Friday, May 7, 2010

Esquiring Minds Want To Know

Leafing through Esquire's May 2010 issue - ostensibly dedicated to women, if "women" is defined as "sexy, sleek, somehow rumpled and gorgeous scotch-drinking babes" - it becomes hard not to fall into that despairing pit of WTF. I also love women, but I'm not sure Esquire would love me.

The cover model is a heavily Photoshopped Christina Hendricks; she's undeniably fantastic-looking, but I somehow doubt a woman with a rack that size has thighs the circumference of a baseball bat. I'm not a regular reader of Esquire, so I'm not sure if they use curvier broads on their pages all the time, but I'm glad to see it, Photoshop aside. And Hendricks is such a babe! They've got her posed on this red backdrop, with her famed breasts on display. I love it.

Inside the mag, there's a bunch of stuff going on. Some of it is cool, some of it is decidedly lame. I mean, a profile on Paris Hilton? Does the world really need that? It's more of the same blathering drivel: she's different in private! She has pets! She does actually do stuff! She's not as wild as they say! Shut it, princess. I stopped caring about you and your prancing bullshit years ago, and Esquire didn't need to remind that you're around. Colour me resentful.

Same with the halfhearted profile of Lady Gaga, written by a friend who, it seems, might have stopped hanging out with her in 2007. I have a soft spot for the pantsless diva. Her music is catchy, and her public persona is so interesting. She's sort of like Andy Warhol, in that they both seem to hold a mirror up to the American and global public, but the reflection is distorted and strange. Illuminating. Anyway, the Esquire profile didn't really crack any Lady Gaga-related mysteries wide open, which is a shame. I know she's a busy woman, but they couldn't talk to her? Boo.

There was also a survey of women - 79% of us like the size of our boobs! Whoopee! - taken from Esquire's website, along with a handy guide to women: what we mean when we answer the phone, or what we want when we get the sniffles (a flu fort made of Vick's VapoRub and all the blankets in our apartment, apparently, which I'm not going to argue with).

I'm not sure how I feel about this issue. Frankly, the reason I like men's magazines is because they seem to promote the idea of having a good time. Women's magazines seem so serious. They're all about relationships, sexy-at-all-costs, and the dire consequences of just about everything fun. Men's magazines have a devil-may-care attitude that are all about brown leather bomber jackets, graying hair, knowing how to grill a lamb chop, digestifs, dating latina supermodels, and knowing what an orchid looks like. They show off the finer things, and regardless of your station in life, you can generally find something in your price range. Can't afford the $138 dollar skin serum? Then try the $4 moisturizer.

So. When a lad's mag puts out the women's issue, there's a bizarre intersection between why I read men's magazines and what it means to be a woman. Because I am not the target of Esquire's lust. Sure, they've got some foxy/normal 27-year-old babes in their pages, spouting things like ""I always had this dream of being an overhyped starlet. That I'm not one is rather disheartening." But the reality is, I'm an anxious, too-curvy young woman who fails to adequately maintain her eyebrows. I'm not really seeing myself in the pages of Esquire, and that's not a surprise.

Because the Valentine to women, from Esquire, is for a certain type of women. Oh, sure, she's confident. She's professional. She's sensual. She enjoys a great, meaty red wine and laughs throatily with her head thrown back. And, without any judgment at all, those women are all about men. The throaty laugh, the sensuality...whether it's natural or engineered, those women carry men's attention everywhere they go.

Men don't do that. Even the most proficient of lady-killers (I'm looking at you, Clooney) has something that retains a boys-only vibe. Maybe it's because the type of man Esquire men aspire to be live in a very male world: the world of top executives, of high-end chefs, of golf, of politics. Rarely do men in those circles see women as peers. They're usually not. So women, at that level of success, are exemplary at holding at catching a man's attention because it's part of who she needed to become in order to succeed. And those Esquire types get used to that. They come to see it as normal.

Maybe that's why the women's issue rings a false note. With the notable exception of Hillary Clinton, most of the women featured in this issue will never rise to the level of success a man might. Those who do, do it in superficial fields. They're models, singers, actresses: women who don't have the power to affect change on a global level. Sure, Lady Gaga might be changing the face of entertainment, but it's pop music we're talking about. It's not exactly moving political mountains. That's not entirely their fault: I wish they'd take a gamble and interview someone who wasn't directly tied to being professionally attractive for their next women's issue, but for women, being attractive is part of the deal when it comes to success.

I appreciate a lot of what Esquire was trying to do, and the issue was well-curated and an interesting read. I lied when I said wasn't an Esquire babe: we're all Esquire babes in some way. I happen to mostly not be an Esquire babe, but I like scotch and flu forts, and I like men and trying to figure them out. And men, apparently, are trying to return the favour.

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