The UK’s most influential young feminist on her battleagainst large retailers selling pornographic magazines and displacing the market of Lads` Mags.

 

Unlike other feminists

31 years old Kat Banyard is a modern resurgent and actvist of feminsm. In 2010 she founded the activist group UK Feminista and published her first book on the topic –  The Equality Illusion. The latter suggests a a framework that considers prostitution as violence against women and establishing services to support the victims of the trade – the prostituted. Though relatively modest and soft-spoken  Kat is one of the most prominent campaigners for women’s rights.

Inspiring a fresh wave of feminists without getting into a cat fight with the post-feminists of the 90s, or making herself media friendly Banyard explicitly positioned herself as unlike other feminists. Although today it is widely presumed that the sex trade is compatible with feminism, Banyard is concerned with the entire field of commercial sexual services. She calls for strictening the licencing of  lapdancing clubs  as sex establishments, outlawing cosmetic surgery advertising, and against “a culture that encourage and facilitate men’s paid sexual access to women’s bodies”.

Kat Banyard. UK Feminista Kat Banyard. UK Feminista Kat Banyard. UK Feminista

 

Lose the Lads’ Mags

Today`s Lads` Mags suggest a wide range of nudity pictures and advertisments for phone sex line. “I find it staggering that high street retailers sell these magazines. I mean, they’ve been on their shelves for years, but I still find it staggering that they expect customers and employees to be exposed to this and also that they think it’s OK to profit from them,” – says Banyard. Protesting  Lads` Mags` grime UK Feminista  led a campaign called Lose the Lads’ Mags in conjunction with fellow feminist group Object. Firstly, they composed an open letter  stating that exposing staff and customers to the covers of Lads’ Mags can constitute sexual harassment or sex discrimination. Banyard indicatest “Lads’ mags are the equivalent of girlie calendars, and they are on shelves, in people’s workplaces, in everyday spaces across the UK” . Resorting to the help of lawyers the campaigners pointed out that any shop is, by definition, a workplace. Therefore, papers featuring pornographic front covers should be withdrawed from workplaces.

Kat Banyard. UK Feminista

Kat Banyard. UK Feminista

 

Taking action: active struggle against pornography

Another step in the the opposition was asking major retailers like Tesco to make an ethical choice about the kind of publications they sell.  The fact is that Tesco claims to have corporate responsibility about pornography while selling pornographic magazines. Banyard and other activists mobilized outside Tesco stores, lobbyed shareholders and published legal advice refering to sexual harassment or sex discrimination. Futhermore, they  scattered emails, Facebook posts and tweets invoking supermarkets to #losetheladsmags. Bombarded with messages Tesco surrendered. Three months later it restricted Lads’ Mags sales to over 18s and promised to talk to publishers about wrapping covers.  Afterwards v were dropped from their 4000 stores.

#losetheladsmags

Is it time to celebrate victory?

Less than a year later the parent company of Nuts announced the magazine is closing. Its former journalist Pete Cashmore wrote “…even though we were never explicitly told it, it was obvious we’d become more trouble than we were worth – we’d spent the last two years being constantly pilloried by the pressure group UK Feminista, their various beneficiaries and their ‘Lose The Lads Mags’ campaign, and found ourselves in the press as much for our supposed misogyny, an accusation which always baffled me”. In fact, the whole Lads’ Mags market has been plummeting in rapid way.

Even the big players such as FHM UK and Zoo magazines are withdrew from business and Playboy declared it would stop featuring naked women in its pages. But Banyard will unlikely sleep peacefully until her goal is completed and Lads` Mags market is crahsed. “I think for too long we’ve failed to worry about the women and girls who are bearing the brunt of the consequences of how these magazines portray women. What about their rights to be safe, and to participate as equals in society? That’s what the board of Tesco should be worrying about. It’s high time we started prioritising the safety of women and girls over profit.”

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