Who Controls What You Read: The Genderization Agenda

Since my writing goals this year include publishing at least five short stories in genre-based literary magazines, I needed to go and do some research, i.e., I had to go buy magazines. If you want a wide selection of magazines, you can’t just go to Walmart or the grocery store. No, you have to either go to a bookstore or a specialty shop. The closest brick-and-mortar store to me that also had a wide selection of magazines was Barnes & Noble’s.

I knew some of the more popular magazine titles that I was looking for within the supernatural, sci-fi, and fantasy genres, but I had no idea where the magazines would be categorized.

I arrived on site at B&N in Dublin, CA, and I saw this wall of magazines that looked something like the following:

Mag wall at BnN

Now, I knew I was looking for magazines that had short stories, so my first thought for categories was the entertainment section. I checked it out, but couldn’t find anything close to what I was looking for. Then I thought maybe the magazines would be in the art section. It was an abstract connection, but plausible. I checked it out, but I still couldn’t find what I was looking for. I started moving up and down the wall, and then I finally spotted one of the titles I recognized, “Fantasy & Science Fiction,” and right behind that was “Asimov’s Science Fiction.”

So, in which category section did I finally find these magazines? Not in a section marked literature, or a section marked sci-fi or fantasy. No! I found these magazines and other similar ones in the section labeled “Men’s Interests.”

What Else was in the “Men’s Interests” Section?

mens interestAlthough finding these literary magazines in the “men’s interests” section angered me immensely – I even insta-bitched a remark on my author Facebook page – I knew that statistically more men read sci-fi. However, the world has changed, and the realm of sci-fi, fantasy, and all the hybrids is no longer a boy’s-only club!

But trust me, placing these literary magazines in the “men’s interests” section was just the tip of the iceberg in the genderization agenda, as I’m calling it.

Two rows above the literary magazines were all the trade magazines on the art and craft of writing. After all, only men think about writing. Women aren’t writing these days! No! Women aren’t winning Nobels and Pulitzer Prizes in writing, unless you count someone like, oh,I don’t know, Toni Morrison. And a woman couldn’t possibly have written books that have sold over 450 million copies world wide. Oh, wait, J.K. Rowling did that!

BTW– if you want to read about the 10 most powerful female writers, check out this article.

The idea that in 2015 we are still saying that writing is a man’s profession utterly disgusts me.

I remember during my graduate studies reading Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and in this book Woolf described all the places she could not access because of her sex. She couldn’t go into the libraries at Oxford. She couldn’t go into certain clubs or restaurants. All access was denied, because it was believed that a woman wasn’t fit for such places. Society looked down on her for wanting to be her own woman, for writing, for wanting her own space, and for not adhering to the social codes that dictated that a woman’s job was to get married and raise children. She wanted more than that, and she wrote about it back in 1929.

It’s been almost 90 years since she wrote that book, nearly a century, and writing is still considered the job of a man.

Both Sides of the Genderization Agenda

As I kept looking within the “men’s interests” section, I discovered something else quite shocking, but not for the reasons you might think. The only place to find pornographic magazines within the entire wall of periodicals was in the “men’s interests” section.

What does that mean about sex and gender?

For one thing, placing the sex mags in the “men’s interests” section instead of dispersing them between both the men’s and women’s section purports the following LIES that people still believe:

  • Lie #1 Only men look at pornography
  • Lie #2 Women don’t think about sex
  • Lie #3 Real men must sexually objectify everyone

Denying women access to pornography within their own magazine section further promotes slut-shaming. A woman has to go out of her designated zone, both physically and socially, to obtain sex. She has to go into the realm of men to obtain sex. By having to transverse into different sections, she singles herself out and puts herself at the risk of being discovered.

Even if a woman proudly walks across those boundaries and grabs the sex magazines she desires, no matter how high she holds her head, men and even other women often belittle her and call her slut.

If a man performs this same action, however, since society has deemed that sex exists within the realm of men, as a man’s interests, no one even raises an eyebrow to his action of purchasing the same pornography.

Just because men have access to purchase porn, as well as a society-approved pass to do so without discrimination, there are major psychological issues involved here, and it affects the genderization of men in a negative way.

For one thing, regardless of orientation, (the “men’s interests” section has magazines for heterosexuals and homosexuals), practically all the magazines are constructed under the guise of a male viewer, and that creates a gender role that men have to live up to. They, as a male, HAVE to objectify, because that’s what they’re being told to do. By being told to objectify, though, it promotes the idea that all males are predators. That isn’t fair to men.

Promoting the subliminal idea that men must objectify and that men must be sexual at all times creates undue pressure and stress on men. It also implies that communication doesn’t matter. After all, how can one communicate with something one objectifies?

Both men’s and women’s ability to communicate sexual desires are stunted through this objectification-centered gender role construct. Women can’t communicate their sexual needs, because if they are denied access to look at sex, as it is “forbidden” from their section, it implies that women can’t talk about it in public, especially not to men. Men can’t talk about sex either, though, because they’re supposed to be constantly objectifying whoever they see. So, if neither men nor women can talk about sex, thanks to these social constructs and gender roles, it is no wonder that so many people across the entire spectrum of sexual orientations have difficulties with intimacy.

People don’t know how they’re supposed to communicate about sex, because sex is viewed as something to be looked at and not talked about, or only to be discussed through either bad jokes or hushed whispers.

Does that mean objectification in all forms is wrong?

First of all, it’s not morally right to treat anyone as less than human. Objectifying people sexually or otherwise can make it easier to treat them as if they are beneath you. Does that mean looking at pornography means you are always objectifying the subjects of the pictures or films? In some ways, yes, you are. The question, though, is whether people are doing so maliciously.

Does looking at porn make you disrespectful to other people? There is no definite answer to this question, because every person who looks at pornography is different. Some people were disrespectful before they looked at pornography, and they will be disrespectful long after. Adults with sound critical thinking skills should be able to separate the fantasy of pornography from the reality of everyday life. We don’t talk about the separation of fantasy from reality in regards to sex, though, and we let young people view pornography without having the discussion with them about the difference. That is where the real problem with pornography occurs. While adults may be able to distinguish fantasy from reality, adolescents are developing those reasoning skills. If they are raised in this culture of gender-based sexual access paired with this ban on communicating about sex, then their ability to have healthy and respectful sexual relationships will be greatly diminished.

I feel as if I have ventured a little off track here.

Besides, I’m not arguing about the pros and cons of pornography – I personally support adults leading healthy sex lives, and I believe that using sexual tools and aids, such as pornography, can prove beneficial for some people. What I am arguing about, however, is how restricting pornography to the “men’s interests” section forces men into one of the following roles:

  • Objectifier
  • Sexual instigator
  • Sexual predator

It’s not fair to put all of this on men. Having pornography positioned in a mutually neutral section could help break down some of these negative gender role identities.

How Visual Marketing Promotes the Genderization Agenda

equalityAs a final closing thought, I want to leave you with a visual image of how the magazine category sections were positioned at the Barnes & Noble’s I visited. Realize that larger or smaller stores may have a different layout. They may also have certain magazines placed in different sections. Now, I accept that Barnes & Noble’s is a chain store that conducts market research, and I understand that they are trying to move the most product possible, which means going with the numbers in terms of which customers buy which products. Regardless, there should be a balance of ethics with business, a social responsibility to gender equality. I’m pretty sure that what follows will demonstrate that we’ve got a long way to go for equality in terms of both careers and fields of interest.

The list below includes the names of each category section of magazines at the Barnes & Noble’s in Dublin, Ca. The list has been organized exactly how the sections were placed from left to right across the periodicals wall.

  • Sports
  • Transportation
  • Men’s Interest
  • Art
  • Current Events
  • Entertainment
  • Food and Wine
  • Craft and Hobby
  • House and Home
  • Women’s Interest
  • Regional
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