YUSU accused of profiting from ‘lads’ mags’

The issue of whether selling and displaying ‘lads’ mags’ in YUSU-run Your Shop is acceptable, has been brought into contention once again.

The question was raised at the Liberation, Diversity and Welfare Committee meeting on the 26th January by the Women’s Officers and other members of the committee.

Union members present at the meeting argued that the sale of the ‘lads’ mags’ in Your Shop should stop on the grounds that it equated to YUSU profiting directly from the objectification of women.

Other members of the committee disagreed however, expressing the view that the sale of the magazines did not constitute profiteering and that it should continue.

Criticism of the committee’s position soon emerged on social networking sites. Nell Beecham, one of YUSU Women’s Officers, tweeted that by supporting the sale of the magazines, the Liberation, Diversity and Welfare Committee appeared, “in favour of [the] objectification of women.” Beecham also added that members of the committee’s defence amounted to them suggesting that “YUSU profiting from the objectification of women’s bodies is okay because guys can’t be arsed to walk to WHSmith.”

Women’s Officer Nell Beechem believes the motion is necessary, and told Nouse: “This is not a debate about whether or not an individual should buy these magazine, we believe if an individual so desires they are perfectly entitled to walk to a local newsagents and purchase such material.

“But in an institution which aims to value each student for their mind and intellectual capability, we must then ask why it sees fit to profit from the sexualisation and objectification of 50 per cent of them.”

The issue of whether ‘lads’ mags’ should be displayed is long contested, dating back to 2006.

In that year a motion was proposed for the movement of adult content, specifically publications such as FHM, Nuts and Zoo, to the top shelf. The motion failed to meet the quoracy, and was defeated.

In the following year, a new motion was submitted by the Women’s committee, prompting Your Shop to agree to the concealment of adult content. Over time however, the agreement was not effectively upheld, prompting a new motion in May 2011. The motion, attempting to re-establish the agreement of 2007, failed, being defeated by 496 votes to 412.

Neil Webb, a first-year History student, said he did not view the sale of the magazines as a problem: “The women featured in the magazines have consented to their image being sold in that context.” He added that: “It is not just women who are ‘objectified’ in magazines.”


  1. I thought this issue had been dealt with when the student body made it clear that they didn’t care. Infact, many went out of their way to vote AGAINST the proposal, mainly due to the outrage the motion caused.

    Rather than waste any more time about an issue which the committee itself cannot even agree on, why don’t they return to issues which more than 0.01% of students care about, such as lighting issues around campus, which effects everyone (including men).

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  2. This has got to be a joke.

    presumably we should ban aunt bessie’s yorkshire puddings as well because the objectify women as people who love cooking?

    First to go will also be any girl magazines which have any topless men in them advertising presents or anything. I’ve read those girls mags, some of them are utter smut and classify men simply as big poles which they can impale themselves on.

    Oh and we should stop selling the sun as well

    utter nonsense

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  3. To quote myself:
    ‘It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that”, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I’m offended by that.” Well, so fucking what?’

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  4. @ reehan, You’ve misunderstood the term ‘objectification,’ which is literally reducing a human being to an object of sexual pleasure. Not what they had in mind with Aunt Bessy, I assume.

    And yes, The Sun and other tabloids should be equally lambasted for Page 3 – objections have been raised in the Leveson Enquiry about that.

    Men’s bodies are not immune to objectification, but it does not happen to the same degree as the objectification of women’s bodies. Context and history has to be taken into account here – women’s bodies have, for a long time, been valued as sexual objects in a way men’s bodies haven’t, something ‘lad’s mags’ contribute to and continue.

    @Same old, the Women’s Committee is unanimous – no lad’s mags. Do you mean the LWD committee aren’t agreed? And why should WomCom only concentrate on issues affecting all genders, when there is an issue directly affecting the way women are presented and thought of in our society that can be combatted?

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  5. 1 Feb ’12 at 3:58 pm

    Just a few corrections

    It should be made clear that it was not a committee meeting where this article is referring to but an Assembly, an open forum that any member of the union can attend. It that respect the Liberation and Welfare committee, made up of college welfare representatives and YUSU networks chairs, have not yet given any opinion on the matter.

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  6. @glove

    Because one of the arguments given by womcom to remain a position in Yusu was that they did tackle issues of sexual equality, not just for women, hence why they rejected the need to remove the position. In the past 2 and 1/2 years I have spent at this university the lighting campaign is the only thing (I have seen- having nothing to do with Yusu or the committee) they have campaigned for which affects everyone.

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  7. @Same old, I was heavily involved in the campaign to keep WomCom rather than a Gender Equality Committee, and so I don’t think you’re being entirely truthful. WomCom emphasised in that campaign that they believed women’s liberation deserved its own attention, because women as a group – diverse as that group is – often needed representation when men have a surplus of it on campus. We do tackle issues of gender equality, but focus on women and women’s rights, therefore the lad’s mags issue is a totally appropriate and, to me, important one for the committee.

    Although not all women on campus agree that lad’s mags should be banned, the issue is whether the mags perpetuate harmful stereotypes which might harm women. Recent research suggests they do – this study (http://www.mdx.ac.uk/aboutus/news-events/news/mags.aspx) shows how readily people accept statements they believed came from lad’s mags, when they were actually statements from convicted rapists justifying their crime (‘she was asking for it…’) It’s irresponsible for these mags to frame gender relations the way they do, and it does affect people.

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  8. 2 Feb ’12 at 3:44 pm

    Miss Sarcasm

    Well then YUSU should obviously stop selling gay magazines that objectify the bodies of men, trashy girly mags that feature hunk of the month type features for the same reason, Coco-Cola products for being a big evil MNC, Nestle for the breast milk controversy and you know, pretty much anything that’s not fair trade because the sale of these things all constitute profit from EVIL things…

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  9. 2 Feb ’12 at 4:15 pm

    James Heworth

    Why don’t YUSU ban Nouse? I’m sure I’d get more information from any ‘Lads Mag’ than this trash.

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  10. 2 Feb ’12 at 5:51 pm

    Dorsten Treff

    People have a perfect right to be offended by things that are deemed legal by Parliament. They have NO right whatever to limit said things as a result of this offence.

    I do not care if you are offended. It is YOUR problem. Do you really not see that?

    Censorship is evil. Don’t be evil. Be nice!

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  11. @James Heworth, I wish my comments could add as much to the conversation and be as constructive as yours x

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  12. @Dorsten Treff, Do you not understand the difference between being offended by something, and feeling that something does actual harm?

    I am offended by ‘lad’s mags’ and the fact our SU shop sells them not because I think it’s indecent, inappropriate, or bad taste; they offend me because the misogynist attitude they display DO affect how people see gender relations. I posted a link to a study above that shows one way they do that.

    So the harm done is more important than my simply being offended, but I am offended BECAUSE I recognise the harm done.

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  13. 3 Feb ’12 at 2:11 pm

    Miss Sarcasm

    Just because a few people believe that lad’s mags are bad for women (FYI, lots of women are pretty fine with them) why does that mean that YUSU should become some kind of campus sensor? It is totally not the decision of WomCom, YUSU, NUS or anyone to decide what people can read, and argue as you may, that is what an attempt to ban the magazine’s from a student union shop is. It’s not immoral that the NUS should be making (marginal) profit from selling these magazines as it is immoral that they sell shit like Heat that teach women to do exactly the same thing back to men.
    And there is no evidence that lad’s mags are harmful. I’m pretty sure the ‘objectification of women’ was actually much worse before Nuts and Zoo and hardcore pornography existed.

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  14. 3 Feb ’12 at 9:15 pm

    Dorsten Treff


    Try to see yourself less as an influential arbiter of what constitutes ‘harm’ and more as a potentially useful and intelligent adult who realises that she is just a tiny part of a hugely diverse and complex society. Because I can assure you it is the latter that is seen by the rest of the world.

    Censorship is morally repugnant. Even if you were representing a majority, you would be wrong to restrict what it legal. But you are not even doing that.

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  15. @dorsten treff

    Do you hold that we should not censor material that even the majority considers harmful?

    It seems fairly clear cut – we first establish whether lads mags/heat/Cosmo are harmful. If we agree, then we should also agree to ban them from the SU shops. I do not think it weakens Womcom’s case to also hold that trashy magazines like Heat also have no place in SU shops – they too are harmful. Yet it remains true that Womcom defends a specific demographic, this concern falls to having lads mags removed at this moment in time, we can deal with the rest in due course.

    Is there, then, a problem of censorship? I think if we can agree that something is harmful, then we can also agree to remove it. Take for example a magazine that belittles a particular ethnic minority, or people of certain sexual preferences. However minor the slights were, most people would feel compelled to have the magazine removed, unless of course most people enjoyed belittling said minority. In the latter case, removing the offending material would still actually be the right thing to do: that the majority favours keeping the magazines does not make it right.

    In the case where even some of the minority itself does not mind being belittled there is something particularly sinister going on. It is tempting to just say that the degenerate attitude to this minority becomes insignificant as soon as the minority in question stop caring, but this is too quick. In truth, Lads Magazines are degrading, are objectifying and do real harm; the acceptance of this may even be worse than the magazines themselves: no-one should accept it.

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