14 Sep 2015

Countdown refuses to pull men's mag from shelves

5:35 pm on 14 September 2015

Controversial men's magazine Zoo Weekly will stay on New Zealand supermarket shelves, even though an Australian chain has stopped selling it.

ZOO magazine cover

Australian supermarket chain Coles has removed the magazine from sale at its stores. Photo: RNZ

Across the Tasman, Coles has stopped selling ZOO Weekly, which campaigners say objectifies women, promotes rape culture and sends teenagers the wrong message.

Local campaigners have called for similar action in New Zealand, but Progressive Enterprises - which owns Countdown supermarkets - says it won't be removing the magazine.

In a statement released today, Countdown supermarket said the magazine was sold at more than 1,000 outlets nationally, including service stations and book stores, and it would continue to sell it.

But it said it placed the magazine in the top tier of its stands due to the content, and it was not placed at the checkout.

Australian women's rights advocate Laura Pintur led the campaign to see the magazine axed from Coles and has started a petition pushing Woolworths, which owns Progressive Enterprises in New Zealand, to do the same. So far, the petition has had more than 38,000 signatures.

Ms Pintur said the magazine's content was repulsive; it normalised the abuse, sexualisation and objectification of women and was harmful to young readers.

"ZOO actually gave advice to young boys that said you've got to pick the skankiest, loosest one of the lot, fetch her a drink and separate her from the flock.

"I mean if that's where young boys are going to for advice on relationships, girls and life, then I don't think that's going to do us any favours in our society."

Customers at Countdown's Kilbirnie store in Wellington said they were shocked to see it sold at the supermarket, and on the bottom shelf of the magazine department where children could easily see it.

"For kids that's probably a bit revealing - it objectifies women as well," said one customer.

Another said children were often at the bookstand while parents were shopping and could easily pick up the magazine.

Ms Pintur said ZOO Weekly was read by more than 36,000 young Australian men, and thousands of New Zealand teens, and getting rid of it was the only option.

"It's everywhere this magazine and so if Countdown really want to pride themselves in doing the right thing and actually caring for their customers and their employees then take ZOO off their shelves."

Darryl Gardiner has been working with New Zealand youth for more than two decades, mentoring boys aged 11 to 25. He said it was worrying the magazine was so easy for young men to get their hands on.

"We want to raise our children and our young men and women with positive views of themselves and positive views of others and anything that's objectifying we don't want them to have access to, so if supermarkets are making this stuff available, particularly to children, it's of great concern."

Mr Gardiner said explicit content found in ZOO and similar magazines could be extremely damaging for some children.

He said ultimately, it was up to Countdown to take the responsibility and do something, such as put the magazine out of children's reach, cover it up, or pull it entirely.

"This is where the whole issue of corporate responsibility comes in," he said. "There is nothing wrong with businesses themselves making a stand on certain things and saying this is not part of our values as a business, this is not the stuff we stand for so, we will voluntarily choose not have this on our shelves."

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