Zoo and Danny Dyer cross the line, but join the dots and it’s easy to see how the ‘production error’ happened.

Feminist Friday in Belfast

When the current issue of Zoo, a weekly lads’ mag, featured an advice column in which ‘actor’ Danny Dyer advised a reader whose girlfriend seemed to have moved on after a painful breakup to ‘cut your ex’s face then no one will want her’, the general reaction from all corners was disgust. I just had a gander at the Zoo website to see if I could find any ‘calm down/ it’s only a larf/ PC gone mad’ type defenses and came across only one. While most of the commenters had clearly registered purely for the purposes of stopping by to yell ‘YOU SUCK’ and run away again, a significant proportion were from regular readers and subscribers who wanted to let Zoo know the love affair was over.

So they’re officially in the dog house. The problem is that they didn’t suddenly leap there…if we’re surprised that an incitement to violence against women slipped through the net then we haven’t been joining the dots that reveal a big old picture of a 21st century misogynist. A magazine that stuffs its pages full of as many naked ladies as it possibly can and then slaps the title ‘Zoo’ on the front cover is giving us all a massive clue as to the respect it has for women’s humanity.

OBJECT have been saying it loud and clear for the last couple of years, Natasha Walter brought the conversation to the mainstream with her book ‘Living Dolls’ and feminists all over the place are taking up the rallying call – sex object culture is harmful to women and has to be challenged. What the lads’s mags / soft porn industry is doing is making it so acceptable to sell so many images of breasts and asses and dead-behind-the-eyes fuck me poses that the idea of women as equals becomes less and less real for the young men who consume this product on a regular basis. If I could speak to the well-meaning commenters with their ‘I love looking at tits but I’d never hurt a bird’ criticism of Dyer I’d have to ask them to please take a step back and critique the entire culture that places women on their knees or legs spread in order to gain the approval of men. For the record, I’d also like to ask the women doing the spreading if they’re happy with the world they’re helping create for their younger sisters but I suppose people do strange things when they believe their choices are limited.

Dyer has in previous Zoo columns advised readers to set fire to their ladies’ ‘munt’ if she doesn’t keep it well groomed but that one apparently slipped under the radar. And Loaded’s May issue had an appalling article called “Whip her into shape” which included the following advice: ‘Don’t fuck her until you’ve fully exploited her’ and ‘[…] treat her like shit- swear at her, whatever. She won’t thank you for it at the time, but when she’s on her own, she’ll fantasise about being treated like that. Remember: no pain, no gain’ Oh and not forgetting, ‘most women get off on being restrained and that feeling when you can’t move, or hear, or see’. As the blogger who wrote about this at UKFeminista noted, this dangerous generalisation is extremely rapey, suggesting that it’s OK to be aggressive towards women and force them into sexual acts that they might be uncomfortable with.

So what to we do with all our impotent rage? I’m not keen on following the tide of online venom directed at Dyer and wishing him an untimely death. True, he’s a wanker but I’m pretty sure wishing violence on someone because they incited violence on others is a little counter-productive. The problem is that under the self-regulatory system facilitated by the Press Complaints Commission there’s really nothing at all that can be done. Complaining to the editor is usually the first step but since the magazine have already published an unreserved apology there’s not a whole lot more we can expect from them. (Although a number of commenters on the website are calling for Zoo to cut their ties with Dyer.) The next step is a complaint to the PCC but to be honest, while that might help relieve a bit of the frustration it’s not going to make a jot of difference. If you read the Code of Practice it’s clear that none of the 16 clauses cover this kind of publishing gaff. They won’t adjudicate on issues of ‘taste and decency’ and really only exist to protect vulnerable individuals who have been wronged by the press in some way. We saw this in action with the Jan Muir affair which drew thousands of complaints, all of which were binned because the PCC would only deal with complaints from those directly affected by the article. Strangely however, what Dyer did does actually break criminal law under the Serious Crime Act 2007 – Part 2 (2008) Encouraging or Assisting Crime. What would be incredible would be if the ex-girlfriend of the reader Alix Woolliscroft who wrote the letter reported Dyer to the police. Anyone know where we might find her?

If the Zoo story has made your blood boil and you really do want to do something about it join the Feminist Friday campagin. On the last Friday of every month feminists all over the UK go into shops and put lads’ mags in paper bags with feminist slogans written on them. We then give store managers a letter outlining why we’d like them to respect women enough to stop selling lads’ mags. As the sales figures for all the weekly and monthly mags fall month after month we know we can help put them out of business. This time next year we might not even need to be having this conversation… Join in. Check out Belfast Feminist Network for more information.


8 Responses to “Zoo and Danny Dyer cross the line, but join the dots and it’s easy to see how the ‘production error’ happened.”

  1. 1 Hannah May 8, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Great post! I haven’t read much about the content of Zoo et al for a couple of years and knew it was bad but those excerpts from Loaded are sickening. It’s good that the magazine’s readers are turning away after the Dyer incident (and I know that sales have been declining recently anyway) but I agree that the wider problems of the mags’ content needs to be addressed as well.

  2. 3 DaveW May 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I guess that like many people I have never bought a Zoo, Loaded, … magazine and don’t look at those sections of the shelves so don’t really have any idea about what is normally inside.

    I became aware of this column through twitter and passed it on.

    I recognise though that my general silence on the subject could be taken by some to mean I condone these appalling magazines. Whereas I quite agree with your comments on the damage they cause.

    So if I don’t want to support them in any way, or get damaged by them myself are there any suggestions on how a man might helpfully take action?


  3. 4 Suzie May 9, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I just found your blog through ontoberlin.blogspot.com and just wanted to let you know I’ve bookmarked it. So good! I really love this idea as well, I feel I’ve always had elements of feminist in me but recently they’ve been rising up more and more and reading things like this help me know how to be constructive with it and articulate my feelings more.

    Thank you!

  4. 6 soisaystoher May 10, 2010 at 10:22 am

    hi all

    thanks for contributing your comments. Hannah, it’s nice to connect with you. I hadn’t heard of your blog before now and I really like it. Cheers Suzie for your encouragement – I started writing this as a way of helping me articulate things so I’m glad that it can have that effect for other people too.

    DaveW I was thinking about your request for advice on how a man can make a difference. I think the very fact that you are clearly someone who doesn’t but into this sex object culture is already making a difference. I suppose the best thing is everyday consciousness raising, like my partner finds that in work when male colleagues are commenting on women in a way that reduces them to something less than human beings, he can often find things to say that reminds them they are talking about a real person. It’s really hard – women get enough of a ribbing for speaking up so I can only assume it’s way worse for men who dissent from the popular opinion. But it’s good to have a couple of phrases you rely on that sum up what you think. Like for example, ‘Those magazines just don’t represent the way I relate to the women I care about. I see women as people not objects.’

    And if you really want to make your voice heard, look for an OBJECT activist group near you. Men are very welcome. I like how this video profiles the men involved in the protest and how one of them at the end says, ‘It’s common sense!’

  5. 7 DaveW May 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for the helpful response. We are moving this summer and I’ll be looking for an Object group there.

  6. 8 Liam Barrington-Bush June 9, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Great commentary – dots indeed need joining up if we are to be able to demonstrate the true extent of the damage Dyer’s (and others’) comments help to create!

    As vile as Dyer and the Zoo lot are, I can proudly say that some of us have turned the offensive commentary, his flop of a new film, ‘PIMP’ + some online technology, into an off-the-cuff fundraising campaign that has tripled PIMP’s opening weekend box office take, in donations to Solace Women’s Aid!

    Feel free to check out the fundraising page, make a donation, and share it around here:

    Or read my write-up of how it happened, here:

    Always love it when a silver lining can emerge from such a nasty situation!

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