A List of Things That Aren’t Magazines
- Variety shows
- TV shows
(I used to run something called an online magazine, but I don’t know why I couldn’t just call it a website. It was a website. I was wrong. Why can’t you just call it a website? A magazine is printed. When you print a magazine you have to deal with the post office. If you don’t deal with the post office then you’re not running a magazine. Clearly there are plenty of websites that produce magazine-style content. Still others run journalism. They are still websites. You can put journalism on a website and it is still journalism and you don’t have to pay postage. Are you calling it a magazine because “magazine” sounds smarter? Have you read magazines? Most of them are not very smart.)
Check out the subject of that prepositional phrase there. Yeah, on page two, it’s the assistant who’s doing the sleeping, that clever minx, not the boss who is pressuring her into the relationship like in the first half of the story.
Your hands are so hammy this week, NYT. It is like feminist media blogs don’t exist at all!
(And I haven’t even read local angles on this. Am I going to like what I see?)
You Deserve It!
Lord knows I understand that marketing is about responding to stereotypes because “data shows a certain group of people will always act a certain way.” The thing about good marketing is that you’re not supposed to admit to those terrible stereotypes; you’re supposed to find a way to stereotype without being a complete fucking asshole.
In this week’s City Pages, a local restaurant consultant named Jonathan Locke comments on “the Veto Vote” or the “picky eater” in the construction of a restaurant’s menu, and it turns out that this “picky eater” is the lady— the woman in the party, in general.
Locke explains that restaurants often can make concessions to the “veto vote”—the picky, hard-to-please diner in nearly every party who will rule a place out before setting foot through the door—as long as they don’t go too far and alienate their core customers. He uses the example of one of his early clients, Buffalo Wild Wings. When the local chain got its start, the restaurants were all about dude food—even the management referred to it as “gut luggage”—being inhaled by a demographic of young men ages 25 to 35. But they were losing business when the guys’ wives and girlfriends weren’t able to find things they wanted to order. So Wild Wings now serves five types of chicken-topped salads and a list of what they dub “You deserve it” desserts.
Locke explains what he calls the “lady food” logic, which pairs lighter, smaller-portioned items such as entrée salads, fish, and chicken breasts with voluptuous, high-fat desserts. “Because a lot of your customer base is going to order something really disciplined for their entrées simply because they’re looking for that dessert, and they won’t be able to reward themselves otherwise,” he says.
SEE LADIES BE ALL LIKE EATING CHICKEN AND FISH SALADS BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO GET FAT BUT REALLY THEY DO BECAUSE THEY LOOOOOVVVVEEEE DESSERTS. YOU DESERVE IT, GIRLFRIEND.
Usually I’m better at channeling my annoyance beyond sarcastic capital letters, but the article’s author, Rachel Hutton, chose to print that fine example (without commentary? do you really eat grilled chicken and fish and desserts every time you go out, Rachel?) as the sole example of the picky eater. I understand they’re not saying “all women” and just the “lady” stereotype, but there are better words for it, like “the person in the party who doesn’t want to eat chicken wings because it could be a man or a woman.” And, you know, keeping the “lady” wording wouldn’t be so terrible except:
But, Locke cautions, a restaurant like Wild Wings doesn’t want to court women diners so hard that the guys won’t come in. “You need to appeal to as broad a swath of potential customers as possible, while still maintaining a lean and distinct identity,” he says.
So you are, actually, talking about all women and not just “ladies” and controlling them on your menu via grilled chicken salads. You are saying that you can manipulate the number of female diners in your restaurant by featuring “you deserve it” desserts. Because women are such picky eaters that they go for chocolate every time (ack!).
And men are such awful, wing-eating pigs that they don’t go to places where there are a lot of women because god forbid you dip a celery stick into blue cheese right next to a table of single ladies having cosmos. Buffalo Wild Wings’ diners are so frightened of being emasculated that they would never go into a restaurant with too many women!
It would have been so easy to make a point about picky eaters without including the gender stereotype, but Locke and City Pages ran with it and now if I ever step into a Buffalo Wild Wings (I won’t) I will wonder if I am too many women for the guys.
Explaining the problem
A difficult part of being a feminist—something that I know I struggle with—is realizing that others don’t perceive the world exactly how you do. I’ve been at this for over ten years, and it’s easy for me to point out sexism, to look at a commercial and see that it’s degrading to women, to distinguish what I should be laughing at and what I should be disgusted by. At this point, I’ve lost a lot of my desire to keep up the education and explanation. Often when I feel like I’m fighting too much or like I’ll be too condescending, I tend to roll my eyes and say, “You just don’t understand.” It’s very hard to stop, realize why you’re angry, and explain rationally what’s wrong and how you would like to fix it. It’s the liberal problem, and it’s why we all seem like elitists a lot of the time.
For example, when a cover like this is published and you think, yeah, duh, of course that’s a sexist position, it’s hard not to roll your eyes and walk away when someone says, “What do you mean that’s sexist? That’s just how people ski!” However, it’s good idea to make an argument explaining why this is possibly degrading and what other editorial choices could have been made.
Or, when a reporter insists on focusing on a female athlete’s “aggressive” characteristics and ascribing them to her father, it’s easy to feel the need to explain exactly why that’s sexist. There are subtle differences in the way men and women are covered, and pointing those out is part of the goal of feminist media criticism.
However, when the local newspaper posts bikini photos and salivates all over a female athlete’s body instead of her athletic ability like a bunch of pathetic bro dudes, it’s pretty much my natural reaction to flip off the screen and curse a lot. No one should have to explain why that’s unacceptable in 2010. It’s pretty obvious why anyone would be upset, and everyone at the Star Tribune should know better than to publish that sexist fucking tripe.
Below is the letter I wrote to the Strib yesterday:
“Over the past eight years, Vonn has become as familiar a Minnesota legend as Paul Bunyan,” Rachel Blount wrote in her profile of Olympic skiing hopeful Lindsey Vonn, which was published online February 10. If only this were true! Except for the occasional brief story on the World Cup, Vonn’s face has been strangely absent from the Star Tribune, whether due to the Vikings or other obscure Minnesota connections.
That is, of course, until yesterday, with the Star Tribune’s Internet dude-friendly headline, “Lindsey Vonn barely keeps it on for SI swimsuit issue” and subsequent Newsbreak segments that feature James Lileks drooling over the skiing superstar. Yes, posting women in bikinis gets hits. Way to figure that out. But why is this the first substantial story on Vonn—a talented, well-known, and extremely qualified athlete—that the Star Tribune has published in months?
Vonn’s pictures are not controversial or new—plenty of female athletes have graced the pages of the swimsuit issue, or of Playboy. Nor is Lindsey Vonn doing anything wrong. It’s her choice to participate in those photos, and if she looks good doing it, then more power to her.
However, the level of taste with which the Star Tribune has covered this story makes me think that all those with any kind of sense have all been laid off and the newsroom is entirely staffed by dirty old men. I don’t want to read about anyone “barely keeping it on” in my newspaper; leave that for Spike TV, Maxim, and the swimsuit issue.
Vonn is a talented athlete, and Blount’s excellent profile describes that. Unfortunately, this profile now seems to be too little, too late. The Star Tribune has more or less ignored Vonn’s prowess as a skiier and focused instead on her sexuality—with descriptions that show little class or tact. It’s not 1974. “Celebrating” a female athlete for her body and not her immense professional accomplishments is disrespectful and disgusting.