Back when I was 16 years old I had to study ‘Loaded’ magazine as part of my Media Studies AS Level. No one even mentioned sexism or how the magazine was objectifying – it was seen to be harmless!
I’ve sent an email (and hard copy) to my college demanding to know why this was deemed appropriate material…
To Whom It May Concern:
I studied my AS and A level at West Kent College graduating back in 2003.
During my Media Studies AS level, a large part of the course was dedicated to analysing two magazines as chosen by the teachers.
The magazines we were presented with, and had to analyse as part of the course, were “The Face” (an indie magazine no longer in print) and “Loaded”.
At the time I was shocked and surprised to have been handed Loaded by my male teacher – an entirely sexist magazine for men, portraying women as sexual objects. This particular copy included the ‘100 sexiest women of the year’ insert, featuring images of naked women in pornographic poses. The magazine itself contained many misogynistic attitudes, gender stereotyping of women and jokes about rape and sexual assault towards women.
For 16 and 17 year old boys and girls to be given such material to analyse seems unbelievably inappropriate and irresponsible. The teacher, and by extension West Kent College, was supporting the objectification of women and teaching young impressionable students the deeply harmful message that treating women like sex objects is normal and acceptable. The teacher was also male.
As a young girl of 16 I felt intimated, powerless and distressed. No mention of sexism or objectification was made by the teacher in the entire few months we analysed the magazine. Many members of the class (especially the girls) were uncomfortable and insulted by the magazine. One young girl who nervously said that a rape joke in the magazine was ‘maybe a bit sexist’ was mocked by the entire class, including two teachers – this was the only reference to sexism or how women were portrayed in the magazine.
Lads’ mags liked Loaded aren’t just a bit of harmless fun. By portraying women as dehumanised sex objects they fuel attitudes that underpin discrimination and violence against women. Displaying lads’ mags in everyday spaces sends that same message, that treating women like sex objects is normal and acceptable (For more information and evidence of this please see: http://www.losetheladsmags.org.uk/about/).
NUT, Britain’s largest teaching union, with over 300,000 members, publicly supports the ‘No More Page 3 campaign’, stating:
“The National Union of Teachers is pleased to be supporting the No more page 3 campaign. The consequences of gender stereotyping and the sexualisation of girls in the media are very real.
Portraying women as nothing more than objects to be looked at is entirely unacceptable for the 21st Century. Not only can such images impact on the self- respect and confidence of young girls it could also have a detrimental influence on boys as they develop views of women.’’
Lawyers have also revealed that displaying lads’ mags and papers with Page 3-style front cover images can breach equality legislation. If this constitutes sex discrimination or sexual harassment under the Equality Act, then clearly so does a teacher giving such a magazine to under-age students as part of their course.
As a young woman, that experience left a lasting memory and lesson: that women are sexual objects for male gratification – and that even a school accepts and supports this culture. I hate to think what message the men in the class were left with.
As a grown woman now aware of the highly damaging attitudes displayed and reinforced by such magazines, I am asking for an explanation as to why Loaded magazine was deemed appropriate material for a class of mainly under 18 year olds, or indeed of any age, considering its objectifying content.
I would also like to know what magazines current students are studying as part of their media course and if any ‘lads mags’ are included on the curriculum.
I expect a response from this email and will be taking it further if I don’t receive one.