Yesterday's BBC newsletter pointed to a reader's article in the 'Magazine' section called 'I hate lad mags.'
As you can guess from the title, it's a negative piece by a BBC Online reader about why they dislike 'lad mags' and that we should all worry about what they're doing to men and boys. Do I need to point out it was written by a woman?
I'd like to state that I don't read lad mags, not to say that I haven't, and I tend to find their approach to things rather purile, in the same way The Sun approaches news. So why would I bother defending them? Well, in this case, because Kate Smurthwaite, the author of the piece, seems to be confusing things and have a closed view of the subject.
The main points of her article are: the objectification of women/the treatment of women as a lower species, the lack of respect for other's (women's) feelings, women being used as an object of sexual desire, the fact that the magazines should be classed as porn, the advocation of irresponsible sexual relations, the fact that children of any age can read them and that she cannot escape seeing them in daily life. Most of these are fairly standard feminist ideals, which have been stated and attacked since the '60s.
Now, I'm not an avid reader of women's magazines either, but I have flicked through a few (I don't know what it is but men have this affliction that whenever we find a women's mag we are compelled to read it, especially the agony aunt page). I'm generalising, but they're typically concerned with gossip and advice on fashion, makeup, hair and relationships. Many include such insightful articles as 'Top Ten Ways to Tell if He's Interested.'
Then there's the gossip magazines. These don't really differ from women's magazines, that's who they're principly aimed at. They spend their print on who was at what event and how they were dressed, praising those who dressed well, deriding those who, in the expert's opinion, probably got dressed in the dark and trying to spot which celebs have had surgery. That and who has been seen out with whom and who will be in rehab next. It seems like a pretty bitchy way to spend your time to me.
Ladies, ask yourself why these are the main topics you are (supposedly) concerned with, is all the time spent on plucking, waxing, dieting and worrying about how many of the seven signs of aging you have for your benefit, or someone else? How many women have shoes that damage their feet and are painful to wear but they look nice so they persevere. How many of you spend your time in sweat pants and loose t-shirts when no one's looking because they're more comfortable than your usual clothes? Imagine what would happen if every woman in the world decided that looks weren't important anymore? Whole industries would crash, fail and disappear. Imagine what you could do with the time not spent on complex maintenance.
Another thing I'd take issue with is the fact that it's mens mags (indeed lad mags) that are being attacked when women's mags are just as bad. I surfed on over to Cosmo's website. I'm not sure if Cosmo is the biggest women's magazine, but it's certainly one of the best known. One of the headlines stated: Guy Without a Shirt. The sub-heading was: Feast your eyes on this month's mouthwatering stud. Is he a 10?
There seems to be six main areas to the Cosmo site (which is part of a larger iVillage site): subscribe, experts, sex and love, beauty and style, connect with cosmo and men. Under the experts title are: Carnal Counselor and Ask Him Anything. These experts answer queries from readers (at least, supposedly), this week's questions were:
My guy loves to give me oral sex, and I love it too. But I'm always a little self-conscious about how I taste down there. He doesn't seem to have a problem with it, but I was wondering if what I eat could affect the flavor?
Ask Him Anything
My guy is great, but he's superhairy. I'd love to ask him to wax his back, but I don't want to hurt his feelings. What do I do?
Just check out those deep and meaningful topics. The Sex and Love section was sub-divided into four categories: Indulge Yourself, Seduce Him, Sex Strategies and The Big O and include such fascinating titles as: His Secret Sex Zones, His Secret Sex Cravings, Tricks That Double His Pleasure, How to Sound Sexy in the Sack, Hot Sex Trends Worth Trying, 10 Hot New Sex Positions and 7 Secrets of Highly Orgasmic Women. The Men section includes things like: Guy Candy Gallery, Man Match Game, Man Menu and Sex Up Your Screen (where you can download wallpapers for you computer of men wearing next to nothing).
I was going to say that women don't need men to make them into objects, they're willing to do that on their own, but looking at some of the topics it seems that women are happy to make themselves an object and make men objects too. The question, of course, is whether all this is in response to men's attitudes or if this has gone on for a long time but is now in the mainstream as sex has moved from a taboo subject to something that both sexes are embracing and open about.
One thing I find interesting is that the article is accompanied by a picture of Abi Titmuss. Abi, while now a 'glamour' model, was previously a nurse. I don't know for certain, but if asked whether she prefers having thousands of men lust after her and being paid vast sums for people to take pictures of her wearing practically nothing, or cleaning out bed pans in an NHS ward, I'm betting it's the former.
So, what I'm getting at is that we should stop pointing fingers at 'lad mags' as a great social evil and note that women are equal to men in more aspects than they care to mention. We're the ones who are made to wander around feeling guilty about our desires while women are thinking exactly the same thing. That's called sexual descrimination.