Tesco And Me

// 20 May 2009

Somehow or another I have failed to tick a box somewhere online and I have been added to a mailing list run by Tesco. Today their marketing director Kendra Banks has written me with some recommendations. Her first pick for me is Eminem’s new album “Relapse”.

This album’s title track includes some interesting lyrics, like this one:

“he stuck the bitch with the pitchfork with the long prongs”

I wonder how this fits with Tesco’s fancily worded policy on diversity and inclusion: gender?

But maybe lyrics about killing women pale into insignificance next to some of the other things he says in the very same song. Such as these:

“Slice you up and cook you after you`re murdered by strangulation

That`s bacon souffle you makin`, ain`t you? well, thank you jason

There goes one more coma

Due to blunt force trauma”

“The medication is making my hands a little shakier

Hand me the 18 month old baby, come shake `em up

It`ll only take me a second to choke his trachea

Breakin` his neck in eightysome places”

Maybe someone could print out the above stanza and put it in Tesco stores next to the nappies and baby food? Or maybe Kendra Banks should double check what is being sent out to Tesco customers with her name on the bottom!

Comments From You

Lindsey // Posted 20 May 2009 at 9:57 am

Oh good, another reason for boycotting Tesco.

Denise // Posted 20 May 2009 at 10:11 am

Madness.

Don’t forget to tell Kendra that Eminem’s…obviously you can’t say “music”…was also used to torture terrorist suspects. Imagine being chained up in the dark AND having to listen to that.

Therri // Posted 20 May 2009 at 5:37 pm

What are you suggesting, censorship? That seems to be a very dubious position.

All art, no matter how objectionable, must be free to express whatever. Otherwise you’re no better than a fascist yourself.

Besides, censoring people only makes them stronger…Eminem’s career has hardly been hindered by people objecting to his work. If Tesco pulls out of advertising his album etc, it only serves to advertise it to people who will then buy it from HMV, so even if you feel you can justify the censorship, it wont work.

CMK // Posted 20 May 2009 at 6:46 pm

I don’t have a problem with Eminem’s lyrics, mainly ‘cos I can never understand what people are saying when they’re rapping…. he has the right to say what he wants, he doesn’t have the right to make me listen to it! We can achieve more by diligently ignoring it.

I find Tesco’s policy very interesting, well more patronising.

“In 2007, we launched the Tesco Women’s Network which aims to help female managers and directors progress.”

Surely this is either patronising (‘cos y’know women need the help) or an open admission that their policies / practices are discriminatory?

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 20 May 2009 at 7:19 pm

Therri – oh please.

Firstly we already have censorship in this country in hundreds of areas. That’s while child pornography isn’t available in your local newsagents. We draw lines. And when you go to the cinema every single film is rated for the age group who are allowed to watch it. So yes we are censoring lots of stuff.

And I’m not suggesting Tesco pulls out of advertising Eminem – I’m suggesting they avoid promoting him in the first place. They already have policies in place that mean “lad mags” are put on the top shelf. Music with these kids of lyrics could evidently be put there too, or indeed not stocked. And actually the evidence suggests that the less stores sell something, the less copies sold. Exceptions where the decision not to stock becomes a publicity course are rare.

Therri // Posted 20 May 2009 at 8:24 pm

I find the suggestion that controversial rap lyrics are in the same boat as child pornography worryingly close to the language of ‘concerned’ ‘family’ protest groups in america wanting to ban marilyn manson albums from walmart. Of course we draw lines, but thats not to say you can’t get carried away drawing lines.

What i see here is an issue with ill thought out marketing strategy, not a feminist issue. As a person with an ounce of common sense i can see that its fairly stupid to be advertising this album to someone who is extremely unlikely to buy it…the kids who are down with Eminem are hardly going to be doing their tesco online shopping after all. But in a way, isnt there a wonderful irony to the fact that the oh-so macho eminem is considered tesco-friendly? doesnt that actually undermine the whole pose quite amusingly?

I’m actually sort of glad that controversial art is a special rollback price in this country; i think it proves that as a nation we don’t take inane rantings seriously. I can quite enjoy an Eminem tune because to me its a ridiculous pose, and i reckon we should be pretty proud of how free expression is in our country and the only censorship on it is our own common sense.

Jaime // Posted 20 May 2009 at 8:55 pm

I didn’t think you were suggesting censorship, just not obviously promoting something that goes against the companies own policies.

Saying that, aren’t Tesco one of the stores insisting the new Manic Street Preachers album has it’s artwork covered up for sale in store?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 20 May 2009 at 11:00 pm

I wonder if Eminen’s lyrics had been racist whether individuals would have said ‘oh but we can’t censure such racist insults because it is free speech.’

So yes we do have censorship because racism is seen as incitement to promote hatred of certain groups, but hey when it is incitement to hatred and dehumanisation of women then suddenly it is irrelevant and trivial.

Women’s human rights are being violated when popular culture promotes and condones male violence against women. I am not saying Eminen is personally responsible for causing male violence against women but he is certainly not speaking out against men’s violence. When popular celebrities such as Emininen sing about women being brutally beaten by men what message does this send to anyone hearing the lyrics. Is it really acceptable to portray women as men’s dehumanised pieces of refuse? I think not and Tesco’s position is obviously one of increasing their profits irrespective of the social harm. Ethical business practice – not in respect of Tesco.

Lindsey // Posted 21 May 2009 at 10:16 am

Not suggesting censorship of the music itself, just that a company like Tesco with it’s friendly as tea and biscuits persona is shooting itself in the foot by blanket emailing people with adult and potentially offensive products.

And besides which freedom from prosecution outways freedom of speech, hence laws on encitement to hatred.

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 May 2009 at 10:33 am

@Jennifer Drew – but the fact is Tesco does sell plenty of racist material too. Just to take a random example, you can buy much-criticised resident evil 5 on their online site.

We don’t need to say that racism is ‘less tolerated’ than sexism to prove any points about eminem’s lyrics, and it just turns every thread it happens in, into Oppression Olympics.

Jen // Posted 21 May 2009 at 11:24 am

I wonder if Eminen’s lyrics had been racist whether individuals would have said ‘oh but we can’t censure such racist insults because it is free speech.’

So yes we do have censorship because racism is seen as incitement to promote hatred of certain groups, but hey when it is incitement to hatred and dehumanisation of women then suddenly it is irrelevant and trivial.

Do you think you could stop that? You say the same thing all the damn time. Racism, by your definition of hatred and dehumanization of non-white people, is still alive and well. Just look at what’s on the front of the Mail and the Express in inch-high letters every other day. Just take a trip to Yarls Wood detention centre. Why is it necessary to downplay racism in order to prove that sexism is still a problem?

Oh and the word you’re looking for is “censor”, not “censure”.

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 21 May 2009 at 1:17 pm

Therri you misunderstand (deliberately I think) – I am not saying that rap lyrics are “in the same boat as” child pornography, I’m saying we already have censorship in the UK…

LOuise // Posted 21 May 2009 at 1:25 pm

Eminem seems to be running out of offensive things to sing about. Killing a baby, what next ? Torturing kittens, opening a concentration camp ? He’s such a buffoon, someone should start pointing out how ridicule his self-aggradizing hard man anger has become.

CMK // Posted 21 May 2009 at 5:34 pm

@Jennifer Drew In one of his most notorious songs he does actually ‘say’ to the deranged character that he should get some counselling or just learn to treat his girlfriend better.

I suspect Eminem is. like many talkshow hosts, simply expressing a controversial (or plain stupid) view to promote themselves.

re Racism he did apologise once for a tape he made to his credit, but I think it is fair comment that the music he creates causes people to react or at least think negatively towards non-whites and women in general.

Becky // Posted 22 May 2009 at 2:36 am

I don’t think you’re giving him enough credit; you picked the most shocking stupid lyrics to use in your article really. Admittedly he makes ridiculous offensive “jokes”, but he’s clever and he’s good at what he does.

“There’s a monster inside of me, it’s quite ugly and it frightens me.”

“There is no escaping, there’s no place to hide

You scream “someone save me”, but they don’t pay no mind…goodbye”

There’s a track on the album about being abused by his stepfather, there’s stuff about his mum and drugs, you’re taking the most inane immature stuff and not giving the rest the credibility it possibly deserves.

People who’re not as right-on don’t deserve to not be listened to.

Jen // Posted 22 May 2009 at 9:51 am

Well, I take the point that some things are censored with good reason, such as holocaust denial or, well, a bunch of other stuff.

I still think you’re on rather shaky ground though, in terms of taking this stuff of the shelves because of the lyrics. The bit you quote, and a lot of Eminem’s work, when it comes to violence against women, it’s not that different in content from some of Andrea Dworkin’s fictional work.

The only reason you could really get Tesco to take it off the shelves is if you got them to consider it too explicit for the people who were likely to buy it. In fact, that’s the only way they could legitimately do it. You see, with Andrea Dworkin, she wrote that stuff because she had a poor opinion of violence against women and she was campaigning against it. With Eminem, well, those are words that he puts in the mouths of his protagonists, same as Andrea Dworkin, and there’s nothing to suggest he approves of those practices himself, in fact quite the opposite.

Remember the recent (and excruciatingly titled) Amazonfail, where a bunch of LGBT and feminist and sex education stuff got hidden away just because it mentioned sexuality? You’d be facing a similar scenario here: the only reason they could censor stuff is because it’s too explicit. And let’s face it, there’s far worse stuff in their DVD section: why is a rapper talking about mutilating women’s corpses worse than explicit images of someone doing it? Yet you can get Seven and Silence of the Lambs in most supermarkets. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t object to those being sold – would you?

Then again, if they censored stuff for having a wrong opinion rather than just for being explicit and violent, it would force musicians, directors and writers to be completely explicit and unambiguous about their message beyond the shadow of a doubt, which would be bullshit: most people can decipher the intentions of a piece of work from the most subtle clues, but if it became a legal requirement… and besides, look at all of Tesco’s own values, if they have any. I see plenty of implications in the health and beauty section or even the fucking pasta section that offend me more than that Eminem lyric. Serial killers exist and quite often specifically target women, it’s also a common trope in hollywood movies, so you can’t really blame Eminem for pointing that out through song. Whereas the idea that women want spend 75% of their free time embalming themselves and the other 25% speaking in high-pitched voices about how exciting celebrities are? Way, way more offensive – especially the way advertising works by putting their words in your mouth. I’ve seen so many articles – remember the “random acts of feminism” – about how Good Housekeeping and gardening magazines are so much nicer and more homely than Nuts, and I’m like, what?? I mean, the worst thing about Nuts is that it suggests that working class men want to look at boobies and car crashes then go die in Iraq, in other words it’s at least as bad in its depiction of men as women. How can anyone who calls herself a feminist look at Good Housekeeping or Homes and Gardens and think it suggests anything better for women. Sure, there aren’t any boobies or violence, but there’s still a whole clusterfuck of ideology going on there, that does not suggest a very fulfilling life for women to say the least. I mean, killing them with a hammer or keeping them zombified with macrame lamps – big difference.

And also, not so much the post or Kate’s comments, but some of the comments in here I feel like I’m at the Women’s Institute or something. “Can’t really call this music”? Jesus. I mean, I think it’s bad music, and I don’t really know why anyone thinks his flow is anything special, but it’s still music.

Anna // Posted 22 May 2009 at 10:09 am

I like Eminem a lot, always have done since my stepfather gave me his albums on cassette when I was ten; this doesn’t mean some of his lyrics aren’t violently and horrendously misogynistic and abusive; (possible trigger warning)

‘shut up slut, you’re causing too much chaos/

just bend over and take it like a slut, okay mom?

oh, now he’s raping his own mother, abusing a whore, snorting coke and we gave him the Rolling Stones cover’

that’s pretty typical.. totally ignoring the two songs in which he kills his wife and then disposes of her corpse with the aid of his infant daughter (who he also featured on one of those songs).

Lindsey // Posted 22 May 2009 at 12:02 pm

I think Eminem’s controversial lyrics are distracting from the argmument of whether or not Tesco is undermining their gender inclusion policy by endorsing a mysogynistic product.

Tesco is the biggest supermarket in the UK, the last I heard 1 in every 7 pounds spent in the UK was spent there, and I feel it’s important to look how they conduct their business. If their gender policy is little more than lipservice and their attitude to women is as dodgy as their other practices (exploitation of UK and 3rd world farmers, anti-competitive strategies, disobeying council rulings) then I believe it’s well worth boycotting their stores and protesting the opening of yet more metros and hypermarkets.

Therri // Posted 22 May 2009 at 12:49 pm

I concur with Jen. Its a fair point, how many of you are complaining without even listening? Again, a little too similar to ‘concerned’ American family groups for my liking…

‘you can get Seven and Silence of the Lambs in most supermarkets. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t object to those being sold – would you?’

again – excellent point. if you’re going to posit the theory that representation of women getting hurt is sexist – and worse than men getting hurt (and i must stress i’m not looking to argue that point) then you need to be consistent. Why is some art ‘worse’ than others for showing the same thing?

I maintain that what makes this nation great is we don’t worry about what Eminem has to say. In this country i think he’s a novelty act more than anything.

Jen // Posted 22 May 2009 at 12:57 pm

Tesco is the biggest supermarket in the UK, the last I heard 1 in every 7 pounds spent in the UK was spent there, and I feel it’s important to look how they conduct their business. If their gender policy is little more than lipservice and their attitude to women is as dodgy as their other practices (exploitation of UK and 3rd world farmers, anti-competitive strategies, disobeying council rulings) then I believe it’s well worth boycotting their stores and protesting the opening of yet more metros and hypermarkets.

I’m really not entirely certain that boycotting doesn’t just allow people who can afford it to buy peace of mind. Not happy with the practices of a store? Not shopping there isn’t going to do anything save make you feel better, especially since Tesco is so huge and plenty of people don’t have the option of not shopping there. And anyway, what are the options in the same price range? Asda (i.e. Walmart)? And don’t tell me that you know this great little independent shop – these are few and far between precisely because of giants like Tesco.

And really it’s not so much Tesco itself that’s the problem, it’s what it’s a part of. That doesn’t mean that they should get out of their responsibilities towards their employees or the communities they become a (somewhat desctructive) part of, but it does mean that we need a wider solution than just boycotting.

And clearly any diversity and equality policies they have are there primarily to protect them against lawsuits, as a compromise between them and trade unions (who are doing the real work of safeguarding employee rights). They’re not there because Tesco really believes in them: that’s totally irrelevant.

In fact, calls to boycott really piss me off. First of all, boycotting is little more than an assertion of moral superiority through class privilege. If anything it gives companies publicity, and the chance to show how sensitive they are to diversity and equality, while not changing their ways in any way whatsoever.

And anyway, do you want Tesco to support any values that you consider to be important? Do you really want them on your side? No – you want them to treat their employees right until such time as they can cease to exist cause there have to be less destructive ways of providing people with food than “the hypermarket”.

I’ve got nothing against people who can manage it getting their food from farmers’ co-operatives – that would be my choice, were it available to me. But pretending this makes a difference to how capitalism operates, that a few concerned middle-class liberals feeling ways about stuff can change the whole world, and that boycotting constitutes “action”, is complete fantasy.

Ruth // Posted 22 May 2009 at 1:10 pm

“How can anyone who calls herself a feminist look at Good Housekeeping or Homes and Gardens and think it suggests anything better for women.”

I agree that many publications like this sell an idea of a domestic lifestyle that could be seen as very unfeminist. But many women buy these types pf publications just because they want to make their house or garden look nicer and are looking for ideas. Whats wrong with that?

You may have no interest in this yourself, but many feminists, and particularly older feminists are. Its a stereotype that when people get older they start to care more about how their house and garden look, but in my personal experience there is some truth there.

Lisa Lainey Brown // Posted 22 May 2009 at 4:24 pm

I think Eminem is cool like, I mean he is dead clever and when he says things he means it in like a sarcastic way… Are you emo Kate is that way you don’t like him? I’m a chav but got nothing against emos like, lot of my mates are emo. I mean I don’t like emo clothes but some of my mates don’t like when I wear my trackies tucked in white socks lol. Anyway peace x lisa

Jen // Posted 24 May 2009 at 12:11 pm

I agree that many publications like this sell an idea of a domestic lifestyle that could be seen as very unfeminist. But many women buy these types pf publications just because they want to make their house or garden look nicer and are looking for ideas. Whats wrong with that?

You may have no interest in this yourself, but many feminists, and particularly older feminists are. Its a stereotype that when people get older they start to care more about how their house and garden look, but in my personal experience there is some truth there.

Now, this raises lots of interesting questions. Let’s get one thing out of the way: I don’t blame any women for buying these publications, I buy plenty of dodgy shit myself, if anything, the fact that it’s a part of our culture and that lots of people put a lot of work into it redeems it somewhat, whatever it is. It takes training to take professional photos like that, and to write those articles, however inane. If I think these publications are “unfeminist” (which they certainly are), it’s not because there are a set of rules that feminists need to abide by and that they’ll be out of the sisterhood if they don’t.

First, the question of why women would get more interesting in their house and garden as they get older: I’m in my early thirties, so I feel that pressure myself. I certainly don’t want to find myself giving into it at any point in the future, because for me (I recognise it might be different for someone else, and that I speak from a position of privilege where I can escape this) it represents, not to be overly dramatic, a kind of living death where I give up on what I want to do with my life and decide to make my surroundings beautiful instead. I have actually known women to work themselves into anxiety and an early grave over their home not being beautiful enough. So, the will to make your house and garden nice isn’t necessarily something wholesome.

Next question: I find it really interesting that you immediately thought I was blaming women for buying those magazines. I don’t – I don’t believe in consumer power, for one thing, as I made abundantly clear in previous comments. Now let’s assume that a woman does want ideas on how best to polish her dining table. The point of a magazine isn’t to dispense that information disinterestedly, it’s primarily to sell her a bunch of stuff, some ideology, and the idea of a lifestyle that she can’t attain, just like beauty magazines. What if she wanted to build a dining table? And why does it always come down to magazines, at all? To me that’s like asking for advertising that targets us a little better. Surely we want the advertising to quit targeting anyone and leave us the fuck alone?

What did people do before advertising existed? They got tips from each other, surely. Or they learned from others.

And, why are you so quick to defend the drive to polish up one’s private property, anyway? Or the pressure to do so, more accurately?

I know there are a million reasons why people make choices, and I’m not here to judge. But what you’ve said of homes and gardens magazines is also very true of beauty magazines, which are a legitimate target of feminist ire. Why wouldn’t homes and gardens magazines? Surely, whether you’re polishing your legs or your table legs to a shiny finish, it’s not that different?

Lindsey // Posted 26 May 2009 at 8:54 am

@Jen

Well done calling me out as a middle class liberal. I can’t really change that about myself.

However: this does not mean I have money. I am relatively low paid and buy food for two. There is no “great little independent shop” or farmer’s market I have access to, I use a combination of supermarkets to get the best deals. I know how inconvenient this is: I can’t afford a car so I walk to all these places.

I won’t try to convince you to boycott, that’s your choice. I choose to boycott certain brands because I believe in making conscious choices about all my actions, and that by controlling where my money goes I don’t contribute to activities that contradict my beliefs.

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 26 May 2009 at 3:10 pm

Yes boycotting certain shops certainly can help put pressure on them but evidently there comes a point where you have to use certain shop or go without products that make your life livable.

It comes back to the “myth” of choice. There are hundreds of betting shops near my house and local campaigners want to limit them and prevent new ones being built. Of course the developers say it’s up to individuals to choose whether or not to visit them. But there are no climbing walls or riding schools or community woodworking shops so the idea that people are expressing a “choice” is kindof meaningless.

Jessie // Posted 26 May 2009 at 3:48 pm

What’s wrong with the Women’s Institute?! They do a lot of good work and might even be able to surprise the kind of people who stereotype them. If they could be bothered.

As for being chained up in the dark and forced to listen to Eminem, there are worse things. [edited by Kate]

And for those who don’t know but think it’s uncool to ask, an emo is someone who doesn’t have their brain tucked into their trackies. We all know what a chav is.

Peace!

Jen // Posted 27 May 2009 at 9:52 am

It comes back to the “myth” of choice. There are hundreds of betting shops near my house and local campaigners want to limit them and prevent new ones being built. Of course the developers say it’s up to individuals to choose whether or not to visit them. But there are no climbing walls or riding schools or community woodworking shops so the idea that people are expressing a “choice” is kindof meaningless.

Yes, exactly. Some of us have the time to walk around to all different shops to get shit (I’ve done that too, Lindsey!), but if you were having to drag three kids, one of them in a pushchair, round to all those shops, your “conscious choice” would be very much limited.

Also striking how betting shops, z-grade fish shops, tanning salons and convenience stores tend to be conglomerated around poor areas, with nowhere to buy healthy food. Plus it’s expensive to be poor, you can’t use the money-saving tips you use as a student, it’s a completely different situation.

Although I really don’t think boycotting is a useful solution, precisely because it relies on going let’s all boycott this shop, or whatever, when it’s a solution that’s only available to a minority of people.

As for being chained up in the dark and forced to listen to Eminem, there are worse things. [the bit that got edited by Kate…]

Heeey! I object to that.

And furthermore, er, takes one to know one.

And stuff.

Lisa Lainey Brown // Posted 27 May 2009 at 11:18 am

Jessie – funny how you talk about untrue stereotypes and then completely blow your argument out of the water by doing exactly what you are condemning…

Therri // Posted 27 May 2009 at 12:32 pm

funny how we’re talking about hypocrisy of mission statement when the censorship system of this website has allowed this unhelpful and rude comment past:

‘As for being chained up in the dark and forced to listen to Eminem, there are worse things. [the bit what got edited now by Kate]’

i quote verbatim from the rubric:

‘safe and friendly space for feminists…’

‘no….comments which make personal attacks on any blogger or commenter…’

‘be nice.’

LOLZ.

Jessie // Posted 27 May 2009 at 12:40 pm

Jen, I apologize. I was having a bit of an acceptance overload day, what with one thing and another!

Take your point.

x

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 27 May 2009 at 4:44 pm

you’re quite right therri – that’s my fault for not reading the comment right the way through, it started off quite relaxed and friendly. i will fix it shortly, thus making your coments seem like they don’t make sense… sorry about that. k

Jessie // Posted 27 May 2009 at 5:02 pm

I apologized to Jen for my comment and said she had a point. But it hasn’t been printed. So again, I apologize. I shouldn’t have written that and I regret it.

Jessie x

Jen // Posted 27 May 2009 at 6:01 pm

That’s cool, I wasn’t offended. And she has a point, I do go on a bit.

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 27 May 2009 at 6:08 pm

I think I took out the bits that were directed at you personally and just stripped it down to general comments. Anyhow we’re all cool now. Group hug!

Jessie // Posted 27 May 2009 at 10:26 pm

Kate Smurthwaite, I have twice apologized for my comment to Jen (which I regretted) but you refuse to print my apologies.

Okay.

Sad.

I won’t post any more comments at the F-word, so you won’t need to censor/disregard anything in future. Hope that makes you happy.

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 27 May 2009 at 11:20 pm

Jessie I emailed you (twice) to ask if you would prefer that I took your comments down or edited them or simply printed the apologies. I was waiting to hear from you. Or did you comment with a false email address? If so you may not have got my messages.

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 27 May 2009 at 11:25 pm

But to sort the situation out I have now published both of you apologies and a comment from someone criticising your comments, which I wasn’t going to publish if you wanted your comments taken down, since it wouldn’t make sense without your original comments.

Please try to bear in mind that the writers on here are human beings – I actually cannot sit by the computer all day editing and approving comments, inevitable a bit of a backlog fills up – I approve the ones that are clearly cool, then I edit and mail people about others to clarify or sort out what should actually go on the website.

Jen // Posted 28 May 2009 at 10:42 am

Hahahahaha!

As the “injured party”, it’s cool, really, from my point of view there is no situation to sort out and there never was.

Also, apology gladly accepted, Jessie (although a spot of Monkey Island style insult sword-fighting would have been fine too).

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