Last week you can’t have failed to miss the outpouring of disgust expressed when actor Danny Dyer advised a man to cut his ex-girlfriend’s face as part of a column for Zoo magazine.
As Rebecca Thompson wrote at the time, it was almost unbelievable that a magazine could appear to be endorsing a vile attack on a woman. As the outrage mounted, aided by Twitter, the national papers got hold of the story and Danny Dyer’s name was making headlines.
Within a couple of days, we heard the news that Dyer’s ‘advice column’ for the magazine has been axed. A spokesperson for the magazine issued an apology and stated that Zoo planned to make a donation to Women’s Aid as part of a commitment to showing that violence against women is not acceptable.
But how much of a difference does this make? It’s been duly noted by many since that the disgusting misogyny of last week’s Dyer column is hardly a one-off for Zoo - and indeed other lads’ mags. Removing the column is a start, but what about the pages and pages devoted to objectifying and dehumanising woman?
To lads’ mags, which get ever more hateful as the years go by, we’re nothing more than pieces of meat. The subject of features where men can send in pictures of their girlfriends’ bodies for assessment, or discover how to persuade her to perform sexual acts she has previously refused to do, or even win her a boob job (this particular competition earned Zoo condemnation from the Advertising Standards Authority in 2005).
This is nothing new – my own ‘feminist awakening’ as a first-year university student came as I observed the way lads’ mag culture was affecting the guys I knew. For several years now, it’s been reported that sales of these publications have been falling and commentators have wondered if the sexism has finally started to leave a bad taste in the mouths of readers.
I know several people who have written to Zoo to complain about Dyer’s column. They’ve received an apology of sorts. But, no doubt sick of phone calls, the magazine is apparently now determined to forget about the incident, with the editor refusing to discuss the matter any further.
Sex educator and agony aunt Dr Petra Boynton reported on Twitter that she had been in contact with Zoo,’s press office and had been told that after canning Dyer’s column, the magazine is now ‘moving forward’. Dr Petra, who was angered by the implications of the column, offered to talk to the editor about advice-giving but concluded her thoughts on the matter by tweeting:
“So Zoo have been offered the chance to sort out quality sex/relationships features and have, again, ignored the offer. Says a lot.”
The Guardian last week reported that this week, Zoo plans to focus on raising awareness of violence against women in the space usually filled by Danny Dyer’s column. It’s all very well and good to fill one column with something worthwhile once, because people have got angry with you.
When it comes to the rest of the magazine’s content, such regret clearly doesn’t apply. Disgusting as it was, Dyer’s column is by no means the only example of misogyny in lads’ mags. These are magazines which treat the dehumanization and objectification of women as a bit of a laugh, something to joke about. As something routine.
We see this vile sort of mindset all the time on the internet, on forums and in comments on blogs. But when you see it in print and on the shelves of your local newsagent’s it’s even more depressing – and very telling that Zoo obviously has no plans to change. The magazine’s execs may claim that their articles are ‘all good fun’ but they undoubtedly have an impact on the way readers see women.
It’s all very well speaking out about violence and anti-woman vitriol once, but I can only assume that Zoo is going to carry on with its women-as-meat theme until another, more unpleasant scandal forces it to do otherwise. We can only hope that something forces a rethink soon.