Racist, sexist: why porn mags had to go
The last issue of the Picture magazine to ever hit shelves
On September 26 2019, I walked into the Park Street Sydney offices of Bauer Media Group, to meet with its CEO.
This moment had been a long time in the making.
In 2010 I wrote an expansive piece on the nature of porn titles in convenience stores - and the failure of our classification system to regulate them - for the ABC.
That same year as part of Collective Shout’s campaign against lad’s mag Zoo, I wrote this piece, ‘Because all women must be brought to their knees’, also for the ABC. Our campaign saw Zoo pulled from Coles five years ago – thanks to the help of a young Coles employee who, with support of her union, told Coles it was creating a “hostile workplace environment” by requiring young women like herself to sell the magazine and to see boys ogling the magazines in store. Coles subsequently pulled the title, which was “catastrophic for sales” and saw publication cease in 2015 (Zoo devoted its final cover to us).
In 2019, we revived the campaign, this time focusing on The Picture and People Magazine. The renewed campaign was prompted by my colleague Melinda Liszewski walking into a 7-Eleven store to get a Coke, when confronted with the headline “X-RATED AUSSIE TEENS 18 & 19-YEAR OLDS STRIP” on the cover of People Magazine. Our campaigns team spent many hours going through the titles. We discovered the fetishizing of schoolgirls, encouraging sexual fantasies for “fresh young flesh”, the extolling of nurses and female tennis players as existing for male gratification and pleasure and racially eroticized Asian women. We asked how content like this could be permitted in a society that claimed to care about the status of women. We made the point that a sexist culture was grooming sexist boys and that these titles were normalizing that idea.
Our rapid-fire social media campaign highlighting the content and the failure of 7-Eleven to exercise corporate social responsibility, along with correspondence with the CEO, resulted in 7-Eleven pulling porn titles Picture and People from 700 stores three weeks later. BP soon followed, removing the titles from 350 servos. Then Bauer Media Group’s CEO Brendon Hill offered a meeting. He had good news. Only in the role a few months, he agreed with our views that these titles were inconsistent with Bauer’s core values and pro women position statements. It was a positive exchange. We commend Brendon for his actions.
But I couldn’t say anything until the official Bauer announcement October 23 (naturally staff needed to be advised and other processes take place). Here’s how we reported the big news:
Bauer Media Group has announced that People and Picture magazines will be axed for good. Since then, we've heard from thousands of supporters celebrating this significant win for women and girls. Our campaign and this outcome has attracted significant media interest.
Through our campaign, we have relentlessly exposed the true nature of these 'Unrestricted M rated' magazines - porn. We have repeatedly made the case for why they should not be sold in service stations and ultimately, why they shouldn't be sold anywhere:
The display and sale of pornographic magazines in the public space creates a hostile environment for women and girls. Decades of empirical research shows this. A meta-analysis of 109 publications containing 135 studies found:
“regular…exposure to [sexually objectifying] content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.” (Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995–2015)
Here’s what I said in our press release of October 23:
“Bauer has recognised that society has moved on. These sexist titles cannot co-exist in a society that claims to care about sexual harassment and other forms of mistreatment of women,” Ms Tankard Reist said.
"The sexist behavior of the St Kevin’s students just this week is a reflection of boys’ conditioning by a pornified culture. They learn early that women exist for their gratification. We can’t change behavior without addressing the cultural normalising of it. A sexist culture grooms sexist boys.
All the women and girls we represent thank Bauer Media for demonstrating corporate social responsibility. May other companies follow their lead.”
Read full release here.
People has gone. Picture is on the shelves with its final issue. While some fathers and grandfathers have lamented that their grandchildren and sons will miss out, (yes we still have a long way to go), we are celebrating.
And we want to thank you, our loyal supporters, who make such victories possible.
Here’s to another great year!