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[Guest Post] Magazine Rack Sexism, or Women Read Private Eye Too

2012 July 30

Our mate Lizzie – she of the wedding adventures – sent us this post a few weeks ago. She’s been taking supermarkets to task, because in 2012 we really shouldn’t be seeing political mags (or Total Film, or Kerrang!) on a shelf marked MEN’S INTEREST. She’s not alone in her view, either – lately feminists around the UK have been making the point, with a particular upsurge recently (perhaps in the wake of other successful retail-themed mini campaigns, like Londonfeminist’s calling out the World Cup sexist t-shirts on sale in New Look, or WH Smith’s decision in 2011 to stop categorising certain books as “women’s fiction”). About three weeks before we were originally going to post this, the Vagenda drew attention to the Magazine Rack Sexism Problem, and across the pond things don’t seem much different either.

A few days after we received the post, one chain emailed Lizzie back. We’ve added the email into the post so you can see CUSTOMER SERVICE IN ACTION.

And if you have a guest post brewing in your brain, you know what to do: pitch us at [email protected].

Photo of a magazine rack in a shop, mainly fashion and celebrity magazines

Image: Flickr user Toban Black (

The Problem

Dear Tesco and Sainsburys,

Can you please cease categorising The Economist, New Scientist, Private Eye, and the Spectator as ‘Men’s Interest’ magazines? I think you’ll find all genders are interested in politics and business. You are perpetuating the myth that women only care about (because they are valued for) their beauty.

While I accept (but hate) that a large proportion of women read Cosmo and Marie Claire and Good Housekeeping, I think that a large proportion also watch the news, vote, work, and may be interested in reading The Economist from time to time. You don’t segregate papers (although papers themselves, with their Femail sections, and Style sections, also start pushing my buttons). Why the shit have you determined that certain topics are not for the eyes of women?

Women still suffer unequal pay way before they think about maternity leave, and this is part of the same problem – you are saying that business and politics (something we are all involved in, one way or another) is purely the domain of men.

Sort this out immediately, please. It’s patronising and misogynistic. Actually, can you please also remove film, photography, game, cars, nature and music mags from the same category while you are at it, as that’s also inaccurate as well? Unless you think women can’t like music, cars, photography, video games, nature and film? I mean, it’s not as if you really think only men are interested in those topics, right? You have to admit that, say, there have been some female musicians, and some women actually enjoy going to the cinema and hey, Diane Arbus existed, and gosh, there are female commuters on the roads.

I’d stick with just Men’s Health if I were you, and even that’s shaky.


Women in the UK

What to do?

To complain to Tesco, please go here. For Sainsburys, here. If we get enough people complaining, maybe they’ll actually listen and change their stores. I mean, if a little girl can get the name of a loaf of bread changed at Sainsbury’s, surely they’re amenable to listening to vindicated complaints by women who are tired of being told to not use our brains and instead just look pretty. I mean, bread name change by photogenic small child must have meant something rather than being innocuous PR in a time of recession, right?

Boom! Progress from Sainsburys!

From: Sainsburys
To: Lizzie

Dear Lizzie

Thank you for your email and suggestion that we reconsider the signage used to categorise magazines in our stores. I understand you feel our current method is dated and we certainly do not want to imply the magazines are gender specific.

Up until now we have used information from publishers, who identify the target demographic for their magazines. We have organised the magazines on our shelves accordingly. We appreciate the points you have made, and have undertaken a review of the signage we use in store.

I am pleased to say that going forward, our magazines will be shown by genre and they will not have a gender prefix. There will not be an immediate change to the magazine sections in all our stores as this will be a gradual roll out replacing the existing signage. This should also address the grammar issues that you kindly brought to our attention.

We appreciate you taking the time to contact us, giving us the opportunity to look into your concerns. We look forward to seeing you in store again soon.

So that just leaves Tesco, from whom, as we go to press, Lizzie is still waiting to hear. Bad form, guys. (Although what Sainsburys mean by “grammar issues” is eluding us slightly here at BR Towers. This is a SEXISM ISSUE.)

Time to get on it, readers! To the Tesco feedback page, one and all.

  • Thanks to Lizzie for making a noise and sending us her progress. Have you had a Customer Service Breakthrough or Problem lately? Get in touch and tell us all about it!
2 Responses leave one →
  1. August 1, 2012

    This problem exists in other places too. I was looking for a gift for a friend’s birthday and was confronted on most websites with “gifts for him/gifts for her”.

    The gifts for him include things like games consoles, cameras, trainers and action-adventure films while gifts for her suggest romantic comedies, clutch handbags, hair appliances, jewellery and bake ware.

    I own most of these things (no clutch handbags for me), and I think most women do too so I don’t really understand why websites feel the need to separate them by gender.

    By the way, I think that Sainsburys think you are questioning the apostrophe in “Men’s health”

  2. wererogue permalink
    August 1, 2012

    The only thing I can think of for “grammar issues” is if they misunderstood what you were saying about papers having a “femail” section? Even then, that’s a spelling issue.

    Also! Congratulations Lizzie and congrats to Sainsburys for not being bigoted dinosaurs!

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