Forced to Study ‘Loaded’ Sexist Magazine at 16yrs

We at Hollaback! are massive supporters of the campaign Lose the Lads Mag and No more page three

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…
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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.
 
Kind regards,
 
Zoe Durnford

 

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7 Responses

Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments

  1. Danielle Sebire says:

    Great letter. Good for you for speaking up. :-)

  2. Garbz says:

    Well said, time to call it out wherever you see it, even if it was in the past. Together we need to keep saying the same thing over and over again until people take us seriously, and not stop until then.

  3. Lynne says:

    Zoe,

    Well, it seems that you learned to identify and to write articulately about the media, despite the poor level of your AS teaching!

    All the best to you; the struggle continues!

    Lx

  4. Emma says:

    I’m absolutely shocked to read about your experience and well done for writing such an excellent email. I feel “lucky” that my A-Level Sociology focused on media sexism back in 1995 but it saddens me that we appear to have taken steps back rather than forward since then.

  5. birminghamuk says:

    Thanks everyone!

    I’ve heard back from them and it’s going to be investigated under the formal complaints procedure. Will let you know the outcome!

    I felt personally empowered just by sending it and all the messages of support I received, any response I get will be second to that.

    I’d recommend everyone to write a letter to an old school or college if they faced any sexism – feels great!

    The media studies course was obviously of terrible quality – the silver lining is I got an A* :)

    Zoe

  6. Hi Zoe

    Glad you got an A, and appalled by the news you had to study Loaded. what were the teachers thinking of?

    Good luck with the full investigation

    Catherine

  7. Michelle says:

    Hi Zoe,

    I’m very sorry to hear about your experience with the AS course. That really is unacceptable and you are completely right in speaking up. I left 6th form in 2006 and like you studied Loaded as part of my A level Media Studies course, however I had a completely different experience. The module itself was called “Magazines and Gender” so it took a completely different view. In fact, sexism was ALL we talked about. We studied Loaded, Cosmo and Bitch magazine which were all handled very sensitively by the teacher who was very aware that the images could make some of the girls uncomfortable and actively promoted discussion on the issue. I would actually encourage the study of lads mags the continue on the curriculum as having the ability to deconstruct and analyse the damaging attitudes in these magazines is surely a good thing for teenage girls and boys. I found it a highly empowering experience which sparked my interest in feminism.

    The problem of course is when the material is handled in the awful way that you have experienced. I wish you the best of luck with your campaign and hope that this promotes greater discussion.

    Michelle

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