MICHAEL Gove has hit the headlines with a substantial speech on health, education and relationships. It’s actually quite thoughtful and worth reading .
It’s a pity, therefore, that he (deliberately?) attracted media attention to a small part of the speech focusing on so-called “lads’ mags”. Here’s what he said:
“That’s why I believe we need to ask tough questions about the instant-hit hedonism celebrated by the modern men’s magazines targeted at younger males. Titles such as Nuts and Zoo paint a picture of women as permanently, lasciviously, uncomplicatedly available. The images they use and project reinforce a very narrow conception of beauty and a shallow approach towards women. They celebrate thrill-seeking and instant gratification without ever allowing any thought of responsibility towards others, or commitment, to intrude.”
But what does he mean by the phrase “we need to ask tough questions”? That a future Tory government would regulate the content or sale of such magazines? That would be absurd, and would hardly fit with his party’s claimed libertarianism. But why raise the issue in the first place if he doesn’t want to do anything about them?
In fact, he’s being very – and predictably – clever by burnishing his party’s feminist credentials (now, who would have thought that sentence would ever be written?) and recognising valid concerns about this particular medium while at the same time using a phraseology that doesn’t commit him or his party to lifting a finger to do anything about it.
More mood music. Clever mood music, but nothing more than mood music, nonetheless.
I’ll add one caveat to that: clever, but only if you’ve already written off the demographic who actually buy these magazines and everyone else who will worry that a Tory government might usher in an unwanted and ineffective era of moral crusading. Major’s “back to basics”, anyone?