If “lad mags” are correct, my attraction to women is bordering on the unnatural.
One thing I have found out recently is that, despite my maleness, I do not qualify in any way, shape or form as a “guy” or a “lad”. The reason, it would seem, is little to do with my own failings but rather to do with my relationships with women.
Reading or watching media targeted at me, a heterosexual male fitting neatly into the 18-34 age range demographic, can often make me feel uncomfortable – there are a glut of magazines, films and television shows which suggest that my interest in women is bordering on the unhealthy. The reason for this, it seems, is that I am generally interested in women as people, characters and personalities rather than just for their cleavages and their sex lives. This feeling, it would seem, is not shared by the journalists and editors of UK “lad’s” magazines, such as Zoo or Nuts, which will discuss one topic and one topic only with women: sex. Whilst men throughout their pages can be game designers, sportsmen, comedians, musicians, or anything they put their mind to, the women represented within are solely there to model various states of undress and spout unchallenging banalities which can be neatly summed up by, and progress no further than, (genuine) pull quotes such as these: “Christmas is the sexiest time of the year!” and “Frankie’s new boobs are lovely.”
One of many things I have been blessed with in my life is I have has always had strong and interesting women around me; the kindest mother imaginable, a Grandmother who moved across England throughout the war to help others, a partner who, until my arrival, was doing an incredible job as a single parent to two beautiful children whilst also being a director at her own company, and her four year old daughter who is, without a shadow of a doubt, the funniest person I have ever met. I’ve known ladies who have moved from Zimbabwe to become journalists, South Koreans who have come to England to study business, friends who have gone to Japan to teach, American scientists, Scottish honey makers – all passionate and wonderful ladies who have taught me so much on not just a range of specialized and specific topics but also about the world at large too and, as such, have helped me understand further my place within it. Yet it would be possible, if one were to take the pages of men’s magazines as gospel, to read Nuts, Zoo, FHM and Loaded for a decade and, whilst in this sheltered zone, not experience one single interesting or fascinating member of the opposite sex.
As a male, these magazines expect of their readers, of which, as noted above I fit perfectly into their target demographic, to share their values which can be neatly summed up by the phrase “being a lad” or a “bloke”. The UK’s FHM even has a “bloke” test each month which, I guess, I’m proud to say I scored incredibly lowly on; points are rewarded for answering positively to questions such as: “Have you ever been sick on a girl’s shoes?” To be a “bloke” comes with the understanding that men are active – they drive, they play sport, they make jokes, they do things. Conversely women, in the eyes of “blokes”, are passive—they’re there solely to be looked at, and have things done to them including, it would seem, having their shoes vomited on by “lads”. My worldview, one in which women can be so much more than their bra size, is at odds with lads’ mags ideologies and, due to this, I’d like to denounce my “guy-hood” or “bloke-hood” (if I ever had this in the first place) and issue a call to arms instead to all males out there who, like me, are bored of the idea that women’s only contribution to society can be posing in underwear.
The reason I do this is, in part, due to my belief in the feminist cause but also, at a much simpler, smaller and selfish level, I’m incredibly bored of the lazy media that is created for me and fellow men of my generation. I believe that we owe it to ourselves, as well as the ladies who aren’t given a voice in lad’s mags, to be the best men we can be – men, unlike “lads”, recognize how wonderful, weird, complex and fascinating women can be and we are interested in what they have to say. We’re not like self-centered blokes, who fantasize solely about women as two dimensional sex objects, in that we realize not all women are exclusively passive to our desires and their conversational pallet can extend much further than boob jobs and, ultimately, we don’t have entitlement to simply objectify them and subject them to our juvenile behaviors or pre-conceived notions. For those who take a moment to listen, it is more often than not the case that hearing women express their own fantasies, beliefs, hopes, dreams and ideas is much more illuminating and worthwhile than having the infantile ideologies of misogynistic males projected on to them.
If, like me, you’re fed up with not being able to hear women’s voices then the only solution is to seek them out. Don’t be afraid to ask what they think – if my enthusiasm for listening to the ideas of the opposite sex makes me unhealthy in the eyes of lad’s mags then I guess I will just have to admit that I’m not much of a “lad”, a “guy” or a “bloke” at all. Instead I’ll be much happier being a straightforward man; one who is not afraid of woman and doesn’t see them as a threat, one who delights in expanding my worldview by taking on board the voices of others. To me, a real man is someone who listens to and tries to understand the thoughts of those around him which, in pretty much all cases, consists of a multitude of women who have much more to offer the world than “Christmas is the sexiest time of the year!” If lad’s mags “blokes” find that peculiar, I don’t really care. I’d much rather be a man than a “guy” any day of the week.
Image credit: Jon Weatherill-Hunt/Flickr