Gender in Magazines: Esquire vs. More

I made the mistake of turning 40 a while back, and a friend of a friend decided I needed a subscription to More magazine. This generous friend in question is a big proponent of cosmetic surgery. After reading More I understand why.  All the articles proclaim that being in the age bracket between forty and death is so wonderful. There’s this emphatic outward theme that women should strive to age gracefully and reach their potential during this glorious golden phase. The irony is that the message is sandwiched between a plethora of ads for anti-aging products and advice on how to stay young – not just at heart, but young looking. A recent cover had Jane Fonda so blatantly airbrushed it was laughable. Who are they kidding? Message received: a woman’s biggest concerns should be about wrinkles, grey hair, and saggy body parts.

Maybe the comparison wouldn’t have been so striking except for the fact I’ve been reading Esquire magazine for some time.  I had the opportunity to use up a few of those worthless airline miles, you know, when you have enough miles for absolutely nothing the airline offers. So, for a mere five thousand airline miles I got a year of Esquire for free. I didn’t actually understand that it’s a men’s magazine. It was simply a better choice than Self or Good Housekeeping and I’m too old for Cosmo. Turns out, now it’s my favorite magazine, the only one I pay for. The ads are geared toward men’s fears and fantasies, so my eyes roll past them as though they are blank spots, barely registering the content or message since I’m not the target, although I admit detecting a distinctly effeminate quality to many of Prada’s ads. Stephen Marche does a nice rant on a regular basis. Occasionally they offer a short story, mostly Stephen King, but this month’s issue had one by James Franco. Will you be surprised when I tell you there was a subtle but ever so obvious gay quality to his story? There’s plenty of macho stuff like ‘Sexiest Woman Alive’ and ‘Women We Love’, both excuses to take photos of barely dressed young girls in erotic poses. My brain isn’t offended somehow. Maybe it’s because I think I understand why men fantasize about young women.  Older women know what great sex feels like, eighteen year olds don’t.  And, no doubt Esquire has its share of double messages – Dr. Oz next to the article on where to find the most fat laden hamburger in America. But by and large the writing is above par, the humorous parts are funny, the serious articles are fact based, educational, and pertinent to what’s happening in the world, whereas More’s profiles are stuck in a binary mode. One is the accomplished superwomen who, whether the corporate or Hollywood type, must make a presentable graphic regardless of how illustrious their credentials. The other is the regular woman, the one having a make-over with her before and after pics of hair, make-up and wardrobe included.

Small wonder the guy’s have it hands down when it comes to magazines.

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About Rose Gonsoulin

Rose Gonsoulin lives in the Sonoran desert with Chloe, Lucy and The Weasel. Like the poet, Wallace Stevens, she has spent the better part of her career in the Surety industry. Her first novel, Outside The Men’s Room, is available from Amazon. She is currently working on her second novel and a collection of short stories.