Labour nomination for the new Manchester mayoralty are all men. Luciana Berger, the Shadow Minister for mental health, is reportedly considering running to be Labour’s candidate for mayor of the Liverpool city region, but will face strong competition from incumbent mayor Joe Anderson and fellow MP Steve Rotheram.

Last week, Harriet Harman tweeted her hope that some of the new mayors would be women.  

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.