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Main supermarkets agree to cover up lads’ mags

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Summary from Daily Mail, 24.02.11

Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, BP Garages and the Co-op group have agreed to hide lads’ mags under a plain cover on the top shelf.

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents has refused to sign up, however, saying it is not in a position to tell independent corner shops how to operate. WH Smiths has also refused.

The change of heart follows a campaign by Mumsnet which found that a lot of mothers were concerned about the publications and their images of scantily-clad women.

Eighty two per cent said they had seen covers displayed where children could see them, often on the lower shelves of newsprint displays.

One said: ‘I once had to explain to my eight-year-old daughter why there were two naked ladies on a magazine cover placed right by the queue for the till.’

WHSmith justified its refusal by arguing that its existing restrictions were sufficient to protect children.

A spokesperson said: ‘We have a strict display policy in place that requires men’s lifestyle magazine titles be displayed at minimum height of 1.2 metres, equivalent to the average adult chest/shoulder height.

‘The policy requires men’s lifestyle magazines to be displayed away from children’s or women’s magazines, and away from other product ranges which children may be shopping for, e.g. toys and stationery.

‘Where we receive customer complaints about an issue in a certain publication, WHSmith commits to raise these concerns directly with the publisher.’

The refusal is surprising given that WHSmith is run by one of the few mothers at the top of British business.

Kate Swann, 46, has daughters aged 15 and seven. WHSmith dropped pornographic magazines such as Playboy from its high street stores in 1997 after a campaign by women’s groups.

But Mrs Swann said it only took the decision based on sales, and it continued to sell them from its railway and airport outlets.

Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, which is running the Let Girls Be Girls campaign against the sexualisation of children through advertising, clothing and music, said the store’s stance was ‘frustrating’. ‘It’s great that so many retailers are supporting Mumsnet’s campaign,’ she said.

‘But it’s frustrating that WHSmith are arguing that shelf height of 1.2m, that of an eight-year-old child, is a sufficient barrier.’

All in all, a fantastic result.

I look forward to not having to cover copies of FHM/Nuts/Zoo whenever I go to my local supermarket from now on. I will, of course, continue to do so at WH Smith.

Editorial addition:

Please note that, following the decision by various supermarkets to cover up their lads’ mags, this week’s Feminist Friday will now take place at WHSmith, Liverpool Street in London.

Meet at: Burger King seating area, in the main concourse, opposite Boots

Time: 6pm Friday 25 February

No need for pyjamas, but bring clip boards, pens, Object t-shirts

Please let Alison Dear know if you’ll be attending. You can e-mail her on alisondear@hotmail.com


  1. vicki wharton says:

    It’s as if children don’t look up – and why as women should we have to have pornography shoved at us – I don’t think anyone would feel comfortable if racist publications were all over the shelves and yet people think that gender hate material such as lads mags is perfectly acceptable. Until people view sexism as exactly the same mechanism as racism, we are not being treated as full human beings with the same access to justice and respect for our viewpoint and experiences.

    • Definitely. It’s unbelievable, that as the majority, women are still oppressed. We get bombarded with enough sexist media throughout the day without supermarkets joining in to sustain the idea that women are just passive sex objects!

  2. I think the Mumsnet campaign has been brilliant and done a good job. We’ll just have to keep campaigning against WHSmiths and hope they put sexist concerns before their profits eventually. We’ll have to keep naming and shaming them.

  3. Congratulations – it’s a great step forward!
    In Australia, we are also working on this issue.

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