*** Warning: This post contains images of topless men and women. Please do not read if the human body offends you. ***
UK Feminista are currently running a high profile campaign to make it almost impossible for Supermarkets in the UK to sell magazines for men, or 'lads' mags' as they're colloquially known. They claim that the magazines contain images and content that is offensive and degrading to women, and that anyone 'forced' to look at their covers on the shelves are victims of sexual harassment. It is already necessary for such magazines to be displayed behind plastic covers, on high shelves that children are unable to reach, yet new guidelines state that they should be sold in opaque bags, completely preventing innocent eyes from witnessing the female form against their will and anyone who actually might want to buy the magazine from getting any sort of idea if it contains content that they want to read.
It's rare that I wish to wade into the turbulent waters of feminism because, frankly, I find it all a bit militant and scary. However, on this occasion, I am firmly stating my position as on the side of the men. I have absolutely nothing against magazines marketed solely at a male audience, because we shouldn't expect the majority of men to want to read about Kim Kardashian's post pregnancy diet or about childhood sexual abuse (Chat, I'm looking at you). We have magazines such as Women's Own that are aimed firmly at our gender, yet we're up in arms that the men have an equivalent that contains, shock horror, the things that they're interested in (I apologise for the sweeping generalisations that this article makes, but I'm afraid that is the nature of marketing, and for the purposes of this argument I do have to go with the majorities). So men are interested in breasts, sport and cars? Do they complain that our magazines are awash with nail polish reviews and One Direction? No, of course they don't.
There is also a very valid point being made by others who support my point of view: why are we talking about glamour models as though they are moronic stuffed bikinis, unable to make their own decisions? That is offensive.
However, I've decided to approach my defence from a slightly different direction. I have decided to show that us women are just as bad as men when it comes to our glossy magazines.
I have taken one lads' mag (Nuts) and have compared it extensively to three separate women's weeklies (Closer, Heat and New), and the results certainly made me stop and think about what I'm reading. I hope that it makes supporters of the Lose The Lads' Mags campaign sit up and take notice too, because if we lose Nuts, we really ought to lose them all.
The first thing that I noticed was the cover art. The bikini clad girls on publications like the one I have chosen to study are seen as offensive and over-sexualised, yet I look at the covers of both Closer and Heat and what do I see? Women in bikinis. The only difference that I can see is that the women on the cover of Nuts are posing for their photos, and have probably been paid for the shoots, whilst the women on the other two have been papped whilst trying to enjoy their holidays.
Which leads me neatly onto my next point: Pages of bikini bodies.
In every women's magazine at this time of year, you will find page upon page of celebrities in bikinis. It would appear that Nuts is not that different until, that is, you read the captions accompanying each picture. While Nuts celebrate each individual woman as beautiful, the piece in Closer aims at picking each of displayed bodies apart; analysing which parts need improving or which parts have been 'fixed' since the last bikini season.
In fact, in Closer I found nine separate pieces about other women's bodies and what is right or wrong with them. In Heat I found four, including a very harsh piece about Nicole Richie's breasts and how they've been 'wrecked' by surgery and weight loss. Any guesses as to how many I found in Nuts? That's right, none. Sure, they talk about women's bodies, but only in an entirely positive, almost worshipping way. So, who is worse? Us or them?
We also have a horrendous trend of articles like this, which delight in making harsh critique of the fashion choices of others:
If we're throwing around accusations of objectifying women, shouldn't we start here?
Both issues of Nuts and Heat feature articles about reality TV stars (Holly Hagan from Geordie Shore in Nuts and Lateysha Grace of The Valleys in Heat), and both pieces feature topless photos. This is where the similarity ends. Whilst Holly is celebrated in Nuts as being a fine example of the female form, the article about Lateysha focuses on what is 'wrong' with her nipples and the surgery that she intends to have to correct them. I can only imagine that the writers and readers of Nuts would see nothing wrong with her nipples at all.
The inimitable Helen Flanagan provided me with another interesting contrast during my research; the blonde bombshell is everywhere at the moment, and this selection of magazines is no different with pieces about her cropping up several times. Whilst Nuts happily celebrates her famous curves and her infamous quirks, Heat magazine has apparently taken it upon themselves to rip her to shreds. Respect for women, it would appear, but only if those women are not Helen Flanagan.
Of course, it's not just women who are objectified in the very publications devoured by their own gender. We are just as good at salivating over the men folk as they are over us, as the following image shows:
The picture on the left is a gratuitous shot in Nuts of our Helen in her undies , whilst the images to the right are all shots of famous hunks in trunks found in our own publications. In fact, three of the male images were found in one magazine; all completely gratuitous and not one of them complained about by the males of the internet. In fact, as a side note, I have been at several events involving male strippers and similar, and the men concerned are rarely given a chance to discuss their intellectual aptitude and their hopes and dreams. They're usually far more busy having their torsos and bottoms stroked/licked/bitten.
So, there you have it, I'm off of the fence on this one and my feet are planted firmly on the side of the boys. Let them have their own interests and magazines that support them. The glossies aren't just for us girls, and if we're going to ban publications like Nuts then Closer, New and Heat really ought to go too. After all, if men have to sit around twiddling their thumbs with sod all to read, it's only fair that we join them.
And just to really back up my point, the intelligent, well educated and independent writer of this blog has been known to get her assets out in Bizarre magazine (another of the offending publications) on several occasions, and it has never once occurred to her to be anything other than enormously proud of the fact.