In Depth

FHM and Zoo magazine axed: a victory for feminists?

Campaigners have long called for the demise of lads' mags – but the alternative could be worse

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The much-publicised and oft-anticipated demise of the 'lads' mag' may have finally arrived as FHM and Zoo announced they were to halt print and digital editions by the end of the year.

But have we finally seen the back of the lads' magazine and the culture it represented? And what is the alternative?

A sign of changing habits?

Publisher Bauer Media didn't give a reason for the closures, but hinted that "men's media habits have continually moved towards social and mobile".

Both magazines have suffered a steep decline in sales over the past ten years. FHM's circulation fell from 700,000 copies per month during its heyday in the early 2000s to just an average of 67,000 per month for the first six months of this year. Zoo's circulation has fallen to 24,000 this year from its high of 250,000 a decade ago.

The lads' mag industry as whole has suffered huge losses in the past year. Zoo shut down in 2014 and Loaded was axed in March.

"The male-targeted magazines dominated the market through the 1990s, but it seems like the rise of the internet (and, perhaps, of online porn) has rendered them obsolete," says the New Statesman's Media Mole.

Or a victory for feminist campaigners?

The magazines have come under increasing pressure from campaigners over content that they say objectifies women and promotes misogyny.

"Extensive evidence shows that portraying women as sex objects fuels sexist behaviours and attitudes that underpin violence against women," says the Lose the Lads Mag campaign.

In 2013, the Co-operative supermarket pulled copies of Loaded, Nuts and Zoo from their shelves after publishers failed to comply with an order to deliver magazines in sealed "modesty bags".

But feminist campaigns aren't solely responsible for killing off the magazines, Holly Baxter argued in The Independent after Loaded folded in March. "[They] represent an ideology which has become markedly unpopular. 'Laddishness' is dying out; the whole concept has become desperately uncool," she argued. "Even mainstream online porn has been shifting to focus on shared pleasure rather than straightforward female objectification."

Others, however, were less optimistic.

Journalist Rebecca Reid argues that feminists should be mourning the loss of the lads' mags. "Why? Mostly because we know how bad the alternative is," she writes in the Daily Telegraph.

Former FHM features editor Martin Daubney agrees. "The anti-lad mag campaigners are deluded if they feel this represents some hollow victory against 'lad culture', which migrated online some time ago, where it has the potential to be much more toxic and misogynistic."

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