Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Parents Magazine, I'm Peeved

Well, I've got a bone to pick with a certain parenting magazine my wife reads. I won't keep you in suspense any longer, it's Parents magazine. My issue is that parents with penises and testicles are almost entirely absent from the pages of this magazine. In turn, though, you will find plenty of adds filled to bursting with smiling moms holding towels, holding babies, holding themselves. But dads? Nary a one.

And although Hillary Clinton once said it takes a village to raise a child, I don't think she meant this kind of village, one without male chromosomes. In fact the world presented in the pages of this glossy kind of remind me of the great short story When It Changed, by Joanna Russ, only with more ads for multi-grain cheese puffs.

Readers, I know this is not the first time I have launched a broadside at this magazine. I guess I have become kind of predictable in my grouchiness, but this time I offer a little more in the way of analysis for why I am irritated so.

First of all, last I checked, guys are parents too. Yes, we may leave the seat up--not always on purpose either, by the way--and we love our man caves and could probably spend entire afternoons playing the guitar, not always that well, along to old Grateful Dead bootlegs. (Okay, the last point is only specific to me, but I count too.) But we're parents. We care, we try, we even change a diaper now and then. How the hell can a magazine called Parents not feature what we are told over and over again by our religious leaders is the other main pillar of the nuclear family, the father?

Readers, this time I come to not merely vent about Parents magazine. I come to dissect it.

Specifically, I am looking for actual men in the magazine. Not just articles about men, but ANY men, even men in ads. I just leafed through the entire October 2008 issue and this is what I found.

The First Picture of An Adult Man: It's on page 65! That means, yes, that there were 64 entire pages of magazine before the average woman will even see a male personage. Dude, some magazines aren't even 64 pages long. That's a lot!

And who, pray tell, is this uber-man, who carries so much burden for us all, who must represent American maleness so totally? Why it is none other than Ty Pennington, "design expert" (really, that's what the ad says) pitching for Similac baby formula, by Abbot Labs. Oh, that rascally, irascible Ty! What can't he fix?!

Following that the next picture of a male is on page 98, in an ad for the movie "Soccer Mom" starring Missi Pyle and Emily Osment. The guy in question is a sneering, goeteed Euromess who is not credited on the CD box. Why? Because he's not even really a guy! Or so says the ad copy: "When Becca's (Emily Osment) losing soccer team needs a new coach, her mom, Wendy (Missi Pyle) decides to masquerade as the famous Italian soccer star 'Lorenzo Vincenzo' and take the job. Can she now lead Becca's team to the regional finals before her increasingly crazy double life comes totally unglued?"

Oh, if only we had Netflix! (Sadly, I also feel we are entering the Disney knock-off stage of our lives all too soon.)

After that the next picture of an adult male is page 106. Amazingly this is the first picture of a male that actually corresponds to a story. True, it's not much of a story, but it's something. The guy in question is a handsome, shaven-head fellow of indeterminate race standing outside what you imagine is his home with his attractive, presumably African-American, wife and child. The article itself is a short Q&A that poses this question:

"Q: We have built up a good amount of equity in our house. Does it make sense for us to take out a home-equity loan?

A: Are you goddamn kidding? Have you been watching the news at all, or picked up a newspaper in the past two years? There's a housing and credit crisis going on! Partly it's going on because people borrowed against the values of their homes, bought all kinds of stupid stuff and then couldn't repay the loans! Jesus!"

Actually that's not what the answer said at all.

Following this the next pair of XY chromosomes shows up on page 150 in a four page photo essay about dressing up the family for Halloween. I have no complaints about this as Halloween rules. Also, a male is featured on three of these pages.

Next up, we don't have just one guy, but five, except its an ad for Snickers, on page 163. The ad is for the "feast" campaign featuring a Roman, a Pilgrim, a Polynesian, Henry the VIII and a Viking. I have no choice but to endorse this campaign because the hilarious New York City based actor and improviser Jeff Hiller plays the Pilgrim, and I met him at a birthday party thrown for Randi way back when she lived in the East Village, and he was a super-sweet guy and is fantastic. So, kids, eat more sugar.

After this veritable cornucopia of maleness there's a bit of a dad drought until page 198 when there is a photo of a metro-sexual looking dude helping some kids, presumably his, pick apples. He's got a messenger bag on, though, so maybe they're not his kids after all.

Finally, the last picture of a guy, and it's not even a dad, just a guy, is for an ad on page 205; the ad shows a dopey-looking blond dude removing a stain from his shirt with Oxiclean. "Oops" the ad copy says. Indeed.

So there you have it, in a 224 page magazine dedicated to parents there are just 11 pages that feature men, and one of those is simply a soccer mom in drag! Worse still, of those 11 pages only four are connected to any actual article. Note, none of these ads are ABOUT being a male parent, they just feature pictures of male parents, I mean models.

Anyway, I think you get the idea.

To get to the bottom of this I went to the magazine's masthead. To my utter non-surprise of the 41 editorial staffers listed, just five were men. Where's the ACLU when you need them? And if they won't help I'm calling my mommy.


cynthia said...

Dave, you've got to send a copy of this entry to Parents magazine. It would be most interesting to see their reply. You raise an important issue and spice it up with your great sense of humor. I think fathers are more fairly represented in Family Circle magazine. Only a few of the magazine's sections are devoted to parenting concerns, but I think they do justice to the role of dads in their children's lives. I was a Brooklyn mom during the late 1970's and early 1980's, and I really enjoy your blog. My family and I lived in Cobble Hill at that time and we had great adventures in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Carrol Gardens, and the main shopping street in Bay Ridge. I can only imagine how things (especially $$$ prices $$$) have changed. Wishing the Brooklyn Baby Family everything of the best.

David Serchuk said...

Hi Cynthia,
First of all, thank you for your kind words. Such feedback is, as you can imagine, so nice to get.

I just might send this one in. Then I will surely be on their s-list, but I think I will survive. I guess the point, as you've noted, is that dads are constantly being reminded that they're not in their kids lives enough, but the mainstream parenting media still treats us as some sort of oddball species. Where else in the world do guys actually feel the sting of discrimintion like this? Few other places, that's for sure.

Also, as you can imagine Park Slope has certainly skyrocketed in price. It's such a delightful area, that everyone wants to live there! It's kind of interesting to note it this way. My sister lives in New Canaan, CT. She came into the city not long ago with my mom, for my mom's birthday. As they walked around Manhatten my sister noted all the young couples with kids, and said that these are the kinds of people that used to all flock to New Canaan. So the city has in a sense returned to its roots as a place for families, but the price tag has gone up so much more than when my parents grew up here. Like everything the past has been recreated, but it's still not the same. Less middle class, more wealthy class. And of course lower class people, and I only mean that financially, not personally. The latter, as always, have fewer choices as to where to live.


Randi said...

My sister very kindly gave us this subscription. I find it very informative and fun to read, even if the name is a bit misleading.

Another deceptively named magazine is Mothering, the ultra attachment parenting, natural family living magazine, because it often has articles for dads as well as mom.

Maybe the 2 mags should switch names?

Martin said...

Well-done you, my blogging friend! Well-done you.

Sara said...

Ok, I have a subscription to this magazine (long story - it came free with something I wanted and well...I get Parents now...) and I completely understand and agree. There is a serious lack of mannage and a plethora of womannage on those pages. Although I think it probably is informative and great if you are a LadyParent you are being kind of marginalized as a ManParent. It's like...Woman's Day with more babies. Let's start a father-friendly parenting magazine. You guys can be the expert panel and I will write all the articles.

alexlady said...

ok, two things:

1. you may not have met him, but my dad's friend's parents FOUNDED parents magazine.

if you had ever met this guy you would probably have never bought the magazine in the first place.

secondly... i think it's awesome that you, as a daddy, are interested in a magazine that will help guide you through the perils and tribulations of being a parent.

but bebe, you gotta know that in the same way that men get married, the Knot is never gonna have more than an occasional article aimed at the groom. because typically the guy doesn't read the magazine, so no advertisers look for that demographic to pander to, so the writers don't write articles for men because they figure the women won't read them and that they'd be a waste.

maybe you should start a Zine about fatherhood. i doubt this mainstream magazine that's been skipping along on its formula for probably thirty years now is going to do anything more than thank you for attempting to look at their magazine and hopefully being influenced by their glossy ads and buying something.

Kelly said...

I agree that you should send in a copy of this to the magazine. I highly doubt you would be on their s-list. At the very most you would be another father (I'm sure they've heard from others and you wouldn't be the first...) with an opinion that would be either print-worthy or they wouldn't care. (I think it would be print-worthy because it is so well-written and succinct and funny funny!)

I agree with Alex, they're only trying to sell magazines and advertised products to the kind of people who would generally buy that magazine: women. They're not really trying to help people be parents, just like Cosmo isn't trying to make women beautiful...but that's another blog entry for another time. :)

David Serchuk said...

Hi All,
First of all, whew, what a bunch of responses. Thank you for taking the time to give your comment, it really makes everything a lot more fun. Now, my thoughts.

Thank you, you are very kind. And I wish you well with your writing endeavors, and other endeavors, going forward.

Yes, excellent idea. Writing this entry has made me realize that dads are seriously underserved in this area. And there is something to be done about it. If I am the one to do it, and why not?, you are cordially invited to write. It seems like all the dad issues seem to focus on bummer stuff: visitation rights and not much else. There must be more out there.

First, you continue to surprise. By now I thought I knew you rather well, and now you go spring something like this on us. Your family KNEW the founder? Small world.

Secondly, you are absolutely right, this is all ad-driven. I should know this as a journalist. But this all plays into the same issue: advertisers cater to women, because men are not really considered interested in this stuff. Now the question is, are men interested in this stuff? I don't know. And, yes, this is one of the few, few areas where men feel the discrimination women feel every day. It's not exactly a glass ceiling, so what is it? A beer ceiling? Can there be a ceiling made of beer? I am not quite sure, but I feel I attended a frat party once that had one.

Thanks for the confidence in the piece. I have considered sending the piece to the mag, but maybe there is something more I can do with it. I do, after all, work at a website. We shall see. Either way I plan to stick to the MAN. Oops, umm, I meant WoMAN.

And, yeah, I am out of the target demographic, that's for sure. Maybe guys just don't care about this stuff all that much. After all, this blog is called BrooklynBabyDaddly and it's about a guy's perspective on urban parenting. But have any guys commented on it? Like two. One is David Silverman, a talented writer in all regards, and the other was a guy I went to Summer camp with seventeen years ago.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more! I was pointed to your blog after writing just yesterday about the use of "us" in these magazines, leaving dad's out of the readership. I understand articles and ad's geared towards the mommy demographic, but do they need to make dad's feel so unwelcome as a reader?

As a stay at home father of 2, it was terribly irritating to try flipping to the informational articles without throwing the magazine out the window in disgust.

David Serchuk said...

Dear GrecoWoodCrafting,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. And by the way I checked out your blog, nice job!

Yeah, I guess maybe there are a few more of us dads trying to not feel marginalized than I thought. As you said in your post in your blog, it makes you think about starting a dad-centered magazine. Anyway, lovely work, and good luck with being a SAHD. It's a challange, I'm sure!