women’s trash mags

I could go on and on about why I think women’s trash mags suck, but I’ll try and keep it brief.

Social expectations are defined by headlines that scream:
“Dumped for being too fat!!!”
“(She) is now totally unrecognisable!!!”
“Shock weight loss!!!”
And unfounded “Baby bump!!!” announcements.

women's trash mags

Which are then followed up with inane promises like:
“Flatten your abs!!!” (um, really? Is that how these things work?)
“Look better naked!!!” (“better” being…?)
“Get back in shape!!!“ (what’s wrong with the shape we are currently?)
“Slimmer! Fitter! Sexier!!!” (all things being equal, right?)

This is thinly-disguised as advice, which lures vulnerable and insecure women in to cultivate self-loathing. All for commercial gain.

Anyway, here’s an interesting twist.

AJ Jacobs gets an unwanted modelling gig.

A.J. Jacobs is an American journalist, author, and lecturer. He is also known for subjecting himself to lifestyle experiments and reporting his findings in books and essays. I’ve listened to many interviews where he talks about experiments such as Radical Honesty, The Year of Living Biblically, Drop Dead Healthy, and his latest one Thanks a Thousand.

He is currently an editor at large for Esquire men’s magazine. In 2007, A.J. had first-hand experience in sexual objectification, thanks to Mary Louise Parker, when he was assigned to be an editor for an essay of the actress’s choosing. Hoping to impress his boss, he was thrilled when she agreed to pose for a nude photograph. However, it came with a stipulation: that he, too, would have to pose nude for the publication.

A.J. recalls his experience in hilarious detail and explains what he learnt in the process; from insecurity about his body, to feeling an invasion of privacy. He describes his “concave chest” as “handy when taking a bath” but “not for human consumption”.

Yet, beneath the layers of humour, it’s interesting to consider both sexual objectification and expectations for how bodies “should” look — whether self-imposed or defined by societal demands. And then perpetuated by women’s trash mags. These insecurities can play out not only in nakedness, but also when wearing regular clothes and walking down the street.

Listen to the 13min 29sec podcast here.

A.J. Jacobs on The Moth

Read the Esquire article here.


For more information about A.J. Jacobs’ experiments, here’s a talk he did at Google. 47mins.