I happened to see an article on HT Brunch a couple of weeks back titled “Do men only see women as bodies?” The article generally is of the staid, page filling variety, but what really caught my eye was a short boxed response from Payal Puri, former Cosmopolitan editor. I had been meaning to type it out, but thankfully I found the entire piece online. I share this as a simple worded piece of intuitive consumer marketing, which however is not so clear to most practitioners.
I find the very definition and need of segmentation and targeting unclear amongst most marketers I have known. The basics of how one defines a segment (not based on characteristics, but need based), why one defines a segment (why not target the whole population? More chances of people buying, na?) is seen as gyaan, and not something necessarily practiced. Ah well, on to the piece.
Girl on girls
Sexy babes also feature in women’s magazines, don’t they? Former Cosmopolitan editor Payal Puri explains why.
Editors of men’s magazines claim that women’s magazines objectify women as much as men’s magazines do. Your take?
Let me get this straight – a fit, attractive body does NOT imply the absence of other attributes of mind and heart. That stereotype is NOT created by magazines but by individual readers/general perception. Men or women buying magazines with stunners on the cover and in the inside pages do not automatically assume the person lacks other attractions. The stereotype is in the approach people often bring to these magazines, not in the content of the magazines themselves.
There’s often pseudo-intellectualism in both men and women where basic everyday needs – feeling confident, looking good, attracting the right kind of attention – all seem to be looked down upon. But let’s be honest – we’d all rather look good than not, we’d all rather be attractive than not, and as far as I’m concerned, those who feel it demeans them to do so are free not to.
Where’s the problem? We’re a democracy in thought – and in reading habits. No one puts a gun to your head at a newsstand. Don’t like it? By all means, don’t buy it.
Apart from sex, is there nothing else about women that the modern Indian man finds interesting?
There’s lots he finds interesting. He just doesn’t necessarily look for that information in his leisure time. These magazines are designed for your downtime. They’re for advice, laughter, the kind of information you wouldn’t know who to ask. I’d argue that the more closed a society, where access to certain kinds of information is closed/limited, the more you need magazines to do this role. Cosmo talked about sex without embarrassment and was an educated, unembarrassed source to go to when you had a question you didn’t know who to ask. In India, where is a young woman going to get that information – and I mean reliable, researched, un-sleazy information? Where, for that matter, are men going to get it? From their mythical locker room conversations?
Men are only interested in sex, cars and watches – do you think magazines play a role in reinforcing this stereotype?
A stereotype is exactly that – a generalisation. Sure, a man may be interested in women for sex. He may also be interested in equal opportunities for women, but he doesn’t look for that information at the same time. He reads many different magazines that are designed to talk to him at different times, when he needs different things. Men’s magazines that you’re talking about are designed for the purely leisure aspect of his personality. They aren’t a reflection of the whole.