Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why I Read Men's Journal

As you might expect if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, I'm not a huge fan of the lady-mags. We're all familiar with the way magazines targeted at women are written, and I think most of us could write one ourselves if given the opportunity. You need an article about what men want in bed, an article about how to lose weight (hint: the answer will always be diet and exercise, but you have to make it sound like you're revealing a secret), an article about something chocolatey that you shouldn't be eating, an article about the really Photoshopped 20-something on the cover, and something about fashion for all sizes that will really be more like fashion for a variety of shapes within the size range of 0-10. Sigh.

I used to really enjoy reading lady-mags at the gym. Other than when I go to Barnes and Noble, this is really the only time I pick up Cosmo and the like, which is quite all right with me. Recently when I was at the gym, though, there were no "good" magazines-- and by that I mean no silly, trite issue of Cosmo or Redbook, no People or US with terrible and awesome bikini bodies. It was a dilemma. So I did something I hadn't done in awhile: pick up Men's Journal.

You guys, I am a convert.

Now I know a lot of men would definitely argue that men's magazines enforce beauty standards for men-- being big and buff rather than slender and fragile-- and I won't say that isn't true. But I have to say, honestly, even the spin that Men's Journal put on their diet and exercise articles is a lot more palatable than what I see in the typical Women's Fitness and the like. The fitness articles in the men's magazines I've read-- men's magazines, I have to note, that are not specifically body-building rags-- are actually fantastic. They emphasize the pursuit of actual fitness and strength rather than the kind of body you're aiming to achieve, or at the very least they tend to say things like "this exercise is healthy for you and you'll also get abs" instead of "do crunches, get skinny!" (Note that the cover I used for this post's picture advertises a "high-performance" breakfast-- not a low-calorie breakfast or the like).

I picked up an issue that featured vegan athletes, and the article turned out to be really interesting. In a women's publication I imagine this kind of article would, again, put a large focus on athletes getting trim, but instead it emphasized the scientific aspects of veganism and how it helps build healthier muscle and sustain your energy levels.

There was an amazing piece on Michael Douglas, and it was just so refreshing to see a person on the cover not dressed up in pretty clothes and scrutinized over their weight loss or gain or their romantic interests. Any talk of Douglas and his looks or relationships seemed to directly relate to the narrative the journalist was trying to create, rather than being an essential talking-point just because.

I loved seeing a football-player dressed up in tweed and the like in a photospread, but that might just be me. (You might argue that for a men's magazine, this is the equivalent of a super-thin model, simply because conceptions of the ideal vary by gender. Men idolize big sports players and women idolize models. I'm sure this does have some effect on the male readership).

Also, the ads. Oh, the ads! So good! One that stood out to me was an ad for almonds. Let me explain: this ad featured a man riding a bike and a caption about how almonds give you the heart to perform. All I could think about when I saw this ad was how many lady-mags I've seen that have but one thing to say about almonds: they keep you full so you can be skinny! Celebrity X eats a handful of almonds for breakfast every day! Almonds-- not for your health, for your waistline! ALMONDS WILL MAKE YOU THIN! No, none of that crap here. Almonds are good, healthy fuel for your body. Overall, there was a general lack of beauty and weight loss products-- there may have been a protein powder or two, but the subliminal messages weren't nearly as common.

So this may just be a giant rant about how in love I suddenly am with Men's Journal. I pick it up every time I'm in the gym now, and it's truly fantastic. I love that the writing isn't fluff, that it's political and scientific and informative and deep. I love that it doesn't shove beauty standards down my throat-- and that it seems, at least from my female perspective, to not pressure men to look a certain way quite as much as some other man-targeted magazines. I actually just checked out their Mind and Body section online and it seems to have some awesome articles: Meditation! Workout playlists! Jack LaLanne! Microbes!

I found looking at Men's Journal empowering-- but disappointing at the same time. Women need something like this. I think many of the female-targeted publications really fall short of their potential to be critical and fun. Women like to think-- we do. We don't only care about celebrities and the new diet craze. We deserve a better magazine industry. There are small publications that are doing great things, I'm sure, but the majority of what I see on the newsstands isn't all that engaging, and it underestimates us. We'll get what we demand, and though men's magazines as a whole are certainly not without fault (some are quite misogynistic and macho, don't get me wrong), it seems that they do a lot more intelligent, well-rounded coverage. Maybe it's part of the idea that men are "everyone" and women are "the rest"-- but either way, we need to start asking for more, because it's out there. It's possible. And publications like these are the ones deserving of support, not the ones that encourage people to feel bad about themselves for a buck.

The easiest way to vote is to vote with your wallet. Buy only the glossies that you feel good about.

I tell you, fellow ladies, I will never (okay, maybe very occasionally) pick up a lady-mag again-- and I will certainly never pay for one. As soon as that Vogue subscription runs out, I know what I'm replacing it with.

So I ask you: have you ever picked up a men's magazine? What did you think? Why did you like it-- or why not?


Laura in... said...

It's funny (and sad) that I've never even considered buying a men's magazine. But you've inspired me to make the switch. I am often (actually, always) disappointed with women's magazines. Marie Claire used to be the best of the group with interesting articles about women around the world. But now those articles have shrunk and the awful beauty, clothing, body obsession articles have grown.

Thanks for this idea. I'll definitely be trying this out!

Sam said...

Don't forget the section in women's magazine on how to get the celebrity style for under a $100. I've pretty much have let my lady mag subscriptions die and now get National Geographic, Travel, and random photo magazines. I'm pretty much done with any gender specific ones, but I did have a roommate who would read GQ. She said it was a great way to understand the male mind. Not sure if that really worked for her...

Vanessa said...

Sam: Nat Geo is the way to go! I haven't had a subscription since I was a little kid, but I'd love to get one again. SO good!

Miss Peregrin said...

I tend to read smaller/indie type women's magazines rather than Cosmo/Cleo/etc. I made the switch when I realised that typical women's mags just pissed me off, and made me feel bad about myself.

I love reading men's mags though! Even the Cosmo/Cleo equivalents actually have smart, interesting & witty articles that don't insult your intelligence.

Always Something said...

I never read men's mags because I so seldom actually read mags... only oogle pretty pictures of houses. I know, I sound so deep right?

Jonathan Cwiok said...

We sell plenty of Men's Journals at my store. Let me know if you'd ever like me to send you a copy.

Herryponting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

For years I've only subscribed to mens magazines because of all of the reasons you you stated.

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