Coles announced today that it has pulled fashion magazine Harpers Bazaar from it’s shelves due to this “inappropriate” cover image:
“We didn’t think the cover was appropriate for our stores so the decision was made [to remove it],” a Coles spokesman told Fairfax media.
The magazine’s editor, Kellie Hush, is not impressed. “I have had so much positive feedback from around the globe, it is a shame Coles does not also recognise the artistic integrity of this image,” she told Fairfax. “As Gloria Steinem says: ‘The human body is not obscene.’ ”
No, it’s not. But it appears there are some who don’t want to look at it while they’re buying their Rice Bubbles.
Kellie and I have long clashed, loudly and publicly over the way magazines portray women, particularly over the rampant use of photoshop and the lack of diversity among models. But I respect her as an editor and I feel her pain today.
Once upon a time I edited a magazine that was pulled off the shelves at Coles and Woolworths for similar reasons.
The contentious issue was withdrawn because it had a particularly raunchy coverline, “Oral Sex Lessons”, in giant type in the left hand corner. It was Cosmo. It’s what Cosmo has been doing since the 70s using virtually identical words and phrases.
Still, there was something in the public mood that had shifted and I hadn’t noticed.
Shoppers complained that they didn’t want their children to be reading those words and asking awkward questions at the checkout. Furthermore, some people said the word ‘lessons’ made it sound like something children should do. The supermarkets acted swiftly and decisively and it was a financial disaster for the magazine that month.
It was also awkward personally. I had to answer a lot of media enquiries and essentially defend the cover (“Cosmo has been doing stories like this for decades and the story itself is sealed inside the magazine” etc) without dissing the supermarkets who were our second largest distributors.
At the time, I felt all the emotions Harper Bazaar editor, Kellie Hush is probably feeling today: Shocked, infuriated, confused, defiant.
When you work in particular industry among like-minded people, your view of what’s OK is often way out of step with the current mood and wider population. I saw no problem with the Oral Sex coverline because I’d been in women’s magazines for more than a decade and had been writing and publishing coverlines and sealed sections about oral sex, masturbation, threesomes, orgasms and every other permutation of sex every month without complaint.