Lads’ Mags and the Postfeminist Masquerade: The Aftermath of an Era of Inequality
This Viewpoint considers the rise of lads’ mags and wider lad culture between 1996-2006 as a historically illuminating period that marked a shift in societal perceptions of gender equality and contributed towards a hostile perception of feminism. Themes of pornification, hypersexualisation and postfeminsim are explored within the context of recent debates on the representation of gender and sexuality in British popular culture. The key issue emerging from this analysis is that there has been a rebranding of sexism through a postfeminist discourse, referred to in this paper as the ‘postfeminist masquerade’, which has resulted in a wider politicisation of feminism concerned with representations of the female body. This politicisation has eroded debates on gender representation into a reductive binary, the ‘exploitative-liberating dichotomy’, and has consequently delimited contemporary engagements with feminism. Lads’ mags and wider lad culture are thus analysed as having perpetuated this binary and serve as a historical symbol of how the state of gender relations have been subjected to contestation amongst feminist activists, media commentators and academics since the turn of the twenty-first century.