Why Women’s Magazines Need to Stop Using Me as the Voice of All Men

Stuart Heritage writes those “what men think” articles for women’s magazines.

I write The Man Page. The page that tells women what men think.

I’ve always read women’s magazines. Almost always. Yes, there was that nasty period in my early teens when a graphic explanation of trichomoniasis in the Just Seventeen problem pages put me off for a few months, but we’ll skip over that. You see, I’m fascinated by women’s magazines.

I’m fascinated by their covers, which invariably shout, “HEY FATTY! EVERYTHING YOU DO IS SHIT, YOU MASSIVE SHITTY FATTO!” and somehow still drive sales. I’m fascinated by the terrible free gifts that come with them –- the sunglasses that deliberately lacerate your face, the lipgloss the colour of animal semen—that somehow manage to further increase circulation. I’m fascinated by the way that, after four decades, they still haven’t run out of sex tips.

I think I’m so fascinated by women’s magazines because just I don’t understand them. Which is a pain in the arse, because I write for them now.

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve been asked to write a handful of columns for a few women’s magazines. If you read them, you’ll know the ones I’m on about. I write The Man Page. The page that tells women what men think. The ones that all have questions instead of headlines, like Do Men Like To Be Chatted Up? and Do Men Like To Dominate Women? andDo Men Like Blue Things, Because I Just Bought My Boyfriend A Blue Thing The Other Day And He Didn’t Seem Very Interested, Is It Me, It’s Me Isn’t It, He Doesn’t Love Me Any More Does He, Oh God I’m Going To End It All Now Oh Jesus Christ I’ve Wasted My Life?  You know the ones.

 

See mum? I DO have a proper job.

 Anyway, this is how the commissioning process for these things goes. You get an email saying “Can you write 750 words on Do Men Think Women Look Sexier In Top Hats Or Swimming Caps?” You say yes, because it’s a famous magazine with a huge readership and also because you need money to stay warm and eat things. You sit down in front of your computer. You realise that your words must speak for an entire gender.

And then—nothing.

Because that’s a lot of pressure. Single-handedly laying out the uniform opinion of half the human beings on the planet is a big ask. Especially when you don’t know the answer. You do know the answer, of course. The answer to all these questions is always, “Realistically that depends on the individual tastes of the woman and man in question.” But you can’t write that because if you did the entire women’s magazine industry (xoJane too, probably) would die in seconds. So instead you have to generalise.

Now, figuring out what men think about stuff is quite hard for me, because I’m not really that much of a blokey bloke. I work from home. I watch X Factor for a living. I don’t like football. I bake things sometimes. On occasion, I will listen to jazz. I wrote the first four paragraphs of this article in a onesie, before I caught a glimpse of my reflection in my monitor, felt an all-consuming wave of shame rush over me and begrudgingly got changed into something less comfortable.

Me in a onesie. You’re welcome, collective female libido.

 So when I write these articles, I have to pretend that I’m more of a stereotypical bloke than I actually am. I pretend that I’m a mechanic, and that I’ve just finished staring menacingly at my topless Melinda Messenger 1998 calendar to bottle a nonce in the face down the pub car park and run off shouting the word “LAD!” into the sky.

“Do men want to dominate women?” I think, putting myself in this mindset, before answering “WOR, TITS!” and smashing a beer can on my forehead. In the end, these two sides coalesce into an awkward consensus, which is why most of the stuff I write for women’s magazines tends to read, “I suppose some men do want to dominate women, although personally I don’t really have a fucking clue.” Which is a bit of a swizz, really.

I’m sure readers of these magazines want something better than that, something written by someone confident enough to actually form opinions. Something that hasn’t been written by me. I don’t know why I write for women’s magazines. I suck at it.

(If you’re reading this and you work for a women’s magazine, please keep commissioning me. I need this. Christmas is coming up and my onesie is dry clean only.)

We know he didn’t answer the question here, but if you follow Stuart on Twitter @stuheritage he’ll definitely, absolutely tell you what men want. Promise. Original version

 

Stuart Heritage writes about film and TV for The Guardian, to little-to-moderate success. He co-founded LUVandHAT.com with Robyn Wilder, who you may have heard of. He also has a personal website that doubles as a dimwitted cookery blog. He wrote this bit, and doesn’t know why he kept referring to himself in the third person like this. It’s weird. He lives in London, and quite often really fucking wishes he didn’t.

By Stuart Heritage

 

Read more on Smashing Male Stereotypes on The Good Life.

 

This was previously published on xojane.com.

Read more from our partners at xojane.com:

I’m Defending a Comedian’s Right to Use Comedy to Deliver a Verbal Ass-Whoopin to Chris Brown

Who the F@#$k Is Supposed to Wash All These Dishes? Or How Much Being a Grown-Up for the Holidays Can Suck

I Miss My Campus Job Teaching People About Sex Toys (Plus, 5 Sex Toys That Always Freak People Out, Now Demystified)

 

Image credit: jessica mullen/Flickr

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About xoJane

xoJane.com, Jane Pratt's lifestyle site for women, is not about changing yourself to fit any mold of what others think you should be. It is about celebrating who you are. Like Sassy and Jane before it, xoJane.com is written by a group of women (and some token males) with strong voices, identities and opinions, many in direct opposition to each other, who are living what they are writing about.

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    “Do Men Like Blue Things, Because I Just Bought My Boyfriend A Blue Thing The Other Day And He Didn’t Seem Very Interested, Is It Me, It’s Me Isn’t It, He Doesn’t Love Me Any More Does He, Oh God I’m Going To End It All Now Oh Jesus Christ I’ve Wasted My Life”

    Yes! Brilliant send-up of the women’s magazine neurosis. It’s depressing that this stuff actually sells.

    I suspect they hire you to represent men because you use the word “bloke,” which somehow just sounds more masculine. Americans are nuts over UK accents — we watch British sitcoms on our “education” channels. Apparently listening to any British accent whatsoever, posh or cockney, is supposed to make us smarter or more well-rounded. Bloke, mum, even “lift” for elevator, just sounds wiser, somehow, so if you say bloke you must know what you’re talking about. Are you having a laugh?

    • “It’s depressing that this stuff actually sells.” – That’s exactly how I feel when it comes to things like pornography or Maxim magazine.

      The truth is that these kind of products exploit our weaknesses and don’t show the best sides of us.

  2. So Stuart – It’s all your fault! P^)

    I think the best that can be hoped for is getting out from under the generic of being the supposed token voice of all men – find a nice Niche where you can write as a real person and have a real existence.

    Of course – that aint going to work in the present media markets where the average gals mag treats men as only a percentage of the average woman’s existence and with a lower number than shoes, frocks, celebrity gossip and how to reduce facial hair. Mags are for preaching and controlling, not for being real and human.

    Besides – do you think the average gals mag editor is better acquainted with men the reality than their readership? For quite a while they were pushing the Queer Guy knows best ideal. I did have to ask, If lady reader can’t accessorize her flowers after giving a blow job, why would the Queer guy be more capable and better at it … the accessorize flowers thing that is! As a happy go lucky queer I have to say that I can accessorize flowers and I blow well too, but the two are not connected and fairies are not magical – just choosy in who they sleep with.

    I see Wife Swapping programs on the TV and I wonder when someone is going to do Editor Swap Lads Mag Vs Gals Mag. It would be a hoot! How about Editor Swap – the Guardian Vs The Sun or Daily Snail ? I can see Polly Toynbee in apoplexy! P^)

    PS – Merlin has had it’s day and generically over reached into silly territory and started to eat it’s own tail. Doctor Who has been going the same way too. Bring back Torchwood – silly but at least it was honest about it. P^)

  3. I laughed out loud at: “I’m fascinated by their covers, which invariably shout, “HEY FATTY! EVERYTHING YOU DO IS SHIT, YOU MASSIVE SHITTY FATTO!” and somehow still drive sales. ”

    It’s kind of true lol!

    And this also made me crack up: ““Do men want to dominate women?” I think, putting myself in this mindset, before answering “WOR, TITS!” and smashing a beer can on my forehead”

    I think if women who read those magazines were actually challenged with more complex article ideas, they would rise to the occasion. I long ago have left those kind of magazines behind me. I read them when i was 17-23. But after that time frame I began to see the bad messages and the silliness in them.

    But I love your article here. Very funny and true in a lot of ways.

  4. ‘Lipgloss the colour of animal semen’. HAHAHAHAHA. Superb.

    I stopped reading women’s magazines once I found out what an orgasm was and realized they contained nothing of further use to me.

    Nowadays I prefer to curl up with a pint of lager, my pipe and a nice copy of Men’s Health of an evening (for the photos of course), but I daresay Eve and I will probably cover the subject of ladymags in a podcast soon.

    Don’t be ashamed of your onesie Stuart. Actually, they’re kind of cute*

    Cath xx

    *on Andy Pandy

  5. The only magazine I never feel regret buying it maybe is just National Geographic Magazine.

    And I never buy any men magazine that using women half naked ( or naked ) as a cover model. They are like saying to me ” Hey man, your simple minded brain only like boobs right? here boobs on cover , you gotta buy this magazine” . Somehow I feel offended. Example : Playboy , FHM, Maxim, even GQ. Sorry boobs on cover don’t make me want to buy magazine with crap article. The only magazine for men I read maybe only Esquire, and they are using men (in clothes ) for cover model. Their fashion advices are pretty useful for me. But again there are still many crap articles on Esquire.

    Again I’ll stick with my National Geographic Magazines and enjoy all those high quality article and photos.

  6. Stuart, you’re brilliant!

  7. Ivread Cosmo when I’m getting my hair cut and entertain myself by texting the worst sex tips to my boyfriend. Hide a pair of your thong underwear in his laptop case so that he will be embarassed in front of all his coworkers! Shave your pubic hair into the shape of an arrow pointing down! Text him your craziest sexual fantasies while he’s really busy at work — guys LOVE being distracted during important meetings!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] others. Tom Matlack, who likes beer and loves his wife, is a real man. So is Stuart Heritage, who writes those “what men think” columns for women’s magazines and swears he’s not that “blokey” a bloke. How is it that, despite [...]

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