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Assess Whether You Believe That Representations of Women in Men's Magazines Such as Loaded and Fhm Are offensive and in Poor Taste.

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For those who have not taken the time to read a selection of men's magazines they may associate them with pornography or sport. Since the mid-90s, a crop of very successful magazines aimed at young men has emerged, spearheaded by the controversial Loaded. It is important for me to establish early on in this essay that men's magazines such as loaded and FHM, are general lifestyle magazines; the modern men's magazine is about sports and cars as well as sex, fashion, women, and humour. This essay will consider whether the sexual nature of these magazines is insulting and tasteless. One must bear in mind that taste depends on the individual; it is a personal judgement. What some people find in good humour others may find vulgar. As the notion of what is acceptable in our society varies over time so clearly it varies from one person to another.

Men's magazines, such as Loaded and FHM, could be looked at as offensive to both men and women as they reinforce stereotypical images of macho men and sexist attitudes to there readers. Feminist, Robin Morgan made some very bold statements when she wrote about pornography, she said that it encouraged sexual violence and rape against women: "Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice" She refers to pornography as humiliating women "Women are hurt and economically and sexually exploited in the production of pornography." (1)

Yet isn't it a brazen statement to refer to these magazines as pornography? David Gauntlett argues:

"Men's magazines are purely for entertainment, they are not seriously on a crusade to return to a pre feminist ideal or harm anyone in an attempt to provide entertainment." (2)

This is a common opinion where most readers are concerned. I feel there is an important difference where sexist attitudes come into play, between lifestyle magazines and magazines such as Top Gear or other car magazines which have half naked females draped across the body, for no apparent reason - as she isn't an accessory to the car!

Lifestyle magazines generally do portray women in a sexual way; they conjure up a shallow and unrealistic view. Some argue that the emergence of such magazines is an attempt to regain male dominance. Lacey suggests that it is the diminishing of men's power that has resulted in publications like FHM and Loaded, he says that the celebration of 'laddishness' is a desperate attempt to grasp what is left of traditional male identity. He is worried men's magazines are a reactionary backlash where angry men attempt to put 'their women' back in the kitchen (3). In a sense, what he's saying is that they encourage the 'good old days' of white working class male Britishness. Sanderson agrees and summarises men's magazines as "merry violence" of blokey, jokey colloquialism and a sense of humour that tends towards sexism, racism and homophobia (4). Thus downgrading morals of readers, planting a seed to a world where women are the weaker lower sex - Poor taste in any woman's eyes.

It is David Gauntlett that comes to the aid and argues that the magazines are not to be taken at face value, that they are there only as light entertainment and therefore not offensive:

"Further to the inclusion of sexist material and stereotypical images are enjoyable to the reader but are not likely to change their attitude towards society. Readers are able to reject such material and are able to make their own individual meanings from the messages in men's magazines." (5)

Here Gauntlett is urging us to give the audience of such publications more credit - they are not empty vessels waiting to be filled with sexist information.

Just by scamming these magazines we can see it is evident that they do include stereotypical images of both men and women. They depict a fearless, competitive, 'laddish' masculinity, ignoring the emotional, sensitive male, and women are depicted as objects for men's contemplation and enjoyment - That is poor taste.

It can be argues that as a result of magazines like FHM and loaded, there is a negative force in society - bringing about a pro subordination they objectify women and are openly sexist. Loaded is heavily laden with irony: its motto reads 'for men who should know better'; its features sport titles such as 'Juiced Up and Bacon Sandwich'. The rhetoric of the magazine runs something along these lines: 'Hey guys, we know it's sexist but what the hell, it doesn't mean anything. So it's okay to like Loaded cos we're post-modern, new men who know how to treat women properly' (6)

These magazines compare women's bodies to cars and give advice in some form, on how to fine tune your "bird's" body; this not only offensive to women, its offensive to men, its saying unless they explain it in simple mechanics men are to stupid to know how to work the female body. In January 2004 edition of FHM women are referred to as "sluts", proud of there photographic stance it states: "us boys like our pictures dripping with naked lady flesh" (p73) "Flesh" ? As in a piece of meat?

Magazines tend to portray only the outward display of masculinity, leaving out the emotional bit. Here one can see that the stereotyping of men within these magazines as macho male and ignoring the stereotypical 'emotional male' or even 'soft lad', can lead to problems and criticisms.

By looking at the style and content of loaded which we can see the extent to which stereotypes, sexist attitudes and 'macho' masculinity's are used. Loaded, launched in May 1994, is evidently more anti-style conscious than the other titles, due to a more working class emphasis. It is said to have played a large part in the social construction of the New Lad, a masculinity which Edwards describes as:

'Selfish, Loutish and inconsiderate to a point of infantile smelliness. He likes drinking, football and fucking, and in that order of preference... in short he is that most ghastly of all configuration, defensively working class which also means defensively masculine'. (Edwards, 1997) (7)

Sexism is an infamous trait of men's magazines, and it is believed that this will inevitably produce sexist attitudes amongst the readers. The November 2003 edition of Loaded includes: 12 pages of a " big sex orgy" / pull like a porn star/ cuddling lesbians/ Nympho night school lesbian spanking. It even declares itself at one point as a feminist: "loaded

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