'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 89.


    I mostly agree, i'll never forget the magazine cover I saw for a popular womens mag, the subtitle "how to treat your man like a dog".
    Now i'm not being funny, but if they put something like that on a lads mag, it'd kick off a riot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    @Kim. In the Co-op everyday commodities include condoms. Isn't it better to see it and discuss it than our kids having massive hang ups about nudity and sexuality.
    Marathon Pixie, did you take a census following these episodes of harassment to check the material they read? You're making a massive leap of the imagination to imply a direct correlation. I love crime docs, I've yet to commit one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    If these campaigners went to Germany their heads would explode. Almost every magazine, for men or for women, gay or straight, has a glamour shot (man or woman) on the cover. But then the German attitude to nudity is far more healthy than the British attitude ever will be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I'm all for this, so long as it is mirrored on all magazine covers. So no 'get your bikini body in time for summer', no paparazzi shots of celebs on holiday, no fitness magazines with half naked men..

    I foresee shelves full of bags or opaque covers. Once we have this we can then set about banning beaches. And music videos. And clothes that don't cover the ankles.

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Oh please let's not talk porn while I'm having my breakfast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    I think this is a good idea, however, I also think that maybe the magazines with half naked men on should as well be covered. I don't think children should be given any more opportunity to see naked pictures when out with family or friends in stores.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Fags and Mags covered up, How long before Booze is covered in shops?

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    I don't think nudity is the issue, everyone has a naked body, it more an issue of sexism.

    People who feel strongly are right to express their views, but the issue should ultimately be decided by the Courts and Parliament.

    Personally I wouldn't buy the stuff as it's tripe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    It does sound suspicious to me... However, it's not "normal" in my UK centric ethical system, to ogle women's naked breasts & buttocks. I don't find "legal" online pornography "normal" either. Perhaps it's time we put away these infantile & regressive aspects of the publishing industry & mark them clearly as "antisocial/psychological sicknesses" -rather than encouraging them -try to treat them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    What about gardening magazines too?

    I saw a particularly sexy wheelbarrow on the cover of Gardener's World last week.

  • Comment number 78.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    1. So a couple of thousand 'concerned citizens' complain: how many customers does the Co-op have who aren't bothered? Significantly more.

    2. "...but the place for these is not next to the sweets at children's eye-level". Which is why they're not, durr! A Government Minister not letting the facts get in the way of a soundbite? Surely not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    @1 BeesArentTrendyTheyPollinatePlants

    Lads mags are for guys who are too timid to buy real porn.

    The first post summed up the lads mags target audience perfectly!

    I don't have a problem with legal porn, but lads mags perpetuate the awful sexism of 40 yrs ago.

    Not even sure why these mags still exist when all porn seems to be online now, or at least until Nanny Cameron has his way!

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Its about what children can and can't see. Adults can make their own minds up, children can't. There are lots of things I watch or do which I would not want my children to see - because they are not old enough to understand. I'm still free to do these things - just responsible enough not to do them in front of the children. Well done to the Co-op.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    A none story really, the girls on the front pages are happy to be there, and are the ones with power.

    There are more important things to worry about than whether some people are offended by a semi naked girl on the top shelf.

    Will we be banning, body builder magazines, with the guys on the cover, no, thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I think this is good, I don't want to turn around in a shop and see those pictures in my face. Notice they are called Lads' Mags - the men who buy them really need to grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Perhaps the beeb could ask the co-op to enlighten us as to how many customers they have and what percentage have complained.

    Not a betting man but would be willing to wager my house that it is a very vocal minority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Most mens magazines and their attitude are displacement - mens 'offensive' conversation is peer group posturing, push them and they are unbelievably prudish. Groups of women speaking about men are much more objectifying of the opposite sex. Read the words and womens mags are far more offensive, and delivered straight into the intellect, not just a visual 'kick'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    You missed the millions of women reading Shades of Grey all over the place then? I work for a bank and (not that I would buy them) but we can't even have redtops on our desks due to the covers. Yet women could freely read Shades in the canteen and other public places. Men and women are generally divided betwen looking & thinking for their kicks and so only men are punished.


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