Telling the truth often doesn\’t work

Esquire editor Alex Bilmes, 40, said his magazine prints pictures of “ornamental” women who should be admired in the same way that people look at “cool cars”.

Mr Bilmes made the controversial comments, designed to explain how men’s magazines operate, as part of a panel about feminism in the media at the Advertising Week Europe conference.

He said: “\’We produce a men\’s magazine and it has a male gaze… This is the controversial bit that people don\’t like but I always tell the truth about it – the women we feature are ornamental, that is how we see them.

“I could lie and say we are interested in their brains as well but on the whole we\’re not, they are there to be a beautiful object, they\’re objectified.”

His comments sparked a sexism row and led to widespread criticism on Twitter.

Well quite. Men do objectify women. Gay men objectify good looking men too.

No, not all men do this all the time. Just about everyone is entirely capable of differentiating between treating someone as a bit of eye candy and the relationship one has with another human being, thinking about their hopes and desires as well as just their looks.

But to complain about male objectification is simply to be complaining about the human race. Maybe it would all be better if this didn\’t happen: but it does, deal with it.

And I\’m afraid this is my biggest complaint with a large portion of political (and or politically social) thought. Maybe things would be better if people weren\’t greedy, ambitious, objectifying, whatever your cause du jour is. But whining about the way people are, about the internal; mental structures that evolution has provided us with, is a fool\’s errand.

Perfectly fine with the idea that we might want to try and make societal rules that curb the effects of some of these: quite happy that we combat greed with laws against theft, combat lust with both laws against rape and social mores about how we treat sexual partners. But there\’s a very large number of people out there who want to complain about the very existence of these human traits rather than accept them and then work out how to deal with them.

Men simply do look at beautiful women and, sometimes, objectify them. Shrug.

23 thoughts on “Telling the truth often doesn\’t work”

  1. Anyone you don’t know personally is essentially an object to you. I don’t see that this is especially true of women attractive enough to be depicted in Esquire.

  2. Could take this one stage further.
    People want to look at political solutions that promise utopias. One can moan & groan about inabilities to face reality but that’s how folks are wired. Gives a clue how to convince people of a political position, though. If one wanted to promote libertarianism.
    “Telling the truth often doesn

  3. You’ve overlooked the rather important point that women “objectify” (i.e. look at and aesthetically appreciate) men, as well.

    The point is, looking at people isn’t some kind of deviation that we should at best tolerate. You can’t get very far as an organism navigating the world unless you look at things and evaluate them. We’ve been trying to teach robots to do it for decades, because they can’t operate in the world without it.

    Anything we evaluate aesthetically will have an “ornamental” role in the media. The only problem here is a foolish editor using the language forms prescribed by activists.

  4. Even if women didn’t look at men as objects for their looks (and they do), they certainly do so on the grounds of status, cash etc.

  5. At the risk of channelling Swiss Tony, any beautiful woman who doesn’t appreciate male admiration is a miserable fool. Women have a good deal more power in this life than is commonly recognised in the dour PC western world, even the less physically attractive among them. If only they’d stop trying to be men.

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Let us restate the obvious – after abolishing English gentlemen as a class through mockery, education and consciousness raising, the modern woman finds that she does not like the modern Lad that replaced him and now wants to legislate to force men to be gentlemanly.

    This is not going to work. The Sixties told us to let it all hang out and unfortunately we did. That means for most men, most women have two main assets and they are not shy saying so.

    I am happy to support men who want to be gentlemen, for their own sakes if nothing else, but there is no way most men are going to do it unless women start being ladies first.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    Edward Lud – “If only they-d stop trying to be men.”

    Look at what women do, not what they say. And they are not trying to be men by and large. They are actually investing a lot of time and money in make up and other gimmicks to attract male attention. They may want to hide this fact. There may be a tiny embittered minority that rebels against this fact. There are certainly a large number of women who are too old to fool even themselves about the fact they can no longer do this. But there is it.

    Women want to be objectified. Which is why they wear lipstick. And any woman who says she does it for her own sake fooling herself in about the most pathetic way a person can.

  8. The feminist inversion we need to address regarding “objectification” comes down to why men look at pictures of women at all (and, as stated above, women look at pictures of men). The feminists with their crackpot theory try to claim that this degrades the thing being looked at, i.e. lowers its status. Does this make any sense?

    People don’t look admiringly at things they despise. Feminism has (despicably) copied the arguments of the American Civil Rights Movement in their attempt to prove that women are, like blacks, an inferior class subject to hegemony. But white Southerners didn’t buy magazines full of pictures of blacks to drool over. The only time you saw a black in, say, advertising, was as a maid using soap flakes or the likes. Pictures of beautiful women are “aspirational”. And aspirational imagery represents high status thigns that most people can’t have.

    A wealthy man does not buy magazines full of pictures of Ferraris and gaze longingly at them. He buys a Ferrari and enjoys the real thing. Ferraris are in short supply; most men can’t have one. Poor women buy Hello magazine and drool over some wealthy person’s gracious home. Wealthy people don’t do that, because they have real gracious homes.

    The same is true of beautiful women, who are a very small proportion of the female population. The much vaunted “male gaze” is not a look of oppression, it’s a look of “longing”, the exact opposite of what the Feminists claim. And the existence of such imagery proves to us that womens’s status is not lower than that of men, but higher. Most people, male or female, have neither a Ferrari, a gracious mansion, or an alpha partner. So, they make do with looking at pictures of them. And that’s really all there is to it.

  9. There are ugly women, unfortunately, and many of them resent the attention beautiful women get.

    I think this is quite understandable, even natural. But that doesn’t mean I have to wring my hands over it.

    And few things are more despicable than the sight of educated and well-remunerated but ugly older women demanding that not-particularly bright younger women be prevented from showing people their tits for money.

  10. Which is why we most hope for a cure for ageing in the near future. It should be this century’s “Moon Landing”. Very little of the misery of the human condition can be addressed without it.

    The tragedy of life is that everything you have; your looks, your vigour, your health, even your mind, will ebb away over the decades, and then inevitably your life itself. Life is absurdly short. On the thread issue itself, even being generous a woman’s physical attractiveness lasts about two decades out of, perhaps, eight.

    As Interested says, resentment of this is quite understandable, and sympathy is deserved. But you can’t solve it by trying to abolish human interest in physical attractiveness, which is neither acheivable nor desirable.

    So, let’s get the problem itself fixed. Then we can all be happier. And silly arguments like this one can finally be laid to rest.

  11. Drat, I was hoping a member of the hairy armpit brigade would by now have waded in for a bit of light trolling…

  12. Put them in Burkas so that the evil men can stop drooling over them. Another decade or so and Page 3 will be history in Londonstani!

  13. Honestly, why go explaining to them? These are not people that will chew over what you say and try to consider it, or even to think that some people are different to them. Anything you say to these types that they can use against you will be used.

  14. I’m surprised nobody has pointed out that women do the same. Maybe less than men, but I doubt that all Justin Bieber or David Beckham calendars are bought by gay men.
    How many women who have a picture of a half-naked hunky man look at it and think “Ooh, I’d love to find out what he is like as a real human being”?

  15. @ IanB

    “The much vaunted “male gaze” is not a look of oppression, it’s a look of “longing”, the exact opposite of what the Feminists claim.”

    The problem (from the feminist perspective) is that this is the wrong kind of longing. We should not long for women because they are beautiful.

    As Tim says, this is to ask the impossible. That people (male and female) admire beauty, strength, welath, status and whatever else there is to admire is an evolutional inevitability.

    The analogy with a Ferrari doesn’t really work. A Ferarri is supposed to be beautiful, and fast, and a sign of status. That is the raison d’etre of the Ferrari and there’s no reason why someone should not long for a Ferrari for those reasons.

    A human is supposed to be much more than the picture in the magazine. The feminists don’t believe women should be longed for on the basis of what’s in a picture (some don’t believe women should be longed for at all, but that’s another matter).

    There is nothing wrong with anyone being unhappy about being ‘wanted’ for the wrong reason. I would not want someone to be attracted to me because of my paycheck, or my speedy car, or my godlike physique.. because these are not the qualities which I value (or which actually exist). The problem with so many feminists is that they project their own feelings on the matter onto everyone else.. and so it’s somewhat problematic when a large number of woman actually do rather want men to be attracted to them because of what they look like.

  16. Alex – re no-one pointing out that women slaver over men, IanB and Mr Ecks have done?

    We’ve all seen the Diet Coke ad, we remember the Chippendales, and many of us will have had Saturday jobs where we’ve had our arses pinched by cackling old trolls. I can’t be the only bloke who has been wolf-whistled by women? (Admittedly in my younger days, and they were pissed, and possibly short-sighted.)

    @Tim Almond, personally I’m not trying to explain to them, I’m hoping – during coffee breaks – to convince floating voters to the correctness of my beliefs, because I think the failure of ‘the right’ to care about or cultivate the floating voters is a large part of what has landed us where we are.

  17. TTG-

    The problem (from the feminist perspective) is that this is the wrong kind of longing. We should not long for women because they are beautiful.

    That may well be the emotional driver, but what I was trying to get at is that Feminist theory describes this not as “longing” from afar for something, but as the articulation of male class oppression on an oppressed lower class of women, as with white oppression of blacks, which is simply the wrong model.

    Part of the problem with talking about a “gaze” is that it implies that there is only one type of gaze; in fact we’re in the realm of human body language which is very complex and our complex facial muscles can display all manner of emotions. I happen to be particularly foussed on this at the moment as I’m doing facial rigging of a 3D model in Blender and, crikey it’s subtle stuff 🙂

    So the point is, I can look at you in all kinds of ways. I can look at you admiringly. I can look at you with contempt. I can stare you down so you feel all uncomfortable. Simply talking of a “male” gaze doesn

  18. Further to Interested, it is worth noting that much of the “female gaze” has been subverted by teh gays. Hunky males used to be considered to be intended to appeal to women, hence Captain Kirk getting his shirt ripped at the least opportunity to show his (shaved) chest. Nowadays that is presumed to be “homoerotic”. I remember recently reading somehwere a casual observation that American TV stations used to show Steve Reeves movies in the afternoons, for the housewives. There really is just as much “female gaze” as “male gaze”. It’s just that nobody cares about it.

  19. “A human is supposed to be much more than the picture in the magazine. ”

    It is, but I think the aggro comes in when people insist the two are interchangeable. Ignoring the possibility that someone might be able to respond differently to a person than they do to a picture of same.
    And vice versa, that someone might be ok with/want an audience responding differently to a picture of themselves.

  20. As the sides on endless LT buses say “Some people are gay – get over it”.

    Some (many more) people like looking at eye candy women – get over it.

    Alan Douglas

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