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Lads’ mags have been the bane of every feminist student over the past few years. With the crude pictures included in them being decried as objectifying and as verging on pornographic, there has been an outcry as to whether students, both male and female, should be subjected to such indecent images. LUSU, one of the few students’ unions to take decisive action, has now banned lads’ mags from being sold at LUSU shops – a move which we can only take as positive.
Now, I wouldn’t say that I am feminist – far from it. But lads’ mags epitomise a growing trend of casual sexism that, under the name of ‘banter’, is being largely ignored by both males and females alike. Such magazines see women as objects to be used by the heterosexual male population for a joke, and yet if asked any student on campus would surely say that objectifying women in the manner that lads’ mags do is no joke. Anyone reading a lads’ mag cannot seriously say that buying and encouraging the sales and growth of such magazines does no harm to the fight for equal rights and respect in our society. So why do we allow this to continue?
For all the criticism that LUSU, and other students’ unions, come under on a regular basis, I would like to congratulate our Union concerning banning lads’ mags. The Union has been decisive and shown that it is not afraid of making controversial decisions and for me that is what students ’ unions are all about. Some may argue that banning lads’ mags curtails our right to freedom of speech and expression, but would anyone tolerate magazines that came across as racist for example? Absolutely not – such a publication would be banned straightaway. So why should it be different for a publication that is sexist?
It’s matter of respect for the female population on campus, in the same way that any magazine objectifying men would be disrespectful. Seeing the indecent images contained in lads’ mags encourages a lack of respect when seeing women on a night out for example, where it is all the rage for women to dress in little more than their underwear in order to become attractive to the opposite sex, when most men would probably steer well clear. Lads’ mags encourage this almost subconscious mind-set, in both men and women, that dressing provocatively is the only way to attract attention. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Yet it is only when someone stands up and takes decisive action that we realise just how disrespectful men and women can be when it comes to objectifying others or themselves.
Banning such magazines is demonstrative of the student population not standing for a patriarchal or sexist society. The issue of gender equality has come a long way over the past century, particularly in the West, and we are all privileged that we live in a country where sexism is, for the most part, eradicated. We have not, however, reached the stage where objectifying women has been eradicated, and steps such as banning lads’ mags still need to be taken. I would even argue that it is necessary to go further and address the issue of other magazines that purport the objectification of women. LUSU has taken its first step into addressing sexism via written media, so why not go further and discourage or ban other publications that do the same thing?
Students are the future of our society; we are the educated mass that will be the next generation’s politicians, business people and journalists who will make a difference. Banning lads’ mags shows a shifting attitude to casual sexism and we need to make the definitive stand to show that we will never tolerate such attitudes. We are the example-makers, and this decision demonstrates to everyone else that sexism is on its way out. Instead of attacking LUSU’s decision as being contrary to our freedom of speech, we should be congratulating the Union for helping to get rid of objectifying attitudes. Let’s hope that such decisive action continues into the next academic year, so that both men and women can finally be equally respected.