Thursday, 6 May 2010

Publishing Error

This is far from the first commentary on Zoo magazine and the detestable comment made by Danny Dyer in a recent "agony aunt" page. Indeed, such is the speed with which the blogosphere seems to move these days, my comments probably seem thoroughly after the event.
For those not yet up to speed, Danny Dyer is an actor, TV presenter and now Zoo Magazine contributor. Someone wrote into the magazine asking for advice on how to get over an ex-girlfriend and Danny Dyer's advice was to cut her face so that no-one will want her any more.
Zoo magazine have published an unequivocal apology and said they will make a donation to Women's Aid (
The comment by Mr Dyer was described as a "Publishing Error" (hence the title of this blog), which will surely go down as one of the greatest circumlocutions of all time. A publishing error? Someone endorses horrific violence and it is passed off as an error? The comments section on Zoo's website is growing by the hour. I won't include a link, as the website's content is gratuitous and sleazy to say the least, but the trend of the comments is satisfying - "I will be cancelling my subscription", "this apology is inadequate", "you need to include an article in the next issue on the problems of violence against women", "Danny Dyer and the Editor need to go". At least no-one is condoning the comment, or trying to justify or explain it away.
The reality is that lads magazines present a real problem in terms of the view and treatment of women that they perpetuate. To log into the comments section of Zoo's website you have to state your gender, except it is "bird" for women. It seems to me that this says it all. If anyone demonstrates an approach to women that objectifies them, treats or dismisses them as inferior and reduces them to an image for the sexual gratification of others then that is how those on the receiving end will see them and treat them. If someone keeps telling me that women are there to be used and abused then in the absence of any counter-balancing influences I am at risk of taking that attitude on board.
Now, we all, myself included, have to take responsibility for how we perceive and treat people. I cannot say, "Zoo and Nuts say women are meat and no-one told me different so that's why I behave this way". I have a responsibility to form a correct view of women, to treat them correctly and respectfully and not to blame the representations of others for my own attitudes. But I can help myself along the way by avoiding negative influences and embracing positive ones. I can avoid the top shelf, I can avoid Nuts, Zoo, Loaded and the rest. I can choose to see women in the correct light and to communicate the right attitudes to my children, especially my sons, so that they will grow up to respect women as well and treat them correctly.
But back to Zoo and its absurd apology. What was printed was not a publishing error. It was a publishing action. Words were typed up, proof-read, approved and printed. An error is something done by mistake, this bears all the hallmarks of deliberate action. If the error, or flaw lies anywhere it lies in the character of people who not only think this sort of thing, but commit it to print as well. Whether the reasoning was as cynical as "no publicity is bad publicity" or "this will get people talking" I cannot say, but there is something profoundly wrong in the heart of someone who will write such a thing. It's not funny, or ironic, or un-reconstructed. It is dangerous, moronic, horrific, misogynistic.
I have said plenty of stupid things in my time, things I wish I could take back, things that have hurt others. For what it's worth, I think the apology from Zoo should be in big bold type on the front page of their magazine, with no scantily-clad women as a distraction and it should read as follows:-
"I cannot apologise enough for what I printed. It not only displays a deeply disturbing attitude towards woman, it draws into question fundamental issues in my character. I am not sure what the comment I made says about my heart, but I will not contribute anything to any magazine or television programme until I have sought counselling. I will also spend time with victims of violence so as to better understand the realities of something I wrote about so flippantly. My comments were included in the magazine as a shameless exercise in self-publicity and every penny spent on the issue of this magazine in which my comments appeared will be donated to Women's Aid". That seems to me to be a good start.
I am sorry this is all a bit self-righteous. I cannot claim to have never treated women as objects. I have not always steered clear of objectifying representations of women. But I am not sure we need to be perfect in order to be able to point out what is wrong around us. I cannot critique culture from the point of view of "I'm perfect and you should be like me", but I can surely from the point of view of, "I've done things wrong and I am at times guilty of what I am condemning, but it IS wrong and it needs to change".