Rebecca Kamm

Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Pretty women are like nice cars - editor

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British Esquire editor says pretty women are like nice cars. Photo / Thinkstock
British Esquire editor says pretty women are like nice cars. Photo / Thinkstock

If someone insults you, but they temper it with 'I'm just being honest,' does that make it okay? (Hint: No!! That never works!!! Try a new trick!!)

Everyone knows that's just a cowardly way to deflect attention away from what was actually said and act as a buffer against backlash.

Try telling that to Alex Bilmes, editor of British Esquire, who's been all cutting edge and honest by coming out and saying his magazine uses pictures of "ornamental" women "in the same way we provide pictures of cool cars". At a panel discussion on feminism in the media - LOL!!

Here are some exact quotes:

* "The women that we feature in the magazine are ornamental. That is how we see them."

* "I could lie to you and say we're interested in their brains as well, but on the whole, we're not. They're there to be beautiful objects. They're objectified."

* "One of the things men like is picture of pretty girls. So we provide them with pictures of pretty girls ... We also provide them with pictures of cool cars, or whatever. It's a thing that you might want to look at."

* "We're at least, or possibly more, ethnically diverse [than other magazines]. More shape-diverse. We also have older women. Not really old, but in their 40s... Cameron Diaz was on the cover three issues ago. She's in her 40s."

Bilmes also said his magazine was "more honest" than women's magazines, which contain negative images of women.

The arguments here are so obvious they barely warrant going into. But here's a little skim over why he belongs in another century: Comparing women to inert chunks of machinery. Declaring that women can be sexy OR have a brain, but not both, and that men need the two to be separated. Calling women over 40 "old" and unsexy.

Also, by pointing his stubby little finger at women's magazines and being all, 'They started it!! They publish pictures of women in bikinis too!' like an obstinate child, how is he helping matters? Aren't panels supposed to look at problems and solutions, rather than act as blame-shifting forums?

It's true that 'women's' magazines are insidious to a certain degree, with their endless garish photo spreads of Celebrity Cellulite! and, Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong! But I feel like what is always missing from discussions like this is the question of context.

Basically, pictures of near-naked women in women's magazines are there to satisfy a curiosity women have about other women. End of story. They're not there to dehumanise women for sexual thrills by dividing them into neat compartments called 'Body' and 'Brain'. That is something that has happened to women since the beginning of time, and the root cause of problems ranging from workplace gender discrimination to sexual violence.

Photos of women in women's magazines are also there because female readers - subconsciously or otherwise - want reassurance: that even perfect Hollywood starlets have bad hair days sometimes, or weepy tiffs with their boyfriends at cafes, or thighs that resemble actual human female thighs and not marble carvings. We like to aspire to lavish lifestyles and glamour, but it's reassuring to know we're all the same in the end.

And (breaking!) that need for reassurance is borne of the very culture perpetuated by the likes of Alex Bilmes, which goes: Lady! You are not a whole person! There is the brain part of you, and then there is the body part of you. The brain part of you is neither here not there; but the body part of you is very important! On the condition we would like to have sex with it. If it's younger than 40. Unless you're Cameron Diaz.

But, you know, he's just being honest. What's a man to do?

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