- 2014 National Women's Conference
- 17 October 2013
It is long established that the overwhelming portrayal of women as sex objects in society plays a role in maintaining inequality between women and men. This has been recognised at the international level by the United Nations Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an internationally, legally binding document ratified by the UK Government in 1986 which calls on States to take decisive action to tackle objectification. CEDAW has since repeatedly identified the links between the portrayal of women as sex objects by the media with attitudes that underpin violence and discrimination against women.
Our culture is saturated with pornography; in music videos, on the internet, on advertising billboards and in our supermarkets. With increasingly available access to the internet, the average age of first exposure to online hardcore pornography, much of which is violent and degrading, is only 11 years old. With no statutory sex education around the harms of pornography, and the normalisation of this type of material in society, children and teenagers are getting most of their sex education from porn. It is no surprise, therefore, that sexual bullying in schools is on the increase, and young girls feel more and more under pressure to perform sex acts and behave like porn stars and glamour models. At the same time, young boys are taught that women want violent, degrading acts done to them and that girls should look the way porn stars do. Meanwhile, ‘lads mags’ and music videos have moved soft porn into the mainstream, normalising and marketing themselves as ‘lifestyle’. They are available without restrictions, contain degrading imagery and sexist/misogynistic content, and feed into a culture where violence against women and girls is still prevalent. In order to tackle this growing issue, we must first address the accessibility of mainstream material.
Conference congratulates the national women’s committee in gaining official UNISON support for the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign. Recently, UK Feminista and Object have obtained brand new legal advice showing that displaying and selling ‘lads mags’ and papers with Page 3-style front cover images can constitute sexual harassment or sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Employees could take legal action against shops on this basis. Where the magazine is visibly on display, customers could also have a claim. The writing’s on the wall for retailers: by selling ‘lads mags’ they are open to legal action. The CoOp have already taken steps and discontinued the sale of ‘lads mags’ that are not supplied in ‘modesty covers’. In 2014, women’s bodies should not be sold alongside groceries, without restrictions. It is time to ask high street retailers to lose the ‘lads mags’
Conference instructs the National Women’s Committee to;
• Ensure that UNISON officially supports the ‘Lose the Lads Mags’ campaign
• Encourage branches and regional committees to make financial donations and affiliate to the campaign
• Circulate campaign materials and information to branches and SOG and Young Members networks
• Encourage members to write to MPs and retailers expressing their concern about the continued sale of ‘lads mags’
South East Region