Putting Men's Health Magazine under the microscope
Men's Health is a monthly magazine that is dubbed "the magazine men live by". Unlike other magazines for men, such as Ralph, which targets a much younger audience and blatantly peddles porn, Men’s Health magazine is supposed to be for a more mature audience (about 20 – 40 years of age) and purports to give men good advice about fitness, health, grooming, sex and relationships. Is it, however, just a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Does it promote androcentrism and encourage misogyny? The magazine certainly deserves a broader critique about how it portrays men, women and relationships. I’ll address that in a future blog. Today, however, I refer to an article from the magazine’s Australian website entitled “Is she the one?” It’s an article that is supposed to help a man decide whether to “keep” his “girl” or not.
The first thing you will notice when you open the article is the image of a lingerie-clad woman laying on the stage of a microscope. This image conveys a very unhealthy message that women should submit themselves to be evaluated by men like a passive specimen in a science experiment and should have no right to reciprocate by putting men under the lens.
This message is reinforced by the subheading “put your girl under the MH relationship microscope to find out if she’s a keeper or not.”
In sport fishing parlance, “keeper” is a term used by people to exclaim that they have caught a good fish (see video left). The derogatory meaning this confers on women is obvious, but it also shows disregard for women’s agency by helping to reinforce the common notion that men should hold the power to make all the decisions in relationships.
The article begins by explaining why it is, supposedly, so important to study “your girl” to see if she is a “keeper”. It explains that the “cost of marrying the wrong partner is way more than just replacing half your CD collection.” That is why every MH reader must “figure out whether [he] should put a ring on her finger.” Is any comment required?
At the heart of this article is the issue of character. In this case, the article outlines four (negative) character traits that men should look out for in their “girl” – being self-centred, impatient, fatalistic and unloving. The focus on negative character traits, rather than their positive opposites (i.e. service, patience, openness to change and being loving), gives the article a misogynistic tone. What it fails to mention is that strength of character is an endangered quality in our society, but not only among women! Both men and women should critically assess themselves to see what aspects of their character and behaviour they can improve.
In the body of the article, it explains “While you don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot, studies conducted by the University of Texas found her generosity of spirit is directly responsible for your happiness.” (Emphasis theirs). This is in the context of a paragraph with a subheading “Is she self-centred?” – ironic isn’t it?
“Does she have patience?” if not, the article explains, “once the honeymoon period is over and she sees the ‘real you’… …she’ll be out the door”. Here, the article places all the blame on the wife for wanting to end the relationship due to her (supposed) poor character (i.e. lack of patience). On the other hand, it seems that men have tacit approval to ignore flaws in their own character and simply expect their wife to be patient with them.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that the positive opposites of the character traits outlined in this article (service, patience, openness to change and being loving) are excellent qualities that everyone should strive to develop. This article is, however, an epic fail. It objectifies women and emphasises negative character traits, while virtually ignoring the possibility of men having flaws in their own character. It sends the implicit message that men are masters with the power to make or break their relationships with women.
Perhaps it’s time that Men’s Health magazine put itself under the microscope and examine its own flaws before giving men any more relationship advice.