Good day, everyone! Are you all aware of the phenomenon of ‘Lads’ Mags’? (Laddy lads WHEEEEY banter lads). This is the term being put about to describe men’s magazines that feature, prominently, images of attractive young women in various states of undress. I’m talking about Nuts, Zoo, Front, FHM, that sort of thing. Well, I have learned there are some people that don’t approve of these magazines. In fact, they really really fucking hate them, as this video demonstrates:
Tesco are restricting them to over 18s and the co-op want to put these weird cellophane burqas on them. As I understand it, this has been acheived by threatening legal action on the grounds that staff and customers of the shops might look at the front of these magazines, disapprove of them, and feel discriminated against; presumably in much the same way that I feel discriminated against every time I have to sell someone roast beef flavour Monster Munch when flamin’ hot is readily available and obviously superior. Their website explains at great length why they despise them so. Here is a representative extract:
Lads mags aren’t just a bit of harmless fun. By portraying women as dehumanised sex objects they fuel attitudes that underpin discrimination and violence against women.
Shit the bed. Dehumanised sex objects. That’s quite a claim, isn’t it? A claim worth investigating! Alright, now I know most of MY readership are far too sophisticated to know of this sort of publication. But, since I have access to a magazine rack, I thought I’d do some research on all of your behalfs and flick through Nuts and Zoo and find out exactly what the problem is.
I can reveal that both magazines cover a range of topics, all of them thoroughly blokeish. Cars (of the absurdly fast, expensive sort), football, jokes, films and games are all given some space, but we needn’t concern ourselves with those, because no-one finds them objectionable; the contentious bit is the bit where women are photographed with very little clothing on.
Zoo leads with some pictures of someone called Melissa D. I know nothing about this woman, other than that she looks like a glamour model. In the accompanying interview, she complains that men are always staring at her breasts. I’ve no reason to doubt her. In order to address this, she recommends that men wear dark glasses in order to disguise their perverted leering.
So far, so educational. Nuts, clearly, has a high standard to meet. It leads with a photo shot with someone called Holly Hagan. I know nothing about this woman, other than that she looks like a glamour model, and appears in something called ‘Geordie Shore’. Her pictures are also accompanied by an interview, which, after an initial exchange of banal pleasantries, becomes suddenly gripping:
“How are your new boobies settling in?” asks the interviewer.
“Oh,” Holly Hagan replies, “they’re really good, as all your readers will probably appreciate. Thanks for asking.”
So there you go. Now we’ve established a tone. Frost/Nixon this ain’t. The vocabulary strikes me as quite infantile. Who says ‘boobies’, other than small children? Is it now considered respectful to refer to a woman’s breasts as ‘boobies’? Is this how the readership of Nuts magazine refer to them in common parlance? If this girl was to walk past a construction site, would the workers there pass comment on her ‘boobies’? Is it now ‘get your boobies out for the lads?’ (lads whey banter grenade)
I can only speculate as to the thinking behind this. Perhaps the editor is under some intense pressure to avoid language that might be considered misogynistic, and so will cross out words like ‘tits’ or ‘breasts’. But surely ‘boobs’ is alright? Sure ‘boobs’ is preferable to ‘boobies’? The word ‘boobies’, in this context, makes me think that this magazine is trying to titillate the mentally handicapped, which I find a little creepy, really. Another weird thing I can’t help but notice is that the wording of the question endows this woman’s tits with some agency independent of the woman herself. I thought we were meant to be objectifying women here, but we’re going the other way. We’re imagining their boobs are separate life-forms. How are they settling in? Settling into what? Like lodgers? Pets? Is this woman some sort of marsupial? Is her body host to some alien parasite? Are we going to get a chest-bursting scene shortly?
So my eyebrows were already scrunched up in befuddlement at this point, but shortly afterward the line of questioning took a sharp turn for the really bizarre:
“Who is the funniest person in the Geordie Shore house?” asks the interviewer.
“Charlotte,” Holly replies.
“Who does the smelliest trumps?”
What the fuck magazine am I reading, here? The Beano? “Smelliest trumps!?”
My first thought was that the wording of this question is unbelievably puerile, but then when I tried to come up with an alternate wording I realised that it is actually very difficult to phrase this question in adult terms. There is simply no grown-up way of asking someone to quantify the smelliness of a fart, let alone a series of farts coming from a particular person over a period of time, unless you want to resort to the sort of technical description otherwise restricted to biology textbooks.
This sort of thing is (I’m reliably informed) typical Nuts and Zoo fare. Critics of these magazines often claim that they represent an unrealistic view of women. Well, based on what I’ve just fucking read, I’d have to agree. Their portrayal of women, to put it mildly, is implausible. Only a dunderhead could imagine that these people are representative of all women, which is probably where difficulty lies since this seems a magazine that dunderheads might enjoy immensely.
But isn’t that the whole point of this sort of thing? Yes, it might present an unrealistic picture of women. The film “Speed” might give you an unrealistic expectations of public transport, should we be worried about that? It’s entertainment. It’s escapism (though quite why you’d want to escape to a world where women are quizzed on their gaseous excretions is beyond me, but each to their own.) Aren’t there other publications that are far worse?
Well, yes, there are. Even the League of Puritanical Busybodies concedes this:
This campaign isn’t arguing that LAYDS MAYGS (whey banter footy legend lads) are the only publications sending out damaging messages about women’s role in society. For instance, many groups and individuals have criticised the harmful effect that some women’s magazines have on women’s body image and self-esteem.
Yes, indeed. Let’s examine that one, shall we? We’ve looked at the men’s magazines, I suppose it’s only fair that I give the women’s magazines the same treatment. So I did. Now, before we go any further I feel I should post a disclaimer: while what has come before has been light-hearted, relatively speaking; what follows does become ever-so-slightly ranty. So if you don’t want that over your afternoon coffee then stop reading now.
So, it transpires that women also enjoy looking at pictures of semi-naked women. They like it perhaps even more than men do. But there are several differences between LAYDS MAYGS (lads lads lads lads lads laaaaaads) and their female-orientated equivalents.
In the former, the semi-naked women are photographed willingly, in an environment that they have control over. In the latter, they do so unwillingly (or perhaps unknowingly) at a time when they might not particularly want to be photographed. Perhaps they are with their kids, or just generally minding their own fucking business.
In the former, the semi-naked women are paid for their work. They are paid quite handsomely; in fact this is one industry where women command greater wages than men. In the latter, they are not paid, but the paparazzi who photographed them from the balcony of an adjacent hotel certainly is. As a result of this insanity, this sort of thing happens whenever Kate Moss and her kids visit LA X.
In the former, pleasant, flattering things are said about these semi-naked women. Their audience pretty much worships them, as do the people who write the magazine. In the latter, cruel, unflattering things are said. Comment is passed on how their weight has fluctuated over the past week-and-a-half, and attention is drawn to the accompanying stretch marks. This is one aspect of these magazines that fascinated me instantly: the practice of splashing a photograph of some woman on a beach across the front cover, along with their weight in stone (or dress size).
How these magazines know how much these women weigh, I do not know. Do they just flat-out ask them? Do they somehow trick them into standing on a pressure plate? Do they hire some savant fairground worker with the ability guess the weight of the celebrity from across a crowded beach?
Thinking that the contents of these magazines deserve a greater degree of scrutiny, I delve into the pages of Closer. Abandon all hope, all ye who read this fucking magazine. A two-page spread is devoted to David and Victoria Beckham’s marriage, replete with speculation and quotes attributed to ‘pals’, ‘insiders’ or the ever mysterious ‘a source’, yet lacking any explanation as to why any sane person other than David and Victoria Beckham should give two fucking shits about David and Victoria Beckham’s marriage. Another page is devoted to pictures of celebrities are wearing, along with a big tick or a cross depending on whether the bitches that write this shite approve of the appearance of the woman in question. Another particularly odious feature is where some awful woman scrutinises Jennifer Aniston’s date with her fiancé:
“Jen and Justin’s wedding is said to be on hold and their body language here isn’t doing much to dispel rumours they’re having relationship problems. Certainly, it’s Jen making the most of the effort while her fiancé glowers. I’m not convinced Jen will get the fairy-tale ending we all want for her.”
Oh yes. We all want a fairy tale ending for Jen. Yes, all of this is done out of concern for her wellbeing. Holy balls, this is enough to send me into apoplexy. I wonder why he’s fucking glowering? Is it because he’s trying to go out for a meal with his fiancé, but can’t do so without the pursuing swarm of paparazzi, all hoping for pictures to sell to some terrible shit-rag so they can publish it next to a vacuous opinion penned by some fuck-nugget for the enjoyment of morons? That would certainly make me glower.
So in conclusion, I did not much enjoy either sort of publication, but in terms of pure old-fashioned mean-spirited women-hating misogyny, LAYDS MAYGS (banter) have a long way to go before they can hold a candle to this other fuckwittery.
Right, I’m done.
Thanks for listening.
A good week to one and all.