In which Mia has to look up more British terms than she expected but discovers that a conga line is always a conga line.

Last week, I touched briefly on the “ironic” sexism of men’s magazines like Maxim, and Lindsay talked about how the ironic consumption of sexist pop culture often leads to apathy rather than action. Well, as The Guardian reported on Friday, some ladies in London are taking action against those very magazines.

Members of Object – which describes itself as “one of the only human rights organisations dedicated to challenging the sexual objectification of women in the media and popular culture” – have been staging protests at Tesco supermarkets, where pajama-clad shoppers (and not, say, soft-core porn magazines with titles like Nuts) were recently banned on the grounds they could make other shoppers feel uncomfortable. The women cover magazines like Maxim, FHM and Zoo in brown paper bags with messages like “These magazines dehumanize women – don’t buy it.” Their other awesome protest techniques?

The women start a conga-line through the supermarket, chanting “Hey, ho, sexist mags have got to go”, alerting security guards to their presence. Eventually they’re ushered out, but not before depositing pamphlets, entitled Porn v Pyjamas: Why Lads’ Mags Are Harmful, in customers’ baskets.

I love a good conga line. And I love that the following quotation found its way into a mainstream newspaper [sidenote: The Guardian regularly publishes great articles on feminism that I can’t really imagine reading in American papers]:

“Lads’ mags are an example of the mainstreaming of pornography,” says Anna van Heeswijk of Object. “The whole tone is of complete contempt [for women]. They are made up of photographs that come straight from pornography and would have been thought of as hardcore 50 years ago. But now the boundaries have been pushed to such an extent that they are considered an appropriate part of lads’ mags and soft porn.”

Earlier this year, the actor Danny Dyer, then the agony uncle for Zoo magazine, suggested that a jilted male reader could “cut your ex’s face, so no one will want her.”

“They have jokes about incest and pornography, about trafficking, about rape,” says Van Heeswijk. “What’s harmful is that this is considered a normal part of the mainstream media.”

As many Guardian commenters pointed out (and as Jezebel routinely points out), women’s magazines are often just as guilty of misogyny as lads’ mags. I love magazines in theory: I love glossy paper and typography and photos of wealthy peoples’ homes – but it’s nearly impossible for me to find a mainstream, drugstore-purchasable women’s magazine that doesn’t insult my intelligence or that doesn’t insult women, period. And these protests are a good reminder to follow through with my feminism and to be more selective about which magazines get my money. It’s one thing to buy Cosmo ironically to make fun of it. But there comes a point when it may be more powerful to just. not. buy. it.

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