'Lads' mags' given cover-up deadline by Co-operative

Lads' mags in a Co-op store The Co-op has already introduced its own measures to obscure lads' magazine covers

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The Co-operative has given so-called lads' mags six weeks to cover up their front pages with sealed "modesty bags" or be taken off sale in its stores.

The 4,000-outlet retailer said it was responding to concerns by its members, customers and colleagues about images of scantily-clad women on covers.

Titles such as Front, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo have been given a deadline of 9 September by the Co-op.

An industry body said the titles showed the "diverse interests of young men".

The Co-op, which is owned and run by its more than seven million members, introduced opaque screens for lads' magazines on some shelves earlier this month.

Steve Murrells, retail chief executive for the Co-operative Group, said: "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.

Start Quote

The so-called 'modesty bags' they are demanding are designed to allow the Co-operative to continue profiting from sexist, harmful lads' mags - but just a bit more discreetly”

End Quote Sophie Bennett Lose the Lads' Mags

"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."

Cathryn Higgs, a policy manager at the Co-op, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the group was currently "in dialogue" with the magazine publishers.

"I've got every hope they will take what we believe is the responsible approach and put them in a bag," she said.

She added that the Co-op believed it was the first retailer in the UK to take this step but other supermarkets were probably having "similar conversations with their customers".

The Daily Sport newspaper has already agreed to comply with the Co-operative's new policy.

'Like wallpaper'

Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said the Co-op's move was "very welcome".

"Many parents aren't comfortable with the way sexualised imagery has become like wallpaper - everywhere from the bus stop to the corner shop," she said.

"Adults should be left to make their own decisions about what legal sexual images they look at, but the place for these is not next to the sweets at children's eye-level. I hope other retailers will follow the Co-operative's lead."

But campaign group Lose the Lads' Mags said the Co-op was not going far enough.

Spokeswoman Sophie Bennett said: "The so-called 'modesty bags' they are demanding from publishers are designed to allow the Co-operative to continue profiting from sexist, harmful lads' mags - but just a bit more discreetly."

Fellow campaigner Kat Banyard added: "Lads' mags are deeply harmful.

Glamour model Natalie Rochford, and Kat Banyard, who represents the Lose the Lads' Mags Campaign

"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."

The campaign group said it had also been targeting Tesco, with one female shareholder raising the subject during the retailer's recent annual general meeting.

The Professional Publishers Association, which represents some magazine publishers, said: "Men's lifestyle magazines are mainstream titles enjoyed by a readership of millions and feature content to reflect the diverse interests of the nation's young men.

"Publishers support the guidelines on the appropriate display of men's lifestyle magazines, which have been drawn up with the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and endorsed by the Home Office."

A former editor of Front magazine, Piers Hernu, said the Co-op's decision was "very dangerous" and amounted to "censorship".

The firm had "caved in" to a "vociferous campaign from some fanatical feminists", showing itself to be "weak-willed and spineless", he argued on BBC Radio 5 live.

Gender equality groups UK Feminista and Object joined forces with lawyers to launch the Lose the Lads' Mags campaign earlier this year.

They warned that retailers could face legal action if they continued to display the magazines or require staff to handle them.

This, they said, could amount to sexual harassment or discrimination in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

The British Retail Consortium has said its members do not sell anything illegal and have long followed industry rules.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    it would be better for our national broadcaster to not cover up and facilitate child abuse, but that seems to be fine and normal, so why have a go at the mags?

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Presumably 'lose the lags mag' doesn't have a problem with mags like 'More' giving sex tips to teenage girls?

    Its the same sort of hypocrisy that wants to ban male only sports clubs while not banning female ice hockey teams, football teams etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    My wife has brought a couple of 'ladies' mags for holiday, which feature just as much flesh as the ones co-op is getting their nickers in a twist over...
    ... I wont hold my breath and wait for these to be banned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    It is scary how many comments on here who disagree with this move. The whole point is to stop these images being seen by children - 2 and 3 year olds do not need to see sex everywhere they turn. I'm sure the Co-op will be the first of many retailers to cover up lads mags and go on to cover other publications. Of course the publishers could make it easier and have suitable covers instead.

  • Comment number 105.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I personally find some women's magazines offensive. The ones with intrusive bikini photos or topless photos that have been only slightly censored. They encourage children to emulate them, and lull them into thinking that is acceptable behaviour

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    How many of us watched Benny Hill and Kenny Everett on TV when we were kids? We haven't all developed into drooling, two-headed monsters. Lighten up Co-op.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Regardless of your stance on equality or feminist opinions, this really is great for protecting children from pornographic images. They might be on the top shelf, but kids can still see them.

    Sure, they can access images on the internet, but that's a parents responsibility. If a parent can't prevent images outside of the home then it's societies responsibility.

    & no one NEEDS to see the covers

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Walk around any city centre or town at a weekend and you'll see much more skin on show.

    Should clothes shops ban women walking around in those see through leggings that are displayed in their stores ?

    I find them more offensive

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    I'd take some of these 'gender equality' groups so much more seriously if they actually acted with any sense of equality and were looking to cover up BOTH lads mags and girly mags; as it is they're not, and that demonstrates this is nothing to do with gender equality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I agree that overtly sexual images on magazine covers should be hidden from childrens' view (and this should include women AND men - always a one-sided argument with certain types of feminist), but I hope we don't get too puritanical and ban anything that celebrates the human body.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    People talking about freedom of expression and mourning about censorship should read this famous words by some scholar "You have right to wave your hands freely while walking only as long as its not hitting others". You have right for everything only as long as its not affecting others. How many people opposing censorship will accept their children becoming a parent before 16?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    @ 66. Marathon Pixie - Brilliantly said and I'm sure most intelligent, compassionate people (of all genders) agree with you wholeheartedly. Unfortunately it seems that Inadequates-R-Us are still stalking the forum, cynically voting down all pro-women comments. They arrived yesterday to support the Twitter attacks on the banknote campaigner as "free speech" and haven't gone home to mummy yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Society is afraid of women. Society is at the height of anxiety at the moment; mags like this have been top shelf for decades. Islam is afraid of women. Coop customers seem to be the same.

  • Comment number 95.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Covering up women to "protect" them - are you people sure about the logic of this? The next logical step is that if women should be covered up in photographs, they should also be covered in real life (hard to argue with that). Do you know where this might lead? Not feminism, I think. Maybe this needs a bit more thought, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    52. Kim
    I suppose you'll be against them selling condoms etc at shops too then?

    NUTS isn't even porn...they may have a few boobs on display....but so does THE SUN paper!

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Clearly there is far too much emphasis on sex today, maybe it’s time to start covering up table legs again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    So are british women saying that they dont want to be known as sexy women? The coop should publish any poll they have take which has suggested this measure. British women are strong, bold, intelligent & SEXY, and if some lads can read or picture it in a mag then good on them

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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