I see a lot in the media about the damaging effects of some magazines aimed at young men. I’ve never bought the likes of Nuts or Loaded myself, so I have no great experience of the content of such magazines. Indeed, I don’t even buy any of the sorts of magazines that are probably aimed at me – GQ, Esquire, Men’s Health and the like – because I find them overpriced and rather dull (and a bit too male). I did buy magazines once, mainly about new music, but as a society we’ve decided we like the old stuff best, so no-one seems to be interested in writing those any more.
And I’m not hugely convinced that having semi-naked women in magazines does lead to a warped sense of what women should be amongst men, because men still walk around in the normal world, and I’d hope that most can distinguish real life from fantasy (sighs). And besides, I remember Don Draper – of Mad Men – explaining to fictional colleague, Peggy Olsen, that thin, pretty women sell diet drinks to fat women not because they are the target audience for the sale of diet drinks, but because men like thin pretty, women and women want to be thin, pretty women. And I’m not especially convinced of that either.
I’m not sure where this gets us, but I’ve always been alarmed by the superficial content of women’s glossy magazines and of the perception I have that thin, pretty (and often naked) women seem to sell stuff to other women as much as they sell it to men. So, I dived into the November 2013 issue of Red, and these are the results:
362 pages of which 192 were adverts or promotions/product tie ins. Of the 192 pages of adverts, and excluding Red promotions and its own back-slapping (41 pages), the top seven were fashion (23), perfume (20), skincare (20), hair (17), jewellery/watches (15); accessories (10) and make-up (8). There were seven adverts for specific products, and these included Persil, Febreze, Ariel, Flash, Sebo (a vacuum cleaner) and Always.
Of the 170 remaining pages, 32 were essentially taken up by three fashion shoots, one of which featured Yasmin le Bon. There were six features totalling 22 pages (22 pages!!), which included one on John Bishop and one on David Cameron and his parenting style. There was a special report on anti-ageing, which included Thandie Newton, a whole load of product placement and four pages with a cosmetic surgeon. A further 36 pages were taken up with zeitgeist tips/photos about fashion, beauty and accessories.
There were no pictures of topless oily male mechanics carrying two tyres, or firemen rescuing puppies.
Now, I’m not going to judge, but I suspect that women’s glossies serve only to reinforce gender stereotypes in the same way men’s magazines do. So, women want to be beautiful, have glossy hair and shiny watches and dress impeccably well when they’re armed with their vitamins and Febreze, in the same way that men all have six-packs, drive red sports cars and gawk at breasts.
Back in the real world, I’ve written before about the troubles I’ve encountered in every day life being a father who takes time off in the week to be with his kids – bookshops that still have Mother and Baby sections, changing facilities that don’t cater for fathers in the way they cater for mothers and only last week I was outnumbered by women 26 to 1 at the toddlers sing and play at the local library. With all we say about equality between the genders, and all our lovely laws about it, in practice there’s an awfully long way to go.
One of the columns in November’s Red was written by Emma Barnett, women’s editor of the Daily Telegraph. She talks of the extremes of feminism – the bra burning, aggressive lefties and the power-suited, media hungry, female capitalists. She calls for a more joyous feminism in the middle ground in order to have a more constructive debate about ‘everyday sexism‘; the sort of feminism demonstrated by Caitlin Moran or Sarah Millican. I’m all for that, and I want to be a part of it. But how long can we realistically expect a visible, sensible change to take?