Men’s magazines aren’t a dead medium

I AM AN avid reader of many magazines. Truth be told, they’re one of my two favourite mediums to access quality content. The internet, my other, has sadly been known to host less than quality content – often at a standard which national magazine publishing houses wouldn’t be caught dead putting before the public. In an era where people are happy to produce, write and create quality things they have invested time and effort into for free online, the “death of print” is surely upon us. However, people have been banging on about the “death of print” for years now and it hasn’t yet happened; hell, I spent much of my last year curating and creating content for print. Despite the fact that we do have many print copies still hanging about neatly organised in the office, I am still quite sure that the time has not yet come for print to slowly be carried down the aisle atop the shoulders of three younger, stronger bloggers and one slightly ageing Guardian journalist with a monthly email newsletter.

Pile of magazinesI think magazines remain an important medium both for pleasure, informing and, in light of the NSA (National Security Agency), a certain retention of freedom of the press. I count myself a regular reader of a wide variety: FHM, Esquire, TIME, GQ, Wired, Total Film, Empire, The Economist and Stuff have all regularly made appearances between the screen and keyboard of my laptop as I carry them around for fear of creasing a page, along with the odd, one time New Scientist, New Statesman, The Week, Q or Sight & Sound, depending on whether I see an interesting article in there or not. I even bought an Attitude when Daniel Radcliffe was on the front. The point to be made here though is regarding Stuff Magazine’s latest decision to drop its use of cover models as they “aren’t universally appealing”.

I agree. But I would not had it been FHM, Esquire or GQ. Even a film magazine which takes a female lead for its cover should not feel forced to remove their cover models. Stuff was a little different, granted. There was never an interview with said model, or any feature other than an acknowledgement of name as the page was filled with information concerning which gadget said model was holding/wearing/playing with. This is a major difference, and one which should be pointed out before ‘no more page three’ campaigners begin to use it as a springboard to ask Conde Nast to please think twice about that cover of a topless Katy Perry.

Every magazine here mentioned, barring FHM and Stuff, which feature female covers, also do a very good job at slapping a terrific looking bloke on the front, which may buy them some time from the campaigners, but even so, I would not lampoon FHM too much for it. As I was saying, I like to read magazines. They are, for the most part, chock full of well written content. Much was said when NUTS sold its final copy earlier this year, but there was also much to be said for the past few years about the quality of NUTS’ content. In the recent World Cup build up, sat around reading a few magazines with my friends, we unanimously agreed that a build up article in FHM, a ‘lads mag’, was far more engaging and better written than many in either Four Four Two magazine we had kicking around, a magazine solely dedicated to football.

I only really understood how I felt about feminism last year after reading about the everyday sexism project started by Laura Bates. Feminism to me, was something I had always been brought up to support. Women’s rights are important, and it is rightly outrageous that such inequalities exist in even the most democratic societies. That was the basis of my feminist understanding until Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism. And then my view completely changed. What I really feel about sexism and women’s rights, is that I have no idea. I had lived 21 years of my life as a privileged straight white male. I have encountered little to no sexism in my life whatsoever, and now Laura Bates is showing me that 50% of the worlds population feel at least a little vilified every day. My mind was blown. By this point, I had already been reading FHM, Stuff, GQ, Esquire and countless others for years. I had been fourteen, and I had most definitely bought a copy of Esquire because it featured Katy Perry topless on the cover. I had even collected magazine covers, mostly due to the fact that I weirdly love the graphic design aesthetic that a magazine cover offers, but I had kept the covers with women on and used them as posters… and to boot, I had even attempted to see the error of my ways by purchasing a Jason Statham and Hugh Jackman cover, in the vain attempt that it might “even out” somehow.

That… is everyday sexism.

It’s the shit you just don’t see, or even comprehend. It’s what we have in society today. I know that the greatest thing my generation can do for the feminist cause is to simply not let previous status quo’s perpetuate. So yes, Stuff was correct to rescind its usage of cover models. Just because sex sells, doesn’t mean we should use it to. A magazine full of tits for the sake of a magazine full of tits, is, in the end, just a magazine full of tits. I can speak as a privileged white man and say, that’s not really what I want. Frankly, even from when testosterone was literally bursting out of my testicles, I was still buying magazines which didn’t show everything, because even then, I still wanted something to read, and if it happened to be an interview with Katy Perry (hopefully before or after the photo-shoot), then so be it. She’s at the top of her field and seems genuinely interesting.

I have kept my female covers collection. I still appreciate the designs and I still like them. Don’t shoot me, but I am, and forever will be, a straight white male. These women are attractive, but they are also the subjects of pages and pages of print in the magazines from which they are taken. I never once saved a Stuff magazine cover, because I had no interest in the model, despite the fact that society may deem them more attractive than many who have featured both outside and lengthily, inside of an issue of Esquire, GQ or FHM.

I’m 22, and I’m still buying them. I’m still reading them. There’s some really great articles out there in the dead medium, that I can’t link here, because they’re in a dead medium. Maybe I should print this out, photocopy my favourites and stick them around. Hash-tag-share.