A word (or a few) on Men’s Fitness’ January Issue

One look at the cover of Men’s Fitness January issue and I already feel exceptionally unfit.  The cover displays Matt Bomer’s thick arms and chiseled (is it cliché to say chiseled?) abs through a soaking wet white t-shirt, and his ‘hors de série physique’ is boarded by all caps texts that read “NEW YEAR: NEW BODY! GET BACK IN SHAPE!”, “THE 7% BODY FAT DIET!”, and of course “(MUCH) HOTTER SEX THIS YEAR!”–the last of which earned me a sententious look from my cashier at Rite Aide. I immediately responded by predicting fictitious encounters surrounding the magazine:

“Hey, Dan! Oh…trying to get fit for the New Year?? ;)”

“Actually, I’m using this as research for a new piece.”

“Sure. Matt Bomer’s abs are really going to help you out with that later.”

Needless to say, I asked for a bag.

I’m home and flipping through the magazine’s, aggressively advertised, content and it doesn’t take me long to spot a few trends in the formatting.  Font: traditional Times New Roman.  Column size: super thin, averaging 4 words a line (quite apropos for the issue’s theme).  Headings: colored, bolded, and multitudinous.  The magazine comprises of advertisements, different “chapters” of themed tips and practical knowledge categorized as “Breakthroughs” and “Game Changers”, more advertisements, features writing, and high-def pictures of sweaty/muscular men.

I look through the Features section of the Table of Contents to find out what page the profile of Matt Bomer is on. When I finally find it (preceded by a “Sexual Peak Performance” advertisement) I skim through, reading the first lines of several paragraphs, and it becomes clear that I am not feeling the piece.  “‘Aren’t you on TV?’ asks a clerk inside…the Oak Tree Gun Club.” A guy in a gun club, what virility.  “…Bomer is preposterously handsome in person.” Like I needed you to tell me that. “At lunch, Bomer orders light…” Oh. Would you expect him to order a cheeseburger during his interview for a fitness magazine? Also, why is he wet in all of these pictures??

I try again and go back to the ToC. As it turns out, the “Game Changers” section seems like a more concise version of the features, so I flip to page 28 to read about “Arms: Sleeve-ripping abs!” As I’m turning pages, I think about the nonsensicalness of the subheading (…perhaps the Table of Contents editor needs a lesson in anatomy?), and when I arrive at my decided page, a photo of an armpit hair-less/shaven model with his (bulging) arms lifted up on either side of his head grasping the rope to some form of exercise equipment occupies the entire complimentary page. I stop and admire how well balanced the photo is–kudos to the photographer–and that the white background kind of elevates the model to a kind of black-fitness-model-Jesus status who has come down from the heavens to personally teach little-feeble-writer-me how to hold a dumbbell (quite aptly named… those things are so versatile! The possibilities can truly make one feel dumb). When I look over to the instructional side of the spread, I find that I am overcome by an unfamiliar feeling…is it physical motivation?

The content of this instructional “Game Changer” is designed to be succinct and clear (excluding the preface which reads as a half-assed attempt to combat the stereotypical title “Meatheads”, arguing that you must approach workouts with the same “cunning” and “savvy” of a scientist).  In fact, I am amazed by how much they  fit onto one page.  I haven’t read more than 100 words and I’ve already accumulated the know-how to achieve “Big Arms in 8 Weeks”, make “Every Rep Count”, and optimize “muscle fiber recruitment”. None of which were tidbits I would have ever researched otherwise.

I leaf through the rest of the magazine and I am increasingly aware of the audience they are targeting.  “Men’s Fitness” might suggest a following of die-hard fit fanatics who want to dynamize their workouts, but this magazine is catered to the most naïve and novice of this sect–there is even a four-page spread devoted to “The Beginner’s Guide to Ripped”. The word choice is basic, and the sentences are short; after all, they didn’t include a column in the “Breakthroughs” section titled “Bring your Dictionary to the Gym!”.  Yet, I find that instead of targeting the dumb(bells) of the gym, they might actually be targeting young adults without realizing it.  If I were an insecure and impressionable teenager (a part of my past that I am not going to revisit at this point in time), Men’s Fitness would be a great place to learn more about my body and how to take care of it.  They touch on all primary bases: nutrition, exercise, and, especially, sex.

Speaking of which, the publication opens with a (sort of) foreword by David J Pecker of American Media, Inc (I’m sure he receives plenty of “fan” mail with interpretations of his last name).  In this, he writes “if your belly’s a tad too round and squishy for your liking (or for your partner’s)…” his orientation inclusive language begs the question, what is the role of a men’s health publication in terms of sexuality? Gay men are just as committed to physical well-being as straight men, (i.e. Matt Bomer) and the use of the word “partner” in the foreword of this issue seems to acknowledge this.  Surely the magazine staff knew that of the men purchasing the magazine, most of them would probably be gay men–Bomer is somewhat of an icon in the gay community right now.  Gay or straight, the reader of the magazine is inundated with homoerotic images of men consistently throughout, and it seems as though that in certain sections of the magazine the staff starts to overcompensate for this.

For example, the entire piece of the “Relationship” section is devoted to hetero-relationships- which blatantly ignores an entire group of the probable market for this very issue.  This group is also predictably ignored in the sexually explicit column “Sex Files” as well (“…you or she could rub her clitoris while she’s riding you.”).  Although not as graphic, the “Hot seat” section of the magazine is just as hetero-pushy.  The piece is essentially one blown-up photo of a half naked Natalie Martinez with the tiniest text printed on the right margin of the page.  Ironically, the sultry photo is captioned “Growing up around strong Latina women, it’s what I know. Strength is attractive.”.  Precisely. Nothing says female strength like sexy poses and physical objectification. To be fair, Matt Bomer’s photo spread is hyper-sexualized as well, yet he’s still technically wearing his shirt.

Indeed, young teenage boys (the ideal audience) are pistons aimed and loaded with sexual frustration, but why does a fitness magazine have to include this heteronormative precedent on sex and relationships?  Unless they have some sex oriented workout, it seems as if the cliché tips (“Dirty talk can work if she’s not feeling sexy, but sweet talk’s a better bet.”) are unnecessary, at least in this issue. Especially since we know that Matt Bomer won’t be massaging his husband’s clitoris during sex.

In short, a Men’s Fitness issue is homoerotic, but forcibly hetero; simply written, but directly articulated; provocatively coined, but excessively captioned; and useful, but only if you’re in need of a handbook to functioning as healthy human being.

As I put the magazine down on my coffee table, an index card sized piece of paper slips out, falling onto the carpet at my feet.  They’ve printed a black and white image of an anonymous sinewy abdomen (your future body, if you subscribe!).  Each portion of the rectus abdominis is sharply defined, and the belly button tucks in as if being painfully squeezed out of its own hole.  The top of the card reads, “It’s crunch time. Save 80%”.  I roll my eyes at the pun.  No thank you, Mr. Pecker!  One Men’s Fitness issue down and I think I’ve had my fill.

Running in Heels

Ever since high school, I have dreamt about writing my own column in a highly circulated fashion magazine like Glamour, Marie Claire or even Cosmopolitan. My column, however, would differ from the classic “best winter accessories of the year” and “how to decode flirtatious text messages.” In my ideal writing venue, I will discuss about politics. As a political science major and political junkie, it is my self-proclaimed duty to inform fellow women like myself about current policy issues that are affecting our day to day lives. I will interview female politicians and candidates about struggles they face being powerful women. These could be about a wide variety of topics including balancing work and their personal life, sexist questions reporters ask them or differences they’ve picked up on how their colleagues treat them compared to males.

The “Running in Heels” is a play on words and refers to running for a political office. This column would be a more detailed version of The Skimm, a daily e-mail sent to millennial women informing them of the day’s top stories. I admire women in office and would want to give them publicity and help them regardless of their political views.

Music Magazines

As both an aficionado of music and writing, I have always found music-related magazines to be very entertaining. Last summer, I had the opportunity to write a few articles for my friend’s pop culture blog, and I found the experience to be amazing. Taking an audible instrumental art form and reinterpreting it linguistically is extremely challenging, but provides an entirely different understanding of the original piece. It is also interesting because one original song/album/genre/style/etc. can be interpreted and/or described in an infinite amount of ways. Reading these interpretations in music magazines, such as Rolling Stone and Billboard, opens my eyes to new ways of thinking about music, one of my deepest passions. Writing for or working for a music magazine would be an experience that I would love to be able to experience one day.

Magazine Pitch Letter

Dear Shelley-

Have you ever thought about the demographics that aren’t being catered to? Picture this: a digital magazine targeting the female gaming population. The magazine would be comprised of at least 5 separate featured pieces of writing including interviews, lists, current events, game reviews, and more.. The finished magazine will be anywhere between 8 and 12 pages long, depending on how long each piece of writing ends up being. The magazine’s intended audience is specifically the female gaming population but will be crafted to apply to the gaming community as a whole. The project will combine writing and visuals on each page of the magazine – lists will be mostly visuals with less text, while the feature pieces will be mostly text with a few images interspersed. This sample from Polygon would be an example of what my interview with Whitney Hills could look within the magazine (imagine gender representation in the place of LGBTQA representation):

“But for Anthropy, having games tackle a broader spectrum of themes is just an inevitable outcome of having a more diverse community of game creators: “I’m not sure if all my games are about being queer, but my queer identity is always visible in them. I think representation is important … making people aware that queerness exists and representing queerness in games. And also reaching out to other queer people who otherwise feel very alienated in games.”

This magazine would be a fantastic idea because it offers a different perspective from the gaming community and would allow the female gaming community to have a specific medium to use as a source of entertainment and information. Adult women now make up a larger portion of the gaming population than teenage males, so now is the time to target them and offer a discussion of gaming that relates specifically to them. I should write this work because I have been a gamer all my life and have for the past few years been writing about gaming and gender issues, especially spending time criticizing visual media. My experience within the gaming community and as critic of new media would make me a good candidate to tackle a discussion of gender issues within gaming, and my experience with web design will come into play in the magazine’s design.

Thanks for your time,

Third Time’s a Charm

My repurposing project is finally coming along. I have taught myself to navigate through Microsoft Word’s project gallery, and am making my three-pronged spread on salsa (the food) look like a true magazine article. I added images from Flickr, which I never knew existed before this class. I’m finding relevant and high-quality pictures on the site, which is making my project really come to life. I am slowly figuring out that magazine writing is my passion, which is why I am really enjoying doing this project. This experience reminds me of my experience as a writer for Spoon University, an on-campus magazine I just started writing for this year. I write for the “food-for-thought” section, and the style, I am finding, is very similar (as is the topic of food, of course). I think I’m going to be proud of my repurposing project when I finally finish. They say third time’s a charm… and my third draft is the one that I feel most proud of thus far.Salsa

Repurposing Project Comments

When considering the Repurposing Project, I can definitely say that it is a very interesting task.  Unfortunately, at this point, that is one of the only things I can confidently say about it.  When I handed in my Guerrilla Marketing research paper over a year ago, I thought that I would be finished with it for good.  I never really pondered a way to refocus all my previous research.  I am not saying that I am necessarily having a very hard time coming up with a way to repurpose, but it is definitely not as easy as I had hoped.  I decided to convert my argumentative research paper into a magazine article.  My magazine article is meant to explain guerrilla marketing to to businesses (both small and large), as well as offer them a guide to executing this creative advertising technique.

I think, so far, I have done a good job of converting my research paper into a magazine format.  My research paper served to define guerrilla marketing, and some of its more specific techniques, and explain why it has several advantages over typical types of advertising.  My magazine article is meant to go beyond this by providing a guide to this marketing strategy, and that is where I am struggling.  The research I have already done for this project is quite similar to what I had done for the research paper.  I think that I need to try to expand on my research in some way so that my guide could actually be helpful to readers.  I want my guide to be as accurate and useful as possible, and hopefully I am able to make a breakthrough in my research soon.

Solutions: Repurposing Project

My repurposing project is giving me more trouble than I thought it would. For this project, I am repurposing a research paper on salsa into a magazine spread. At first, I took bits and pieces of the research paper and modified my argument. The initial argument of my paper was how salsa has diversified into a food that has adapted to different cultures around the world. This argument, in my opinion, seemed a bit too “research-ey” for a magazine article. So, I changed the tone of the paper. As I wrote, I came up with a better idea: a guide to help housewives or chefs “spice up their life” in the kitchen. I offered a variety of recipes to add change and innovation into the same old routine meals they cook for their husbands and kids each and every day.

However, after completing my first draft, I felt my repurposed argument was all over the place. Did I want to offer readers with a history of salsa and explain how it became such a popular, versatile food? Did I want to offer tips in the kitchen/new ideas/new recipes for housewives who were bored with their elementary cooking skills? Did I want to talk about the different types of salsa (texture, spice levels, etc) that can me made? All of these arguments were in my repurposed paper, and I felt it was a bit scrambled.

After speaking with Professor Silver, she helped me come up with a solution: create a magazine spread on salsa, dividing it into separate parts. Each part would spotlight a particular argument I was trying to make. I now plan to break it up into three sections: “A Brief History,” “The International Cookbook” (containing international recipes and how each plays an important role in the cuisine of its country of origin), and a last section that will work as a guide to people who struggle in the kitchen, and whose skills are elementary (will show them how simple it is to make salsa!)