Oxford's First Feminist Friday

Feminist Fridays are events where feminists go into shops and cover up sexist publications on the shelves. Oxford saw its first Feminist Friday on 25 June 2010.

It didn't feel very clandestine... A few of us met at a local coffee shop on 25 June (an independent not a chain), the sun was shining, one of us had paper bags (they're cheap! You can buy them online! It's so easy we wondered why we hadn't got round to it before!) and one had some flipchart marker pens (teachers carry this stuff in their handbags apparently). Sipping our lovely frothy coffees we had fun thinking up slogans for our bags: Nuts to sexism, Zoos are for animals (on second thoughts I'm not so sure about that one...), Maxim-um misogyny, Love women Hate sexism...

After a quick reassurance about arrestibility (low) and a briefing on the target zone (i.e. where exactly they put the lads mags in the shop) from a covert operative who had scouted it out earlier, we headed down Cornmarket, Oxford's main shopping street.

When we got to WHSmiths we sauntered casually inside and headed straight for the rack with the lads mags, handily placed near the entrance, right in the middle of the shop, and at an easy to reach height. We happily began putting magazines in the paper bags, their titles showing, and the bags proudly giving the message we'd rather see on the shelves.

It didn't take long for shop assistants to show up.
Assistant: 'You'll have to stop doing that the manager won't like it.'
Us: 'That's OK we'd like to speak to the manager.'

The manager arrived and we had a nice chat, we explained that ideally we'd like to see the mags removed from the shelves, but if they couldn't manage that then we'd like them covered up and placed on higher shelves as they are toxic to girls and boys. The manager asked us to remove the mags from the bags, and we said we wouldn't as we felt it was important that those buying the mags should have the chance to see our feminist messages as well as reading the magazines, in order to get 2 sides to every story. We expressed sympathy that she and her assistants had to work in an environment where these magazines are around them all the time, and asked her if we could contact the head office. She gave us the customer service number and after taking a couple of illicit (ie not allowed, not rude pictures!) we left.

So now we'd like your help – please call the customer services number and ask them to remove lads mags from display, or at least cover them and put them on higher shelves. They are pornography and they are toxic to young women and young men, normalising the message that girls are available to boys at any time, that there is only one way to look as a woman and all else is failure, and that boys and men get to consume women's sexuality.

WHSmith customer services number: 01793 61 61 61

More information to help you work out what to say when you call: http://www.object.org.uk/

Look out for more Feminist Friday fun in Oxford – and come and join us!