Fate is Chance. Destiny is Choice.

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Complaint re. 'Lad's Mags' in WHSmiths

I complained the other day to WHSmith's about Lad's Mags because they refuse to acknowledge the motion Claire Curtis Thomas (MP) and Object put forward about the displaying of the magazine's on the top shelf, away from children and also with their fronts covered so as to just show the title.

They are the least responsible retailer ever when it comes to this issue - sometimes, pretty much most weeks, they have lads mags right at the front of the shop as they are 'magazine of the week' or some other such flimsy excuse for putting them right at the front of the shop. I find it demoralising to walk into any of their shops and be confronted with racks and racks of objectifying covers and degrading blurbs and captions. Charliegrrl has loads of information about contact details and her own activism (very inspiring stuff, puts fire in the belly!).

So I decided to complain to WHSmith's with this email:

To Whom it may concern,

I am concerned at WHSmiths inability to understand that ‘Lads Magazines’ and so called ‘men’s lifestyle’ magazines are degrading and objectifying to women. You refuse to implement the changes that explain (Object and Claire Curtis Thomas) that magazines with pornographic content should be, at the very least, on the top shelf. Magazines such as Zoo, Loaded, FHM and Nuts should be on the top shelf. Apart from being degrading and objectifying for women such as myself, my younger sister and my friends (which could be your sister, daughter, mother or female friends), young men and male children will believe that the view of women in these magazines is acceptable.

I have been in many of your shops around the country as I regularly travel through London and through to Edinburgh and York. All of your shops display these magazines within easy reach of young children, and within full view of any woman, young or old that happens to be passing your shops and shelves. I find it despicable that your shops do not listen to the complaints that I and many other women have been making over the past year or so. Women are half of the population – listen to them. It’s understandable that you don’t want to push down your sale figures but at the same time, its not likely to push down your sales figures by moving magazines to the top shelf – people can still access them. Be a responsible retailer for once.

Yours sincerely,


And I got this reply:

Dear Elizabeth

Thank you for your email, sharing with us your concerns about the way in which we display certain magazines in our stores.

Whilst I appreciate your views, I can confirm that the particular magazines you refer to are part of our Men's Lifestyle range. We reviewed our policy of displaying this range last year, ensuring that all these titles are positioned above 1.2 metres and are not displayed near products aimed at children.

We do follow strict guidelines about the displaying of these titles and work closely with our publishers. As a retailer, we aim to strike the right balance in meeting the needs of all of our customers, which sometimes inevitably means a compromise.

I'm sorry for the continued frustration my response will undoubtedly cause you, however, we do not currently have any plans to change the way we display these titles. Please be assured that we will continue to monitor any similar feedback we receive about this particular matter and if I can help you further, please feel welcome to contact me.

Kind regards

Sam* last name concealed.

Customer Service Coordinator

I dunno...I'm definitely very frustrated. She didn't even acknowledge any of the comments I had made about objectification and degradation of women's bodies.

Okay, so yes, the children part of it is important, but it's also about women feeling respected and not feeling threatened by just walking into a shop. Every single WHSmith I've been to displays lad's mags in an irresponsible way. It's not the only company and newsagent's that displays lads mags like this though, but it's definitely one of the worst.

If you want to complain by email, here is the address (which I got from Charliegrrl's blog):


Let them know that this is not acceptable and makes women feel disempowered.

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  • I think this is their standard response to the likes of us because I got the same email from them - word for word. They just see the words "lad's mags" or "porn" and send the reply without reading the complaint. Or so it would seem.

    Something more...destructive... seems to be in order.

    By Blogger jo22, At 1:14 pm  

  • (Lurker here speaking up)

    Someone on northwest feminists (I think, bad memory) recently posted the reply they got from WH Smiths, which was exactly the same as the one you've got. They don't even bother to read before they reply it seems. But then that has to show they're getting quite a few complaints if they have a generic template they send out.

    I tend to avoid the shop myself, it's overpriced anyway and I really can't stand being faced with all the lads mags they display.

    I don't know if they still display how they used to, but I used to have to go to the men's "lifestyle" (ergh) section to get music magazines.

    By Anonymous Nirnaeth, At 3:55 pm  

  • It makes me so angry-"we're looking out for the children and pandering to the men. What more do you want?"

    Still, I think it's great that you wrote to them!

    By Anonymous spotted elephant, At 3:02 am  

  • i got the same letter on a few occasions. you'd think by now they might actually listen. they take the piss. i stopped shopping in there a long time ago.

    great blog btw!


    By Blogger Fanny Blood, At 9:34 am  

  • Wow, it seems like its a standard email then. I bet they get lots of complaints from feminists and women who aren't happy about this.

    Destructive..indeed :) I'm thinking of joining the stickering brigade (I'm long overdue..). It really makes me angry - I notice men reading zoo or nuts or the sun and it makes my blood boil. Once I was on a train back from central london and a man was reading nuts right in front of me!

    I decided to move away (I was too tired and perhaps a bit too scared to say anything!). But someone noticed me moving away, I made it quite obvious it was because of the mag.

    But I hate it when I see men reading that crap. Its a bit disheartening sometimes!

    By Blogger FallingStar, At 12:04 pm  

  • I'm sorry but I don't understand why WHSmith should morally object to anything, to do so would set a precedent amongst retailers (the only incident I can think of where retailers recalled stock on moral grounds was with the game Manhunt, GAME pledged to stop selling the game, which they reneged on weeks later anyway).

    I realise that a blog is for voicing your own opinion but what makes you think that a company should comply with the views of a minority? If something offends you that much my advice is to ignore it.

    As for destructive behaviour? Maybe it is time for you to grow up a little, and accept that not everybody does or ever will share your views. I can understand and appreciate your view but there are some elements that i find deeply disturbing in what I assume are the opinions of adults.

    By Anonymous Euan Wallace, At 10:13 pm  

  • Your comment shows your ignorance about the importance of listening to a "minority". If we didn't listen to the "minority" then when would anything move forward or get changed? I suspect you are one of those people that believes they would rather live their lives in blissful ignorance about the pain of others. Doesn't it bother you that retailers are selling magazines that promotes bigoted, racist, sexist and paedophiliac views? No, I suspect not, because I think you're one of the readers of Lads Mags, correct me if I'm wrong. If not, then what is your interest in defending retailers when we live in a capitalist, profit before people society? It's not just about "morals". It's a human right not to be treated as a piece of meat or a "fuck fantasy".

    I think your comment is juvenile, dismissing the right of myself to talk about what matters to me and other people on my own blog. I suggest you take your grievances elsewhere - where they will be taken seriously.

    Are you the kind of man that tolerates human slavery, sex trafficking, women being sold by their families, women being treated like crap because they are simply - woman? Porn and lads mags are a symptom of our intolerant climate. So no, I think YOU should grow up and open your eyes.

    By Blogger FallingStar, At 12:10 am  

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