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Representations Of Women In Men’s Magazines

For those who have not taken the time to read a selection of mens magazines they may associate them with pornography or sport. Since the mid-90s, a crop of very successful magazines aimed at young men has emerged, spearheaded by the controversial Loaded. It is important for me to establish early on in this essay that mens magazines such as loaded and FHM, are general lifestyle magazines; the modern men’s magazine is about sports and cars as well as sex, fashion, women, and humour.

This essay will consider whether the sexual nature of these magazines is insulting and tasteless. One must bear in mind that taste depends on the individual; it is a personal judgement. What some people find in good humour others may find vulgar. As the notion of what is acceptable in our society varies over time so clearly it varies from one person to another. Mens magazines, such as Loaded and FHM, could be looked at as offensive to both men and women as they reinforce stereotypical images of macho men and sexist attitudes to there readers.

Feminist, Robin Morgan made some very bold statements when she wrote about pornography, she said that it encouraged sexual violence and rape against women: Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice She refers to pornography as humiliating women Women are hurt and economically and sexually exploited in the production of pornography. (1) Yet isnt it a brazen statement to refer to these magazines as pornography? David Gauntlett argues: Mens magazines are purely for entertainment, they are not seriously on a crusade to return to a pre feminist ideal or harm anyone in an attempt to provide entertainment. )

This is a common opinion where most readers are concerned. I feel there is an important difference where sexist attitudes come into play, between lifestyle magazines and magazines such as Top Gear or other car magazines which have half naked females draped across the body, for no apparent reason as she isnt an accessory to the car! Lifestyle magazines generally do portray women in a sexual way; they conjure up a shallow and unrealistic view. Some argue that the emergence of such magazines is an attempt to regain male dominance.

Lacey suggests that it is the diminishing of men’s power that has resulted in publications like FHM and Loaded, he says that the celebration of ‘laddishness’ is a desperate attempt to grasp what is left of traditional male identity. He is worried mens magazines are a reactionary backlash where angry men attempt to put ‘their women’ back in the kitchen (3). In a sense, what hes saying is that they encourage the good old days of white working class male Britishness. Sanderson agrees and summarises mens magazines as merry violence of blokey, jokey colloquialism and a sense of humour that tends towards sexism, racism and homophobia (4).

Thus downgrading morals of readers, planting a seed to a world where women are the weaker lower sex Poor taste in any womans eyes. It is David Gauntlett that comes to the aid and argues that the magazines are not to be taken at face value, that they are there only as light entertainment and therefore not offensive: Further to the inclusion of sexist material and stereotypical images are enjoyable to the reader but are not likely to change their attitude towards society.

Readers are able to reject such material and are able to make their own individual meanings from the messages in mens magazines. 5) Here Gauntlett is urging us to give the audience of such publications more credit they are not empty vessels waiting to be filled with sexist information. Just by scamming these magazines we can see it is evident that they do include stereotypical images of both men and women. They depict a fearless, competitive, ‘laddish’ masculinity, ignoring the emotional, sensitive male, and women are depicted as objects for men’s contemplation and enjoyment That is poor taste.

It can be argues that as a result of magazines like FHM and loaded, there is a negative force in society – bringing about a pro subordination they objectify women and are openly sexist. Loaded is heavily laden with irony: its motto reads ‘for men who should know better’; its features sport titles such as ‘Juiced Up and Bacon Sandwich’. The rhetoric of the magazine runs something along these lines: ‘Hey guys, we know it’s sexist but what the hell, it doesn’t mean anything. So it’s okay to like Loaded cos we’re post-modern, new men who know how to treat women properly (6)

These magazines compare womens bodies to cars and give advice in some form, on how to fine tune your birds body; this not only offensive to women, its offensive to men, its saying unless they explain it in simple mechanics men are to stupid to know how to work the female body. In January 2004 edition of FHM women are referred to as sluts, proud of there photographic stance it states: us boys like our pictures dripping with naked lady flesh (p73) Flesh ? As in a piece of meat?

Magazines tend to portray only the outward display of masculinity, leaving out the emotional bit. Here one can see that the stereotyping of men within these magazines as macho male and ignoring the stereotypical ’emotional male’ or even ‘soft lad’, can lead to problems and criticisms. By looking at the style and content of loaded which we can see the extent to which stereotypes, sexist attitudes and ‘macho’ masculinity’s are used. Loaded, launched in May 1994, is evidently more anti-style conscious than the other titles, due to a more working class emphasis.

It is said to have played a large part in the social construction of the New Lad, a masculinity which Edwards describes as: Selfish, Loutish and inconsiderate to a point of infantile smelliness. He likes drinking, football and fucking, and in that order of preference… in short he is that most ghastly of all configuration, defensively working class which also means defensively masculine’. (Edwards, 1997) (7) Sexism is an infamous trait of men’s magazines, and it is believed that this will inevitably produce sexist attitudes amongst the readers.

The November 2003 edition of Loaded includes: 12 pages of a big sex orgy / pull like a porn star/ cuddling lesbians/ Nympho night school lesbian spanking. It even declares itself at one point as a feminist: loaded comes over all feminist as we marvel at the beauty of ladylove It combines celebrity with porn with articles on pornalikes. The rated book section is marked from points based on whether reading it will get you sex. Women are spread eagle everywhere often accompanied by another female.

This issue obviously has a big thing with lesbianism Its unrealistic and portraying women as pure sex objects wholl put on a show for any man willing to pay 3. 0. Throughout I found the magazines stresses the virtues of a single lifestyle, The great prize of bachelor hood is represented as a life where one has little responsibility for others and where one is truly free to do as one chooses, further, marriage is viewed as a form of social constraint, preventing men from living a life of consumption and sexual freedom.

So could these magazines be the reason for the failings of the institution of marriage? Planting ideas into the readers head? Religious institutions that are trying to reinstate the reputation of marriage would argue that this is poor taste and offensive. David Gauntlett, would oppose the view that mens magazines put negative perspective of women in the readers head, he said: They can make men more aware of female insecurities and anxieties, encouraging men to be more sensitive and not expect women to just to do whatever men want and expect. This represents a change in how popular culture addresses men. 8)

Editors agree with Gauntletts view and use the expression we worship women! But this is only in a sexual way – they get off on the naked body of women touching other women. We know that real-life men are attracted to women for their intellect, wit and success, as well as beauty. But the magazines don’t feature this type of woman. In a magazine such as GQ, with its pretensions to intellectualism, this could amount to a belief that successful women who aren’t glamour models don’t exist, or aren’t at all important to the GQ man – a pretty shallow and unrealistic view to bring into our society.

Irony is the editors excuse for everything Irony, it could be argued, simply allows them to have their cake and eat it! It allows you to express an unpalatable truth in a disguised form, whist claiming it is not actually what you meant. To render an ironic claim harmful is to suggest that language can hurt It is according to the mens magazine industry: to miss the point. Southwell states that a lot of what could be called sexism in Loaded is just a joke; he continues ‘if some reader takes it as normal conversation then they don’t get it and they’re never going to get it’ (9).

But isn’t this the problem? Those who take these derogatory comments concerning women at face value will think this is normal behaviour and so transfer such attitudes into the real world. The extent of irony in these magazines is excessive. Whether set in an ironic style or having a particularly laddish or even sexist tone, the pages of the modern men’s magazine are lined with snippets of advice on how to do things better; every month the pages of FHM test everything from gadgets to kettles. These magazines tells its readers not only how to be more manly but also how to overcome anxieties.

In a New York Times survey of men’s magazines, Robin Pogrebin suggests that these magazines are: “Giving readers the thing they seem to crave but dare not admit: advice. ” (10) Which I would agree with – increasingly these magazines seem designed not simply to celebrate masculinity, but also to shape it up; the endless ‘how – to’ articles on sexuality actually offer precious little advice and a great deal of handholding. In the context of this essay, one can look at advertising in the magazines and ask whether they have a marked influence over the reader.

Clearly companies would not advertise unless they thought they did, and I would argue that designer labels such as ‘Full Circle’ have been made or at least become far more publicly prominent as a result of adverts in magazines whose readership maintain a high interest in fashion. If adverts then, can be taken at face value as trying to sell items of fashion, are we to assume that the laddish sexism that is contained within the magazines should also be taken with this same face value?

Tim Southwell, former editor of Loaded magazine, certainly feels that this element of open sexism is not the problem that many claim it to be: Loaded was never conceived as an antifeminist backlash, with the swaggering, loutish lad ousting the cowed, feminized New Man. It was based on honesty about blokish lustsnot misogyny. We like looking at pictures of fancy ladies sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we want to rape them. ” (11) This would suggest that Loaded was conceived to fill a significant gap in the market.

Can this gap really have consisted solely of the desire for blatant male sexism? I would suggest not. There is a well-rehearsed argument that condemns this genre of publication as being a definite step backwards in the ‘crusade’ for equal rights between the sexes. The success of these new publications, which it could be argued, celebrate the reduction of women to sex objects, is further evidence of the nation’s moral decline; but is this really the case?

It is fair to say that there are many articles that depict and perhaps, to a certain extent, objectify women. But does this really mean that the middle class males of this nation are sexually nave? Maybe thats not the class of people we should focus on, what about the bog standard 16 year old? They are often found reading these magazines, due to a so-called gap in the media for teenage boys magazines, dont you think Irony may be lost on them?

Though these magazines declare that men are sexual predators and women are merely sexual prey; stereotypes are an unavoidable part of mass media representation. Further these magazines are merely trying to entertain the reader, they are not seriously on a crusade to return to a pre-feminist ideal, or to harm anyone in an attempt to provide entertainment. You cannot please everyone; if these magazines were not available there will always be other alternatives.

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