This morning, while many coastal and lake-adjacent Americans were still busy recovering from the summer season’s first hearty dose of sun poisoning, gender equality groups and lawyers in the fog-blanketed British Isles (pip, pip, guv’nah!) launched a vigorous campaign to force retailers to comply with the Equality Act of 2010 and stop selling smutty magazines showing images of naked and semi-naked women.
UK Feminista and Object joined forces with 11 lawyers to launch the “Lose the Lads’ Mags” campaign, which they inaugurated with a brief letter in the Guardian explaining that, by continuing to carry magazines with images of naked women, “high-street retailers” may in fact be violating the Equality Act of 2010:
The Lose the Lads' Mags campaign by UK Feminista and Object is calling on high-street retailers to immediately withdraw lads' mags and papers featuring pornographic front covers from their stores. Each one of these stores is a workplace. Displaying these publications in workplaces, and/or requiring staff to handle them in the course of their jobs, may amount to sex discrimination and sexual harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010. Similarly, exposing customers to these publications in the process of displaying them is capable of giving rise to breaches of the Equality Act.
High-street retailers are exposing staff and, in some cases, customers to publications whose handling and display may breach equality legislation. Displaying lads' mags and pornographic papers in "mainstream" shops results in the involuntary exposure of staff and, in some cases, customers to pornographic images.
The letter goes on to state that every retailer that carries such magazines is “vulnerable to legal action by staff and, where those publications are visibly on display, by customers,” and that there’s a legal precedent of employees successfully suing retailers for exposing them to objectionable material.
According to the BBC, UK Feminista is particularly concerned with the “sexist attitudes and behavior” stoked by so-called “lads’ magazines,” attitudes that director Kat Banyard said “underpin violence against women.” The push to get magazines objectifying women out of retailers seems to parallel a similar effort in Iceland to restrict access to internet porn, and it’s been met with similar freedom of expression arguments from industry insiders obviously interested in making sure that the public has as much access to their content as possible.