A few months ago my Students’ Union tried to ban the sale of lads’ mags in a bid to clamp down on sexual objectification. Sweet – I wouldn’t mind not having to walk past rows of digitally manipulated tits every time I want to buy a sandwich and a Freddo. As a hetero woman they’re not meant for me. If I had dick and it was that way inclined maybe it would spring into action, but I don’t, so coming eye-level with Nuts, Zoo and Loaded elicits two responses: 1) a three-second worried frenzy about whether my own boobaloobs are perky enough. You know what? I JUST DON’T HAVE SPACE IN MY BRAIN FOR THAT KIND OF SHIT 2) A memory of the fact that every time my farmer granddad used to see a woman with a large pair, he would apparently exclaim “She’s a good milker.” (He obviously had trouble telling the difference between women and his cows. Let’s not take that thought any further.)
But then there’s the serious stuff. The fact that some dead-eyed moron gets paid to readjust nipples makes me want to puke all over whichever Hollyoaks babe is adorning this week’s wipe-clean covers. The fact that last year a study found the language in which rapists and lads’ mags writers discuss women to be indistinguishable is undeniably a big, ugly, serious problem. But the trouble with lads’ mags is a conversation that’s been done to death in every echelon of the media. Here’s something just as important that we don’t talk about enough: why are women’s magazines such a load of shit?
Here’s the thing: the menfolk of this world can whistle their way into the newsagents knowing that the magazine racks assigned to them are brimming with choices – music, film, games, politics, fitness, style, technology, photography, fishing and yes, if they so desire, tits. They can stroll towards the counter, arms cradling hours of reading material on everything from coy carp to winklepickers to Mad Men, the Stone Roses reunion to the Windows 8 tablet, Lindsey Lohan’s bum/David Beckham’s thighs to natural disasters and space travel. Wahoo! Meanwhile I, lady of the modern world, along with many of my ilk, am all too often left to stand slouched in front of the ‘Women’s Interest’ racks, internal monologue wailing “OH FOR FUCK’S SAAAKE”. Because according to the warped world of the women’s magazine here, in 2012, is what ladies should care about:
1) Dieting (to be thin enough to get a man)
2) Getting a man (and making him commit)
3) Sex (a.k.a how to get better at it so you don’t lose said man)
4) Pregnancy and babies (Pregnant? Excellent – haaa, now you’ve got him!)
5) Hating other successful women (bitches probably want to steal your man) and feeling oh so sorry for those not yet fortunate enough to have their own man or babies (sad sad biological clock blah blah blah all alone sad sad blah)
6) Buying shit you can’t afford (to make men love you and women hate you back)
As if all that wasn’t enough, we’ve made it to 2012 and there’s still a ladymag called ‘Good Housekeeping’. Ugh.
Well, hi. I own a vagina and identify as a woman and yet somehow, I couldn’t give a dormouse poo sized crap about these things. Maybe I was made wrong. Maybe I should be put in a glass box somewhere so that women’s lifestyle hacks can come and stare at me in wonderment and pity. But I don’t think so, because contrary to what they would have you believe, saw into a the skull of a human female and you’ll find a real functioning brain, not a tiny carousel of spinning stilettos, disposable nappies, fake tan bottles, calfskin handbags, Botox syringes and engagement rings.
Let’s get this straight: lads’ mags are vile. But at least they’re honest about their intentions. The women’s press on the other hand is a schizophrenic mess of anxiety, misdirected aspiration and self-loathing. It’s a neon pink cesspit of neurosis and hypocrisy. It’s there when they run a feature on how dangerous diet pills are, whilst taking money for a full page of ad space from a company pushing diet pills. It’s there when they champion Zooey Deschanel for her belief that ‘there’s more to life than pleasing men’, whilst running page upon page of Men vs. Fashion, Manthropology, Men Confess, When Being Single Sucks, Can You Win A Gold Medal In Men?, Want to make his favourite sex style work for both of you?
When is a man ready to go the distance?, and even a ‘Mr and Mrs’ test. It’s there every time the words of a high fashion mag praise a female form, yet maim models in photoshop ‘accidents’, leaving them with missing fingers, hands, hell sometimes even whole limbs (Vogue China managed not to notice it had removed a model’s entire right leg in its most recent cover editorial). It’s there when they are so detached from reality that it runs a gushing piece on just how ‘chic’ Asma Al-Assad (yes, that’s the first lady of the brutal Syrian dictatorship) is, declaring her to be ‘a rose in the desert’. And it’s sure as hell there when gossip rags tell ‘real women’ to love our ‘curves’ while simultaneously hounding female celebrities about their weight, not to mention the hideous faux concern when the poor celeb’s scales tip just that little bit too far in the skinny direction.
It’s easy to sigh at the rows of naked chests on a glossy covers with contempt and want to squirrel them away. But if we want to talk about serious headfuckery, surely it’s time to look hard at the insidious drip drip drip drip from the mental world of the women’s mag?