Do ‘Womens’ Magazines Discriminate Against Women?

As a married man, I have to say that I don’t personally read ‘womens’ magazines however I often see such magazines around my house courtesy of my wife.

Invariably these magazines appear to talk about other women, celebrities, in an array of derogatory means referring often to how certain celebrities are ‘too thin’ or how certain celebrities have put on a certain number of pounds or are happy or otherwise with their ‘curvy’ figure. We all know the sort of magazines I am referring to without having to name the particular publications.

In particular, it came to my attention about how Cheryl Fernandez-Versini recently lashed out at the press about labelling her as ‘too thin’ and this seems to have been supported by a number of other celebrities who have all chipped in with various opinions on how women’s magazines should or shouldn’t make comment on women’s figures. I recall that in the not too distant past there was a similar outcry about how women are presented in ‘lads mags’

Good on Cheryl for sticking up for herself From a personal perspective, many of these celebrities are role models for impressionable young girls and the obligation to act as a role model is not just on the celebrity but also on the press for how celebrities present women generally and I think far greater care should be taken before opinions should be expressed on how men and women should and shouldn’t look, weigh or live generally. This is a personal opinion only.

I am not going to get involved in the rights or wrongs of the British press but it got me thinking about the legal issues surrounding the manner in which these publications are presented and in particular whether the publications are discriminatory.

The Equality Act 2010 states at Section 13 ‘A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.’

Many relate the liabilities under the Equality Act 2010 to an employer – employee relationship but the Act has a far wider application and covers a wide array of issues both in and out of the workplace.

Is it not therefore arguable that women’s magazines are in fact discriminating against women? Sex is of course a protected characteristic under Section 11 of the Equality Act 2010. Such magazines, from my somewhat limit exposure to them, only target the appearances of other women. Does this mean they are discriminating against women? Presumably they would not target men in the same way as this is not something for which their readership is interested in.

If this is put in its simplest terms, are the magazines treating women differently to how they would treat men? I think it is arguable that they are.

Obviously however there are conflicting legal duties, for instance the right of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights which provides for the freedom of speech and in particular in respect of freedom of the press. This then must be balanced with the duty not to discriminate under Article 14.

The debate certainly raises some interesting legal complexities. In reality I doubt these sought of publications will change irrespective of the legal and moral rights and wrongs.

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