I’m not a fan of Maxim magazine, and one glance at any of their covers will tell you why. Geared towards a hyper-masculine gaze – the intense sexualization of the models, the constant reinforcement of the message that women’s role is one of sexual servitude, the comparisons of women to toys, puppets, or food items – the singular, narrow definition of beauty is really too much for me to handle.
Recently, I was reminded of one of Maxim’s egregious offenses that deserved some revisiting.
A few years ago they printed an article with a woman shown in four “phases,” headlined “How To Cure a Feminist.” The implication is clear – that feminists are anti-male, that feminists all look and act the same way, and that feminists are unattractive. It implies that feminists need to be “cured,” because they supposedly don’t act the way girls and women are “supposed” to act.
The image and its captions show the ways in which a man can transform a woman – from what they deem as repulsive into what they deem as acceptable and desirable. The way he does this, it seems, is primarily through manipulation.
I’m sure that Maxim thinks this article is funny, and that “humor” will appeal to its readers. But really, the article is wildly offensive, and there are oh-so-many reasons why.
From the way women are portrayed as being as easily programmed as robots, to the stereotypical descriptions of feminists as non-shaving, combat-boot wearing man-haters, to the idea that all feminists have a repressed Barbie inside of them just waiting to burst out into a Malibu dream house.
It’s impossible to ignore that as the woman is “progressing,” she loses more articles of clothing.
Worst of all, the final image suggests ways to manipulate her “feminist-tinged interests” to make them palatable to the sex-starved male, and to ensure that he gets some physical action for his efforts in transitioning her to what he considers a “real woman.” Frankly, I consider the last image’s caption to encourage coerced sexual activity, making it actually dangerous.
Feminism is about being judged for your competency and skills, and not for the size of your breasts, or the size of your waist, or the symmetry of your face. It’s about not coding certain actions or characteristics as exclusively “feminine” or “masculine.” Maxim, however, is here to tell me that I’m wrong about that!
Maxim tells us through this article that women who don’t shave aren’t real women, that women who are militant aren’t real women, and that women who protest aren’t “real” women. These are characteristics that Maxim thinks are either masculine or not feminine enough, and therefore, true women would never embody them.
Maxim reinforces the old notions that feminism tries to fight – that women are only worthy of attention if they fit into a terribly narrow definition of being physically attractive, and if they are interested in men. (And here, of course, “attractive” seems synonymous with “nearly naked”.)
This article does a real disservice to those of us who fight for the true ideals of feminism, and for the benefits it reaps for everyone. I think I’ll continue to avoid Maxim’s “advice.”