Who treats women more realistically?


Back off girlfriends, there's a new bastion of women's empowerment in town. Behold the UK edition of Esquire magazine.

As part of a panel discussion at the Advertising Europe Conference last week, Esquire's UK editor Alex Bilmes told the assembled crowd that when it came to its representation of women, the title was "more ethnically diverse, more shape diverse" than its female counterparts.

And his efforts to ingratiate himself with the sisterhood didn't end there. "In fashion magazines women are much thinner," Bilmes continued. "We have older women, not really old, in their 40s."


His case in point? Cameron Diaz who, at the "is-she-still-alive?" age of 40, adorned the November 2012 edition  legs spread and wearing her undies and suspenders.


Bilmes then told the assembled crowd that Esquire provides pictures of girls in the same way "they provide pictures of cool cars. It is ornamental. Women's magazines do the same thing."

That sound you hear is the echo of thousands of jaws dropping in unison. Of course we all know this is the underlying principle of all men's magazines, it's just that no one has ever been brave enough - nay stupid enough - to say it out loud before.

Even after potentially realising the hell he may have unleashed by comparing women and cars as if they are interchangeable, Bilmes didn't stop talking. In fact, he tried to play the "authentic' card telling the gathered crowd, "I could lie to you if you want and say we are interested in their brains as well. We are not. They are objectified."

So that's all right then. He's being honest and "just saying" and all, so that absolves him from being a sexist pig.

But perhaps I'm being too harsh to Bilmes? In a clarifying statement published on Esquire's website he rationalises reducing a woman's worth to that of a transportation vehicle by insisting that Esquire objectifies men too.

Aside from the small point that perhaps we should all try not to objectify anyone, Bilmes is still on shaky ground when you consider that Esquire's male "cool cars" haven't got their bonnets up and aren't showing off their gearboxes.

I'm not suggesting that women's magazines are any better. In some respects they're worse.

Not only do they portray an artificial and homogenous standard of beauty - and, by implication, worth - women's magazines systematically crush our self-esteem and induce intolerable insecurity by telling us that this standard of beauty is natural, healthy and, worst of all, attainable.

Neither mainstream men's or women's magazines offer a very diverse representation of body shape, ethnicity or age. And both are equally fixated with objectifying both women and men. Probably easiest not to ponder for too long over which one does more damage and just do yourself a favour and give them both a miss.

Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 4 books 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband, and OMG! That's Not My Child. www.kaseyedwards.com