Cover up or be taken off our shelves, co-op retailers tell lads’ mags

Co-operative retailers have given the publishers of lads' mags six weeks to cover their front pages with sealed 'modesty bags'.

Co-operative retailers have given the publishers of lads' mags six weeks to cover their front pages with sealed 'modesty bags'.

Publishers of Front, Loaded and Zoo have until September 9th to deliver the magazines in pre-sealed bags which obscure the front cover. Otherwise the Co-operative Retail Trading Group, which includes the Co-operative Group and other co-operative societies, will stop selling the magazines.

The move coincided with the introduction of opaque screens to cover the magazines on Co-operative Group shelves on July 6th. Other CRTG stores are also introducing the screens, while some societies already had opaque screens in use.

CRTG is "in dialogue" with the magazine publishers, its spokesperson said. The Sport newspaper had already agreed to deliver all editions to CRTG stores in modesty bags from September 9th.

The Co-operative Group said it has received complaints from members, customers and colleagues about the magazines’ covers. Steve Murrells, Chief Executive Retail for the Group, said: "As a community-based retailer we've listened to the concerns of our customers and members, many of whom say they object to their children being able to see overt sexual images in our stores.  

"Whilst we've tried to mitigate the likelihood of young children seeing the images with a number of measures in-store, the most effective way of doing this is for these magazines to be put in individual, sealed modesty bags.

"As an interim measure, we've introduced our own opaque screens on shelf to reinforce our existing policy limiting the display of such material."

All CRTG societies have been involved in the decision and support the request to the publishers and the deadline set for them.

Amanda Long, Executive for Marketing, Membership and Media for the East of England Co-operative Society, said: "We support the stance made by CRTG. We’ve been in discussion with other retailers and stand behind the decision to request modesty covers for these magazines to limit young people's exposure to overt sexualised images of women. We'll review our position once we’ve heard back formally from the publishers."

Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson MP added: “Many parents aren't comfortable with the way that sexualised imagery has become like wallpaper — everywhere from the bus stop to the corner shop.

“Exposing children to lewd pictures that portray women as sex objects is not appropriate. That's why The Co-operative’s decision to implement the Bailey review recommendation for publications with overtly sexual images on the cover to be displayed and sold in modesty bags is very welcome.

“Adults should be left to make their own decisions about what legal sexual images they look at, but the place for these is not next to the sweets at children's eye-level. I hope other retailers will follow The Co-operative’s lead."

But campaign group Lose the Lads' Mags said the Group was not going far enough. Spokeswoman Sophie Bennett said: "The so-called 'modesty bags' were designed to allow the Co-operative to continue profiting from sexist, harmful lads' mags – but just a bit more discreetly."

Lose the Lads' Mags said the magazines portray women as dehumanised sex objects, sending out the message that it is normal and acceptable to treat women this way and fuelling sexist attitudes that underpin violence against women. The group is also targeting Tesco, with one female shareholder raising the subject during the retailer's recent annual general meeting.

Former editor of Front magazine Piers Hernu said the decision was dangerous and amounted to censorship. The Co-operative had caved in to a vociferous campaign from fanatical feminists, he told Radio 5 Live.

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