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.