11.07.2006

Reversing the Magazine Demographic Equation: Cosmo vs. Esquire


by Hilary Crowe

I don’t consider myself a feminist. Frankly, I think they are a bit deluded in attacking men, “the patriarchy,” as the sole culprit in perpetuating misogyny. There’s actually a vast complex of images and figureheads keeping the modern female mired in an everlasting battle against degradation: the women’s magazine industry.

A student of print journalism long before I declared such my major, I have always been hyperaware of magazines, more so than newspapers. Standing in line at the grocery store, my eyes flit from cover to cover: Elle, O, Vogue, Glamour, and of course, the holy grail of American femininity, Cosmopolitan. Perfect marketing, I would think. Attacking the hapless creatures in their natural habitat, right next to chocolate and Tylenol – how ironic. I never thought such publications worthy of any real intellectual commitment.

I’ll admit to vacantly flipping through Vogue and Cosmo while lounging in a friend’s room, discussing the evening ahead, occasionally pausing and admiring one of the pretty pictures – pretty girls and their pretty boyfriends in pretty clothes at a pretty party. How quaint. Then, 20 pages into Cosmo, just as I’m thinking that it’s composed of nothing but cosmetic and clothing advertisements – an article! “101 Ways to Satisfy Your Man,” “Cosmo Confessions,” and the monthly features, “Hot Guy Without His Shirt On” and “Catty Move of the Month,” wherein women confess to the sly ways they outdo another female compatriot in the local galleria. Great! How did I survive high school without this?

Oh, that’s right. I was too busy reading Esquire. Initially, I’d sneak it out of the mail box and read it before my dad got home, feeling like a 15-year-old girl reading a men’s magazine was wrong on some socially ingrained level I didn’t yet fully understand. Eventually my father confessed after dinner one night that he knew my secret. Instead of ridiculing me, as most of my friends did and still do, he encouraged my reading the magazine, though meant for the opposite gender and age demographic.

Esquire introduced me to a world of disparities as I compared it to the magazines my friends read. Instead of featuring articles about pleasing one’s partner, I found monthly features on finding personal happiness, dressing for success rather than sex appeal, and how to use influence to one’s advantage. And while there is a section devoted to Q&A-style sex advice, there’s also a Q&A forum for questions about the broad mechanics of life. Art, politics, travel, restaurants, and advice on life from columnists (Chuck Klosterman) and aging stars (“What I’ve Learned”) provide a balanced media diet.

Esquire is for men what Cosmo and fellow charlatans pretend to be for women. Instead of guides to personal happiness, advancement, and success in modern society, women’s magazines are giant advertisements fueling consumer-driven frenzies to fill the void left by ever-dwindling self-confidence. For this reason, I urge women to ditch Cosmo for Esquire. You may not be able to wear the same suits, but you can play the same game.





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1 comments:

Hey Pretty said...

I've always loved Esquire as well! My dad was always getting annoyed with me for stealing his copies. Although I do read women's mags (for the fun, escapism, etc), I've long contended that the level of writing in Esquire far outdoes that of Vogue, Elle or Cosmo. Plus it's a good window into the male mind...

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