Thursday, July 29, 2010

ELLE: a question raised

On a whim right before my flight home from Colorado, I bought a magazine. This is not an un-heard of phenomena. Actually, it is quite normal. I, knowing nothing about the colorful array of magazines, chose my magazine by its cover. I expected class, elegance, and style. The cover was crowded with blurbs about handbags, lipsticks, and fashion. In the center, stretched across this thick wad of glossy paper was Drew Barrymore. I’ve always had a soft spot for Drew since she’s in the classically beautiful Ever After. I chose the issue of ELLE. As I clutched the magazine in my hand and bought it, I caught a glimpse of one blurb that grasped my interest. It said, “Think you’re not hot? Why all men really want you now.” I’ll be honest. I don’t always have the best confidence and I rarely believe that I’m pretty. Therefore, my interest was piqued. I didn’t read it until about a week after returning home.

As I read through the columns, my eyebrows raised higher and higher on my forehead. My eyes grew larger and larger. My mouth dropped open and if flies had flown in my mouth, I would have gnashed them between my teeth. Yet, I was uncertain why I felt the way that I did. My feelings hung between extreme anger and total shock. My shock caused me to place the magazine on the floor and I walked away. Well, I came back to ELLE with a pen in hand. Furiously, I scribbled notes all over that article. I informed my college roommate, “I hope eloquence kicks in when I write my blog because this makes me so angry that I just want to swear.” Now, swearing is not an option so I do hope eloquence kicks in because I would like you all, my readers, to stay.

If the article didn’t start off questionably enough, I should have known by this phrase, “you are about to meet three men…but you won’t like them from what you hear coming out of their mouths.” It proclaims that these men are “model husbands and fathers.” Apparently, this article explores their alter personalities under this secure and safe label. Each of the men brags about their abilities to check out women and simultaneously fantasize about them. One man says that his actions could be compared to a “sexually repressed 80-year-old man.” Another of the men says, “I frequently think that if Felicia ever installed a camera in the car, our marriage would be over after one afternoon of her watching me drive around.” Even as each man’s statement rings with truth, they continue to brag about their sexual fantasies. No wonder the article is written by Anonymous. No wonder all the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

The writer of the article for research reasons decided to stand in front of different businesses with a tally clicker in his hand so he could “quantify his urges.” Mr. Anonymous even invited a woman friend along so that he would look less like a pervert. It’s interesting how much the author acknowledges the fact that there is something quite perverted in this activity. Throughout the article, he seems to be oddly seeking approval. After all, the author spends a paragraph assuming that women “are swept away by fantasy but just indulge much, much less frequently.” It’s the classic finger point of a child caught in misbehavior. Even when the author’s findings state that “roughly half of the women…were fantaziable,” the Mr. Anonymous later declares that women’s bodies rarely matter. This is not the author being sweet. Don’t be fooled. The entire article subliminally echoes with women are desirable simply because they are objects for sex. When Mr. Anonymous’ female friend questions, “I just want to know what is it about sex with women who you don’t know?” the author responds with the unsatisfying answer, “Do you go to the zoo and ask the tigers why they like meat?” That is an illogical comparison. Some may say that life without sex is unlivable, but man can live a life of chastity. Meanwhile, a tiger will die without meat.

The majority of the article is spent in a strange mixture of approval seeking, ability bragging, and sanity claiming. The anonymous author lingers over his “ghosts of sex not had.” In amongst this memory of sex-not-had, the author claims that “monogamy, though possibly a natural state for women, is not natural for men.” It’s a strong statement that is highly controversial. Since I am a woman, I feel like my ability to bicker with this statement has been stripped away from me. Therefore, I leave it. One question: Would men truly like to deal with the estrogen-packed environment that he would create for himself? (Actually, two questions: Why do you think the men of archaic times had a separate house for all their wives?)

The end of the article brought a rush of relief. First, the article was coming to an end. Second, the author admitted that one night stands are generally very disappointing. My eyebrows rose completely and totally off my forehead at this admission. He even finds comfort in his cohabitation and co-parenting with his wife. Thirdly, the author further surprised me by writing, “My wife is it. When I tell her I love her, I mean it in the deepest way imaginable.” I scribbled the word ‘hallelujah’ across the text. Mr. Anonymous is an author and he knows women. If he ends the article in such a heart-touching way, perhaps his women readers would fail to recall the body of his article.

I appreciate Mr. Anonymous’ honesty and vulnerability. He has just exposed the sexual predator in every male on the planet in response to a woman’s question of ‘why would you be attracted to me?’ Perhaps that is a tad harsh. Ever since I was young, I always heard older women excusing the wild behavior of their boys with the phrase, “Boys will be boys.” This excuse has lived on in the hearts of men today. They seem to live their lives under the awning of excuses made for them by our culture. Instead of learning to guard their eyes and thoughts, they relish the excitement of their sexual fantasies and inappropriate behavior under the approving shrug of society. Men, rise up. Stop allowing society to speak for you and set a new standard of life lived respectfully.

Women: you’re not off the hook. I think it would be fair to say that the poop has hit the fan. You heard me. We’re a part of this mess. All through my teen years, I heard the talks about modesty. I admit. I rolled my eyes. Yet, growing up in a house where modesty was enforced, it became a part of my life whether I liked it or not. Mr. Anonymous Author shocked me into the realization that modesty is crucial. He said in reference to the preferred female summer clothing, “It’s the feeling that I - a perfect stranger – could have this beautiful woman topless in a fraction of a second.” I was repulsed and began wondering how many of the men that I know had thought something similar in regards to me because I had been wearing a summer something. After reading that admission, I was prepared to find myself a potato sack. Women, dress wisely and don’t emasculate men by excusing their behavior. Challenge them to pursue a lifestyle that won’t have them fearing the loss of their wives.

Lastly, I find it very strange that ELLE would publish an article such as the one here by Mr. Anonymous. I know women desire to understand men and this article definitely gave a very clear picture of the occurrences that happen in the mind of a male. We’re all searching for honesty. Mr. Anonymous is very honest. Is it not interesting that he was honest in anonymity? Women rant that men should not objectify women. Yet, here in a magazine edited entirely by women is an article that basically says that women are desirable because they are objects for male fantasy. All of this can cause quite a bit of confusion similar to the phrase said from parent to child, “Do what I say not what I do.” Society screams that men should not objectify women. Yet, they turn around and publish articles that encourage this same action that was previously bewailed. The question of a double standard is raised.