7 Dec 2008

Oh, sweet justice. The Independent, a paper whose newly appointed editor Roger Alton has claimed that 'pictures of semi-naked wiomen basically make the world a better place', has reported today that "MPs will this week demand that publications such as 'Zoo' and 'Nuts' be given an '18' certificate". I really can't describe the joy that the fact a drooling, irony-devoid sexist such as Mr Alton has been forced to dedicate half a page on P7 of his publication to this brilliant news. The full article can be found here

but I'll summarise my favourite bits. For those who may not be aware, this news comes only two months after I received short shrift and close to complete hostility from a young female newsagent when I asked why a copy of a lad's mag showing Rebecca Loos in nothing but briefs was sitting on the second shelf, one above the shelf of children's magazines and comics. "A nationwide investigation has revealed that newsagents across the UK are flouting current guidelines and displaying what are, in effect, adult magazines at the eye-level of children aged six to 15 – which has led to a government proposal that they be subject to the same age classifications as films, with some titles off-limits to under-18s." I remember the word 'guidelines' coming up at the time, whereby the young lady stated defiantly that her employer were 'within guidelines' to place mags wherever they liked, and that it was only 'suggested' that lewd material went on the top shelf, not actually enforced. The feeling of impotence and anger that this caused has definitely abated with today's news. What saddened me was that this girl seemed unaware that the laxity of said 'guidelines' meant she could happily have banished Loos to the top shelf had she wished to, but she seemed to immediately view me as a stroppy agitator and had clearly decided to close her ears to me fairly on in the exchange. Agitator - yes, stroppy - no. I was polite as I would be to a high court judge, but I've been a feminist long enough to recognise the look in a fellow female's eyes; the 'Oh christ, one of those embarrassing women who make the rest of us look bad by banging on about equality and objectification - what an unreasonable, paranoid cow' look.

"Ben Todd, the editor of Zoo, said: "We should be treated like a cheeky seaside postcard. In our case, the most revealing aspect is topless pictures, which is no more than you see in The Sun or the Daily Star. So, if any sort of age-restrictions are going to be introduced, I'd expect them to include those papers, too. "

Well Mr Todd, I'm cool with that. If you're going to take the 'Either censor all of us or none of us' line, I'd happily see you and all your ilk banished to heights far beyond the dusty tops of the Murray Mint jars, never to bother my 5'2" eye line again.

"The report recommends that the Daily Sport be given an "18" certificate due to the numerous adverts for prostitutes which it contains."

Um, shouldn't it also be investigated by the police for advertising illegal activity? Or would that make too much sense.

"While men's magazines often claim to be just "harmless fun", many people question their effects on young people. The Top Shelf Report surveyed a sample of sixth-form students and found that 100 per cent of girls who looked at the Daily Sport, Zoo and Nuts reported being angry, offended or upset by the images they contained. Only 11 per cent of male students reported feeling the same, but one-fifth admitted that looking at this material encouraged them to see women as sex objects."

Ahem, it's not just 'young people' capable of being influenced, insidiously conditioned and downright brainwashed by the media. Look how many 'reasonable' people in their 30s, 40s , 50s and beyond took to the streets brandishing burning torches and lobbing bricks through the windows of paediatricians when the News of The World published a list of sex offenders. But yes, the fact that young women are biting back their feelings so uneasily is not something that surprises me. The methods used to get the response are not detailed, and I suspect that there may have been leading questions involved, but my experience of 17 and 18 year olds has given me the sense that they are a largely cynical, media-savvy bunch and are not likely to be press-ganged into saying what they do not believe.

Before the inevitable accusations of censorship and prurience hit, I'd like to point out that I've recently looked at, and enjoyed, pornography far more explicit than anything hanging round in my local Dillon's. It doesn't make me feel shitty or uncomfortable because I am choosing to look at it, choosing what type I want to see, and seeing women and men with normal bodies and regular appearances who appear to be choosing to enjoy and indulge their sexuality. I would never shove this in the face of someone likely to be upset by it, and neither do the makers of it, recognising that it is strictly adult material that should only be accessed by those who choose to. So why should men's magazines be exempt from extending the same courtesy to the rest of the population? Right now I've far more respect for those managing hardcore bondage porn sites than those creating front covers depicting footballers' wives in their pants, precisely because one is honest, owns up to what it is and takes responsibility for that, whereas the other hides behind hair-splitting and lazy morally relativist defences and up til now, gets away with obnoxious, inappropriate and offensive behaviour.

I await more news on the reclassifying of 'lads' mags' with fascination.

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