Campaign calls for retailers to Shelve It!
Shahida Choudry, founder of Women’s Networking Hub and leader of the Shelve It! campaign, explains what inspired the idea;
“I only have to walk into our local store for a pint of milk and scan the shelves of the magazine section to witness the dehumanisation and sexualisation of girls and women amongst the ‘men’s health’ and ‘lifestyle’ titles.
“Only this morning, whilst picking up the papers from my local supermarket chain, did I need to bring to the attention of the staff that their so called ‘top shelf magazines’ were in the line of vision of my 10-year-old daughter.
“Yet, there would be outrage if we allowed our children to view an adult movie containing sexually-explicit content, or the adverts shown between the children’s television programmes promoted ‘Big Boobed Brunettes’ or scantily-clad women wearing little more than a thong, playing to the camera lens in sexually provocative poses.”
The campaign hopes to highlight the way in which such magazines are displayed, and recommends that retailers move them above child sightlines, ideally with so-called modesty covers. However, the organisers are well aware that moving or covering such images is just a small step towards solving a much bigger problem;
“The Women’s Networking Hub is extremely concerned about the sexualisation of girls and young women and the pressure to conform to what amounts to a distorted image of women.
“We are concerned about the impact this has on girls’ and young women’s self-image and about how conforming to unhealthy and worrying stereotypes results in low self-worth and a lack of confidence.
“This is a huge issue that needs addressing promptly with direct action, lobbying and campaigning. Shelve It! is a campaign focusing on one small part of the wider issue – the shelf position of lads’ mags.”
The petition, which calls for an end to over 40 years of topless women in The Sun (and which you can sign here), has gained nearly 40,000 signatures to date, and recently featured as a discussion on Newsnight.
The debate about the sexualisation of women in the media, and its effect on children and other women is ripe for discussion.
Last year the feminist campaign groups Object and Turn Your Back on Page 3, made a joint submission about “the hyper-sexualisation of women in the press” to the Leveson enquiry. If the No More Page 3 campaign succeeds many would see it as a potential watershed moment in the way women are portrayed in the media.
The Shelve It! campaign will be organising several days of action, the first of which is today. For their first action, called ‘Rate that Rack’, Shelve It! are asking supporters to take three key steps.
1.Check It! Out shopping? Check the magazine aisle.
2.Rate It! Give the retailer a rating using the Shelve It! Rate Your Retailer questions.
3.Share It! Show others how responsible your retailer is by uploading your feedback to the Shelve It! website.
The Shelve It! website features a ’Porn Map‘ where rated retailers scores will be shown. Once the information has been fed back to Shelve It! they will be contacting retailers and asking them to sign a responsible marketing pledge.
“We are calling for retailers to act more responsibly by ensuring that these so called ‘lads mags’ and other forms of porn, out of the reach of children, and that the images are hidden or concealed,’ says Choudry.
“From our initial groundwork we have found there is no consistency within retail chains within Birmingham. We want better regulation across the board, and for retailers to take a more proactive stance on shielding adults and children, from images and language which can only be deemed as harmful and damaging, both to our sexual identity and perceptions of women and girls in society.”
If you live in Birmingham and want to get involved with the campaign you can follow them on Twitter at @shelve_it and on Facebook. You can join in with the day of action using the Twitter hashtags #shelveit and #shelveitbrum.
For those of us outside of Birmingham, perhaps now is a good time to consider how we could make a similar impact on our own local communities.
Object have a nationwide campaign called Feminist Fridays which encourages people to take action in their local newsagents, or you could consider writing to your MP, or mobilising a targetted action like Shelve It! are doing in Birmingham.
The sexualisation of women in the media, and the proliferation of lads mags and porn has a massive impact on how all women are perceived, it affects the way young girls growing up see themselves, and how their male counterparts are taught to see them. As campaigns like Shelve It! and No More Page 3 gather speed let’s all take the opportunity to demand long overdue change.