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For "him" magazines?

I just bought a copy of Top Gear PH - again. I don't drive, and I hardly ever consider myself a car enthusiast (unfortunately for me, the love of cars is non-transferable, even when The Boyfriend is competing for automotive contests abroad). But lately I've appreciated the magazine simply for what it brings - good writing on good cars. I may not know enough to understand completely how different a 338hp fares against a 306hp or how exactly traction control works, which essentially should strip me off the "right" to read about such things, but a lot of their pieces are rendered in such a way that these terms hardly get in the way of me understanding a car or the experience of driving it.

A few months ago I also grabbed for myself a copy of the local Esquire magazine, with MVP on the cover. It was mostly because one of my professors, Dr. Dalisay, had an article featured in it. But I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the rest of the magazine, even if it was targeted at the male audience. Sure, I probably couldn't care less about brown suits or the leather boat shoes to go with them. Or that there are better drinks (that you can concoct yourself using your stash of leftover alcohol) cozy party with a few buds other than beer. But I did appreciate the way they were written - clean, straightforward, and just the right amount of witty. Good enough for me to keep the magazine and look back on it again from time to time. The same actually goes for the few Top Gear magazines I also bought in the recent past

Meanwhile, I too had my fair share of the usual female magazines out there, that is Preview, Mega, Cosmopolitan and other similarly related reads (mostly bought by my mom at home, several I bought for myself here in the dorm). I will not apologize for the many various reasons I may have given in to these issues, because really, on most days, I just need a break from all the heavy academic reading and just want to look at lipsticks and lingerie without guilt. They do have some of the best fashion editorials and spreads in the country today - I think, given with my limited knowledge on fashion, they can very well compete with publications abroad. The fashion mags, mostly, are also highly promoting of the Filipino talent especially when it comes to fashion design and photography. So I think in the visual aspect, these female-target magazines do their job.

But I hardly get the satisfaction I'm looking for when I read through them. Sure, the pictures are gorgeous, and the variety of clothes/make-up they show (and blatantly require everyone to "have right now!") are completely up-to-date with the trends from overseas - something to give them credit for. But I don't find intriguing, moving writing in any of these pages. Or at least any kind of writing that goes beyond what is required of them. I get it that they are catered specifically for just one market, i.e. Preview for fashionistas, Cosmopolitan for single women, etc. I also recognize the fact that some of them have parent publications abroad, articles from which they have to have in their current issues in order to streamline the offerings all over the world. But do they really have to come out with just recycled,hackneyed fluff? Is there nothing else to talk about other than THIS NEW SKIRT YOU HAVE TO BUY or THIS BOY YOU HAVE TO PLEASE? More accurately, aren't there better ways to write about them?

Top Gear, for example, limits itself to mostly just cars but the way they present their articles always have that level of experience, that touch of humanity in them. You read about the entire driver's experience: how the shiny exterior had him at first glance, how the seat welcomed him upon ignition, how the steering wheel felt in his hands. It gives you so much more than just the specs and how much the car is worth. Of course, their articles are hardly literary, but they're not trash. They're something you can genuinely look back onto, especially those that involve a little bit of travel and culture (when cars are road-tested in various locations, local or international), and sometimes a bit of memoir too (when it reminds them of things past, or evokes something of the future). The apparent subject is there of course (i.e. the vehicle), but there's also some sort of insight - which makes it a more rewarding read on so many levels.

You can argue that shoes don't have much going on for them to elicit such a wordy, descriptive article. But says who? Who says you cannot write about the perfect outfit without the dedication of a car enthusiast? And isn't that the challenge of nonfiction - nay, any kind of writing - anyway? To write something different? To come up with a new approach on things?

One of my classes this semester (and probably my favorite; also the most demanding) is CW141 which is Nonfiction II. It covers speech writing, food writing, profile, travel writing, and the memoir - most of which are the types of nonfiction we find in various magazines. It's no surprise, considering that most of the essays on our reading list actually do come from mag publications: GQ, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Esquire, and the like. A lot of them were written more than a year ago - one even pertaining to events following the 9/11 attack - but they hardly sound out of fashion or dated. The form and style carried the pieces to a certain degree of timelessness, or at least an extension of relevance for until a next couple of years.

Of course I haven't read all men's magazines to consider them much more superior than their female counterparts. Especially with the recent FHM racism controversy, I hardly think they're the ideal publication to look up to. (I also haven't read FHM, Playboy, or any of that kind of "men's magazine" so that's not part of this equation.) I'm also not judging magazines that feature mostly fashion or photo spreads as second-rate compared to those which feature more pieces of writings. What I'm pointing out however is the seeming disparity between those that do have prose as their foundation, and how starkly different they seem to be, given their market.

What does this say about the quality of writing from both markets that cater to rather gender-exclusive audiences? I hardly think it's a reflection of the superiority of either male or female writers in general, because both kinds of magazines have both sexes in their teams. Some of the best pieces I've read in men's magazines are written by women. But what I don't understand is that the need for some writers to adjust their level of language or their tone just to suit the magazine they're writing for, so much so that it dumbs down the quality of the entire article. Why is everything so shallow in women's magazines, especially here in the Philippines? Is it simply because they are sticking to the "label" which they carry - that is, fashion magazines can only talk of lipstick, showbiz magazines can only talk of a celebrity's new flame, etc. Or is that the market's way of assuming that women in general hardly appreciate deep, insightful, investigative articles?

Women deserve so much more than just shoes and make-up. We deserve to read about our bodies that doesn't reduce us to being just objects of a man's affections. We deserve to have a magazine that genuinely talks about our experiences and our common desires, rather than just teaching us how to put on the perfect shade of metallic brown on our eyes for that perfect party look. I want to know about the stories of the people who wear such fashionable clothes, I want to see the places they go to when they wear these shoes.

But where do I find that?