In case you have never actually given it a thought, there is a striking difference in the values that men and women magazines promote. Here is my point of view on the topic, as well as an observation on what should women read if they want to be who they really are.
Where does this Cosmo vs. Playboy issue come from?
The first time it occurred to me that there’s something wrong with what we are exposed to in our monthly pastime reading was when I chose to analyse magazines for my master thesis. My focus was on how English influences the language of journalists, who further influence the vernacular, i.e. the language of general population, i.e. people like me.
My source materials were the supposedly appreciated, status magazines, such as Cosmopolitan and Playboy, as well as some minor ones, mostly tabloids, the names of which do not matter in this context – none of my readers are likely to know any of them, so no real need to even mention them. But, with Cosmopolitan and Playboy, I believe there’s virtually no person in the world who has not heard of them, or better yet, who has not read them at least once in their lives.
The results of my analysis surprised me as I was expecting to learn something else, but they also left me wondering: do I want to keep reading Cosmopolitan, or could it be better for my brains and my personality, in the long run, to switch to men magazines completely?
What deepened the Cosmo vs. Playboy gap?
I recently stumbled upon a women’s life style website, appropriately called the Women’s magazine. I signed up for the regular newsletter updates.
On that very website, I saw the Men’s magazine banner on the side, and signed up for their regular newsletter updates as well. They are completely the same in design and the visuals, the only differences being the name and the content.
I figured, let’s just wait and see which one has better or more interesting reading material to offer.
It’s just my annoying habit of signing up for hundreds of mailing lists, until they suffocate my inbox so heavily that I manically opt out of them, but only when I get sick and tired of such high volumes of virtual trash.
And then, sooner than I thought, the newsletters started arriving to my inbox regularly, almost at the same time. And there it was, an astonishing realization that one of these was pure trash, while other offered more useful tips and tricks, as well as truly meaningful information that are likely to outlive the website.
Playboy vs. Cosmopolitan: which gives women a run for their money, or: The women vs. men magazine discrepancy elements
For the sake of this blog post, I left several newsletters in my inbox so I could analyse them.
In the following results display, I briefly keep the main title of the article, accompanying it with a category tag in brackets.
I will try keeping the categories the same for both women’s and men’s magazine, to simply show where, if at all, do they intertwine.
So let’s start.
Exibit 1: women’s magazine newsletter 1.
Topics covered: Nude swimwear – 2017 summer trends (fashion); how to be in shape – 7 myths not to fall for (sports); spices that are good for you (nutrition); new frangrance: Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps Eau Florale (perfumes); bunny plant (world entertainment trends); elegant suit – fashion trend for men (fashion); flat shoes inspired by the Nut Cracker (shoes); travelling alone (travelling); don’t forget your friends while you’re in a relationship (relationships); spring depression (health); healthy sweets (nutrition); Midnight Romance romantic underwear (clothes); what your eyebrows tell about you (beauty); 10 interior design this year (home décor); exercises for pregnant women (sports); inspiring quotes by Jacky Kennedy (celebrities); floral tunnel in Japan (world entertainment trends); re-live your dead plants (gardening); yellow bridal bouquets – yay or nay (weddings).
Exibit 2: men’s magazine newsletter 1
Topics covered: funny video on how to become a sex god (sex); Megan Bernard photos (cover girl); girl who spent 13 thousand pounds on tattoos (tatoos); new frangrance by Diesel (perfumes); how to distinguish a fake cell phone from the original one (technology); new Gold R in Geneva (cars); food that you can eat as much as you want (nutrition); Spanish corrida (world entertainment trends); double boxing knockout (sports); inflatable hoodie (fashion); design your own phone cover (arts and crafts); Baby Driver trailer (movies).
Exibit 3: women’s magazine newsletter 2.
Topics covered: the man you deserve based on your horoscope sign (relationships); Diesel Matrix jeans discount (fashion); 10 trendy shirts for the spring (fashion); nail polishes for the spring (make up); 100-year-olds reveal their beauty tricks (make up); DIY hair removal method (physical beauty); breast cancer day (health); high street brands cute blouses (fashion); spring boho hairstyles (hair); best abs workout straight from Instagram (sports); best butt exercises (sports); spring street style outfits (fashion); Scotch&Soda Chino pants (fashion); DIY tired feet remedy (self help); how to clean your purse at home (fashion); divorce causes (relationships); Pamukkale (travelling); intimate massage for men (relationships); cute DIY cupcakes (nutrition).
Exibit 4: men’s magazine newsletter 2.
Topics covered: new hairstyle (hair); top 10 Rolex watches of all times (status symbol); polish your car (cars); forbidden dogs (pets); bucket list before you are 50 (status symbol); massage her into an orgasm (relationships); spider web ties (fashion); passport colour (knowledge); grow old with style (status symbol); actors that play the same roles over and over (celebrities); food that eliminates heart attack risk (health); Transformers 5 trailer (films).
Exibit 5: women’s magazine newsletter 3.
Topics covered: best all time hair styles (hair); horoscope reveals your perfect outfit (fashion); Levi’s 501 skinny jeans (fashion); transparent spring apparel (fashion); what to wear for your first date (fashion); how to wear blue eyeshadow (make up); what women do when they are alone (entertainment); French beauty tips (make up); how to wear oversize earrings (jewellery); no make up – yay or nay (make up); why your diet is not working (nutrition); how to turn your exercises into entertaining activity (sports); 30 intimate questions to ask your partner (relationships); why men never divorce for a lover (relationships); signs that reveal he’s not a keeper (relationships); Novi miris: Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy Now 2017 fragrance (perfumes); stress relief videos (entertainment); how to decorate your home with photos without a drill (home décor); science works for sex (sex); the perfect coffee to start your work week (nutrition).
Exibit 6: men’s magazine newsletter 3.
Topics covered: how to make your car theft-proof (cars); in what men differ from women (relationships); 5 must have accessories (style); Baselworld 2017 fashion watches fair (status symbol); beat headache in 5 minutes (health); walk daily (health); demon cats (entertainment); check your sperm with your cell phone (health); BMW fair in Belgrade (cars); Nike Air Max 90 – Dark Raisin (fashion); 2Cellos concert (music); Justice league 2 trailer (film).
Exibit 7: women’s magazine newsletter 4.
Topics covered: horoscope signs that easily fall in love (relationships); Belgrade Fashion week (fashion); Guess spring shoes (fashion); best H&M spring apparel (fashion); compromises in relationships (relationships); Easter manicure (make up); high street powder pink purses (fashion); best 2017 summer swimwear (fashion); silhouette wrapped in lace – best spring wedding dresses (fashion); spring jeans (fashion); nail care (make up); Easter eggs ideas (home décor); Instagram Prince (entertainment); tennis star new home (celebrities); health laws (health); egotistical horoscope signs (relationships); family vacation in Dubai (travelling); Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ (technology); feng shui aquarium (home décor); corset belts spring trends (fashion).
Exibit 8: men’s magazine newsletter 4.
Topics covered: women reveal what they dislike about men (relationships); weight lifting is better than cardio (sports); Jayde Heisler (cover girl), celebrities’ watches (status symbol); dangerous headaches symptoms (health); horror movie stars in real life (entertainment); Japanese weight loss (health); men who age with style (status symbol); best footballers hair styles (fashion); Guinness world record (entertainment); Lamborghini Huracan (cars); Spiderman Homecoming trailer (film).
Exibit 9: women’s magazine newsletter 5.
Topics covered: what your birth month reveals about you (relationships); perfect hair colour according to your horoscope sign (hair); Japanese flat abs method (sports); last year’s beauty trends (make up); science proves all women gossip (entertainment); Tommy jeans ‘90s Hilfiger Denim 2017 spring collection (fashion); rice, onion and cucumber geisha diet (nutrition); 5-year-old’s bucket list to do with their mom (family); horoscope signs that prefer solitude (relationships); Rihanna in Fenty X Puma ad (celebrities); trendy spring jewellery (jewellery); sex side effects (sex); coloured shoes (fashion); dogs (pets); luxurious backless wedding dress (fashion); morning lemon beverage (nutrition); 8 gym workout no-no’s (sports); feng shui plants (home décor); food intolerance according to face types (nutrition); photos to make your day (entertainment).
Exibit 10: men’s magazine newsletter 5.
Topics covered: 10 Reebok spring shoes (fashion); men women fall for (relationships); 7 secret men fetishes (relationships); women who fake organism (sex); all you need to know about aquariums (home décor); DIY muscle milkshake (nutrition); get rid of bad breath (health); Black Insomnia coffee (nutrition); Uvolt cell phone charging watch (technology); flying car of the future (cars); eat peanuts (nutrition); IT horror movie you can’t see alone (films).
Here are some conclusions drawn from a surface analysis of the given exhibits.
1: Content length
It has not come to my mind before I wrote down the topics covered in these newsletters, but do you also notice the trend in content length for women’s magazines vs. content shortness for men’s magazines?
In fact, women’s magazines tend to publish up to 200% length of men’s magazines, which, in the long run, gives women a lot more material to read. Now, that would not be the problem if the material was a quality one, which is definitely not the case. At least not to me.
2: Topics covered
Women’s magazines mostly cover a wide range of subtopics on several major topics that could well be summarised into fashion and trends, beauty and make up, home décor, family and relationships, dating tips, workplace, celebrities. In particular, the subtopics are as diverse as fashion, sports, nutrition, perfumes, world entertainment trends, fashion, shoes, travelling, relationships, health, nutrition, clothes, beauty, home décor, sports, celebrities, world entertainment trends, gardening, weddings; and it goes on and on and on and on, with one and the same subtopic covered several times in the same issue. Why?!
Men’s magazines, on the other hand, cover more diverse subtopics, ranging from relationships, sports, cover girls, status symbols, health, entertainment, fashion, entertainment, cars, technology and film. Interestingly, they are more interested in life hacks, technology, useful everyday tips and tricks, car maintenance, status symbols (reflected in watches), as well as pretty girls and prestige.
Whoa, what? Men compete in prestige? Yes, men compete in prestige, while women compete in as unattainable notions of a passing physical beauty.
Although there are major topics that are the same in both women’s and men’s magazines, such as sports, technology, cars, health, maybe even nutrition, it is the theme that truly differs: while women are told what to do to change something, men are told how to hack things easily.
3: Writing style / approach
This may be my favourite one, since the audience approach is what strikes the most.
Articles titles for women’s magazines most often go like this: spring fashion trends, summer swimwear trends, trendy jeans, trendy this, trendy that, what’s in at the moment; perfect something based on your horoscope sign; how to dress for the first date; how to lose weight before the summer; the perfect make up; compromise for a relationship; lose weight effortlessly; healthy nutrition; and on and on, in the same manner, for hundreds of pages.
Although the titles are most often meant to emit the message of loving yourself just the way you are, why isn’t the accompanying essay written in the same manner? Rather, they tell you to accept yourself the way you are, while at the same time working day and night on becoming somebody else – either his perfect girlfriend, or every other girl’s nightmare if you look better than her.
On the other hand, men’s magazines titles mostly go like this: how to polish your car, differentiate the fake cell phone from the original one, warning signs of a serious health threat, what men like most in sex, men with status symbol, grow old in style, all-time hair styles for men.
No single directive on how to change yourself to be a better person for somebody else beside you.
4: Psychology vs. manners
It seems to me that women’s magazines focus on two super categories: psychology and beauty, with the aim of transforming the personality of their reader for whatever cause, hence in the long run convincing the woman she’s not good enough the way she is.
On the other hand, men’s magazines focus more on prestige, status symbols and genuine gentlemen style. They do not intend on changing the man, but rather teaching him subtle nuances of what being a true man means, giving him the wider perspective, focusing on the future rather than on the moment (trendy this, trendy that, remember?).
I may not be able to explain in depth here just the way I intend to, as I have a slightly limited vocabulary or lack certain expressions, but what I do hope I have achieved is directing your attention to what you are exposed to on a daily basis, being a man or a woman, and how the media portrayal of certain social groups is further pushed into society hence forming it the way they find it amusing at the moment.
I started with Cosmopolitan and Playboy as they served as a spring board, but used other sources for my current analysis, as that is what I have at my disposal for the moment. Hopefully, I will one day have the time to delve deeper into Cosmopolitan vs. Playboy issue, and I guarantee it to be an interesting reading as well.
For the sake of this piece of writing, I hope I proved a point. Or, at least, that I have raised awareness on critical thinking when it comes to pastime reading materials.
Have you got any insights into the topic? Feel free to share!