Loaded is back, twenty years after it launched as the original lad mag, but this time it’s without cover girls and with Julie Burchill, the prolific feminist journalist, as a columnist. In the publishing world, three equally outspoken feminist writers and journalists bring out books. First Julie Bindel, awesome fighter of all forms of male violence against women releases Straight Expectations: What does it mean to be gay today? Then Caitlin Moran, releases her first novel, How To Build A Girl and Laurie Penny gives us Unspeakable Things: Sex Lies and Revolution. With Bindel and Penny’s challenging questions about patriarchy and capitalism and Caitlin Moran’s comic talent for introducing feminism, these writers are reaching a varied audience of readers interested in gender.
While the Lose the Lad Mags campaign, set up by Object and UK Feminista in 2013, is working to get pornographic and harmful lad mags off the shelves (The Co-op stopped selling Nuts, Zoo, Loaded, Front and The Sport thanks to the campaign, Tesco have called on lad mag publishers to tone down the objectification) and sexism is finally being named on a daily basis, in the world of sport, in entertainment and through the explosion of feminist activism such as the Everyday Sexism Project, Loaded returns with a new look. A spokesperson at Simian Publishing says it will drop the scantily clad models who were ‘lowering the tone’ and drop the ‘lewd content’. Calling the content ‘lewd’ as if the topless babes were dirty slags, looks like distancing itself from responsibility for its sexism. The content was sexist. The tone was sexist. Don’t imply the ‘real girls’ and female celebs are to blame for the attitude to women you peddled. My guess is that in the new Loaded, women will still only feature because they are hot. They’ll just be wearing a bit more. And sexism can still thrive if the women wear clothes. Will the new Loaded challenge the current narrow mould of masculinity? Will readers be challenged to look beyond their job and status to define their identity? Be encouraged to find friendship and growth in the company of women? I hope so, because it will be mainly women who read the books by feminist writers and heterosexual men looking to Loaded for guidance on how to be a modern man. I hope so, because lad mags’ pornographic reduction of women, like all objectification of women, has impacted on a generation of males. Studies show that objectified images of women make male attitudes towards them more callous and their actions more violent. Lad mags gave young men a license to act like puerile idiots who need to feel power over women to feel good about themselves. Lad mags said it’s OK to be immature. The pressure to be all metrosexual and sophisticated or courageous enough to be a true individual or a responsible man who enjoys the company of women as equals is all too much effort. Join us, be a little twat again.
While lad mags were about cowardice, feminism is about great courage in the face of injustice, abuse, suffering and repression. Those who have helped bring about the beginning of the end of lad mags nearly a decade ago did so in the face of intimidation. When I was involved in Object’s campaign against The Sport and wrote about the harm of lad mags, I felt afraid reading the printed threats made by Zoo magazine against those who complained. An extract from Laurie Penny’s autobiographical book tells us that finding feminism is to be awake to the truth, and then having the courage to face it and not be silenced. And as all feminists know, the truth isn’t pretty – it’s hard-going to face our oppression day in day out – but feminists choose to live by their true identity (and face persecution for falling short of the narrow gender stereotype) rather than die inside and smile for capitalism’s rules for perfect, passive girls. Julie Bindel questions the gay community’s embrace of capitalism and patriarchy, leaving radical feminists among the few brave enough to seek something other than acceptance in the status quo. Caitlin Moran’s courage stems from using brazen, unapologetic humour to smash the myths about femininity and female sexuality.
With feminist comics winning awards, a trend for strong roles for women in TV and feminist books adding to the now energetic fourth wave of feminism, it is officially cool to be a feminist. And deeply sad to be seen with a lad mag. Keep up people. Only another twenty years before men who believe women are human just like them might start identifying as feminists.
Read Hadley Freeman in The Guardian on Loaded, Robin Thicke and how moronic ironic sexism is
Read Hannah Pool in The Independent on the demise of lad mags and the rise of feminism