More than just a pretty face

Grazia, Bauer Media UK’s agenda-setting, conversation-starting brand for women, celebrates another win. The fashion and beauty authority recently threw its weight behind a campaign to remove what is known as the ‘rough sex’ defence in UK law – a defence that allows an attacker to claim a victim consented to sexual violence, or their own murder. And this is not the only action going on...

How Bauer UK’s leading fashion and beauty magazine is changing lives

This is not the first time the popular brand has driven law change for important issues. Just this year, when it appeared that the UK Government would suspend the reporting of gender pay gaps for the second year running, it relaunched its 2015 ‘Mind The Pay Gap’ campaign and launched a petition. Within days, the petition reached 10,000 signatures and the Government announced companies would have to publish gender pay statistics by October this year.

We speak to Grazia Editor, Hattie Brett, about Grazia’s campaign agenda, what drives its success in the hard to reach demographic of ABC1 25 – 45-year-old women and petitions currently running.

Hattie Brett, Editor Grazia UK

Hi Hattie. Grazia recently led a successful campaign in support of changing domestic abuse legislation in the UK. Can you tell us a little more about his and why the magazine decided to take a stand on this particular issue?

We were prompted to take action by the case of Grace Millane, the British woman who was killed in New Zealand by a man she’d met on a Tinder date. At his trial for her murder, he claimed that she’d asked him to strangle her. When we first reported on the case online and in the magazine, we got a huge response. But alongside shock and sympathy for her family, there were also a number of readers who revealed that, as sexually active single women, they had experienced non-consensual choking during sex. When we looked into it further, we learned from campaign group, We Can’t Consent To This, that, at the time, 59 UK women had been killed in cases where the man claimed the violence was consensual – a ‘sex game gone wrong’. We also learned that, in the last five years, the ‘rough sex’ defence was successful in almost half of the murder cases in which it was used. That meant the men were found either not guilty, or received a lesser sentence, such as manslaughter.

We know this was an issue we wanted to throw our full weight behind, because we believe no woman consents to her murder. Together with We Can’t Consent To This and British Member of Parliament (MP), Harriet Harman, we launched a petition calling for a ban on the ‘Rough Sex Gone Wrong’ defence. We asked all three main party leaders running for the 2019 UK election if they would support the amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill if they became Prime Minister – securing in writing Boris Johnson’s support. The petition was signed by more than 68,000 of our passionate readers and, after much lobbying, the Domestic Abuse Bill received Royal Assent in April 2021 (when the Queen formally agrees to make the bill into law) – complete with the amendment to ban the use of the rough sex defence. A victory for Grazia readers; but, more importantly, a victory that makes women safer in the future.

We’ll always be led by our audience and make a concerted effort to listen to the issues that are igniting them.

Hattie Brett

Editor, Grazia UK

It sounds like campaigning is in the brand's DNA. How, why and when did this come about?

We have a long-standing history of running agenda-setting campaigns and content, because our readers expect us to use our platform to drive equality and effect real change in the areas of their lives that matter most. Perhaps our most famous campaign to date was our 2014 Mind The Pay Gap petition, which resulted in a law change which means companies now have to report their Gender Pay Gap. Earlier this year, when it looked like the Government might suspend that requirement for a second year running, due to Covid, we launched another petition calling on them not to. Within days, 10,000 people had signed and the Government announced they would ensure companies had to report by October. It was indicative of the fact that our audience is passionate, engaged and influential. They want to be part of making change.

How does the editorial team choose the causes it wants to shine a spotlight on?

We’ll always be led by our audience and make a concerted effort to listen to the issues that are igniting them – whether that be through feedback on our social channels, or more targeted research and focus groups. We believe that staying close to our audience, especially in these fast-moving times, is crucial to being able to evolve the brand successfully with them. For example, in the early days of lockdown we set up a WhatsApp group of 25 readers who we could ask daily questions about everything from the Black Lives Matter movement, to their feelings about returning to physical shops.

What are your top tips for mounting a successful campaign?

Choose a topic that your audience feels passionate and emotional about, as that way they’re more likely to engage with it. Be very clear on your objectives from the outset: is this about making noise and raising awareness? Or changing the law? You can only achieve success if you know what your metrics are. And get as much external support as possible: choosing something that has cross-political party appeal is a good idea, for example, as is working closely with campaign groups, celebrities and natural allies on social media.

What's next for Grazia?

Ending the use of the ‘rough sex’ defence was a significant step in making women’s lives safer, but it’s clear that more needs to be done. Tackling violence against women requires a multi-faceted approach, as well as huge systemic change. But one area we think we can have a tangible impact is our new campaign to make unsolicited cyber-flashing illegal. Currently, anyone who sends unsolicited nude images can’t be prosecuted, which, considering so much of our lives now are spent online, seems bizarre. By working with British MP Maria Miller to add an amendment calling on this to be made illegal in the UK's Online Harm Bill, we believe we can tackle a practice that makes many women feel intimidated and threatened in daily life.

Sign the petition!
Grazia, along with actress Emily Atack, are calling for cyberflashing to be made illegal under the Online Safety Bill, due to be published later this year.

Parallel, over on Grazia’s new-ish parenting platform @thejuggleuk we’re working with activist group Pregnant Then Screwed on a campaign highlighting the crippling cost of childcare. Britain has the highest childcare costs in the world – more than 35% of the average family’s income – and it’s prompting many women to exit the workplace prematurely. At the same time, years of underfunding has left the childcare sector on the brink of collapse. So we’re calling on the Government to hold an urgent independent review of the system and then accept those recommendations.

If you are a British citizen or UK resident, we’d love you to add your voice to our petition here.

Learn more about Grazia