Nov 16

Selling Sex or Just Stupidity? A Common Sense Plea to Chris Anderson

wiredSo Wired decided to publish this pair of breasts on their cover. After seeing it, Texas State’s Cindy Royal declared that after decades of reading Wired magazines and not seeing much about women who impress men with their brains and not their bods, she was breaking up with Wired.

By the way, I hate seeing this image on my blog but just wanted you to see how bad it is and why she isn’t just being too sensitive. Anyway.

I checked Wired’s Quantcast data. You’d think that Wired would skew very heavily male, but it really doesn’t. Only 59 percent of their readers are male and 41 percent are actually female. That’s why it’s so vexing they would jeopardize their relationship with these 41 percent. I mean, who wants to get caught reading a magazine with this cover in the gym, male or female? It’s worse than GQ and Maxim covers.

Chris Anderson responded by asking people if they actually read the article. The innovations covered were indeed amazing…but, doesn’t that mean they wouldn’t have to sink as low as publishing cleavage on the cover to get people to read it? I mean, it’s about how advancement in breast augmentation is improving stem cell research, which will help cure cancer and a host of other ailments. I can’t speak for everyone, but you don’t have to pull the sex card on me to sell a cure for cancer. What I can say is that Anderson did a great job of potentially alienating over 50 percent of the population. The Wired cover sparked controversy on sites around the web including the Huffington Post and Mediaite, just to pick up the morons who would not choose to pick up Wired had they not seen a digitally enhanced wrack staring them in the face. Smooth.

Just because something sells, it doesn’t mean you should sell it. It’s called having integrity and self-respect. It’s the same reason why millions of women choose to work hard every day and keep their dealings with men at a professional level rather than just putting the twins out on display to get a promotion. We know it could work–we choose not to go there. It is an unsound long term strategy.

So here’s my plea:

Mr. Anderson, I fit the target demographic for Wired both on income level and educational level. Your advertisers want to reach people like me. I’m kindly asking you to avoid publishing pictures of cleavage and half naked women on your covers. It’s cheap and embarrassing, and represents Condรจ Nast very poorly. It’s also not asking for much, really. If your advertisers don’t appreciate that such low-brow tactics scare off people like me who just want to read Wired in the gym without looking like Larry Flint, then maybe you should go after a different demographic so you can hit your numbers. People shouldn’t feel relegated to read your content in the privacy of their bathrooms.

Michelle ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Carrie Brown-Smith

    I’m semi-neutral on this one, but I’m always wary of arguments that tend to view women’s bodies and women’s sexuality as standing in stark contrast or opposition to their brains. In other words, by arguing Wired’s cover boobs suggest women are only worthwhile because of their bodies, we are in some ways just perpetuating long-time binaries that state that women must be beautiful or brainy but not both. I’d like to see more women represented on Wired’s covers and in Wired’s pages, but I can’t say I get too worked up about whether there are boobs involved or not. I just don’t see boobs as especially demeaning or even necessarily objectifying. Through the ages, women’s sexual power and agency has long been deemed “dangerous,” e.g. the whole “sexy women are sluts” argument, but if we insist that the only women pictured in Wired are wearing turtlenecks, we are in some ways creating and enforcing very rigid norms about acceptable femininity that has a tendency to, in the big picture, demean women and deny them choices.

    • Carrie Brown-Smith

      In other words, maybe this says it better – isn’t the idea that boobs are inherently demeaning/indicative of having no brains in its own way kind of sexist? I’m not saying I’m entirely opposed to your argument, either, by the way. I’m just saying that sometimes that’s power operates in interesting ways – we think we are standing up for women when in fact when are just further perpetuating a version of ye old virgin/whore dichotomy that tends to be pretty constricting.

      • Anonymous


        I’m not trying to “ye olde virgin/whore” argument with this post. I love sexy shoes and wear mini skirts too. I know that doesn’t qualify me as stupid.

        I didn’t infer that Anderson was demeaning to women. I said I wish he hadn’t used a picture of boobs to sell magazines pertaining to technology. There is a big difference.

        It would be like a man saying he doesn’t want to read a Wired article about Movember in a magazine that has a man’s speedoed crotch on the cover. Even if a man is gay, it’s still weird to be in the gym having to carry something like that. It’s not that the crotch is demeaning–it’s that it is not appropriate to his audience. The article could be about prostate cancer and it’s still a very weird photo for a cover of a tech magazine.

        Royal’s point made earlier is that the vast majority of women heralded on Wired are there because of their looks. If a woman who just so happens to be naked all the time solves global warming, sure, feature her in Wired with a naked photo (preferably inside ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). That’s totally her choice. It’s just lame that the references made to women in Wired often refer to their sex appeal and have little to nothing to do with actual accomplishments. That might be cool with some guys, but I find it very alienating.

        It’s hard enough to feel like you have no female role models in tech. It makes it harder when people you are supposed to idolize seem to herald your kind as sex objects. It makes me question why I bother in the tech world at all.

        Just as clarification: this is not an issue specific to Wired, and I don’t know what the answer is unfortunately.

  • Stefani

    I have to agree with your argument and this post got the little feminist in me totally fired up. I’m in the demographic, as well, in fact this very magazine has been sitting on my kitchen counter for weeks. I hadn’t even considered its offensive nature, but I also wasn’t compelled to open the magazine and read anything it its pages. So yeah, trying to use boobs to sell something only grabs half the population. It’s too bad they couldn’t have spent more time coming up with a more universally intriguing image.

    • Anonymous

      Exactly, Stefani. That’s why Anderson’s response was so lame. Yes, it was an article of substance. So why should I feel ashamed to read it in public? Movember sells raising money for prostate cancer with mustaches, not with pictures of men’s crotches.

      After that whole “the internet is dead” thing, I sorta wondered if Anderson was losing it. Most people don’t even download apps yet, much less use them. Oh well.

  • J. Neal Cornett

    Meh, I am trying to agree…as I guy who loves Tech I subscribe to Wired but I am going to have to pass on this issue.

    I grant you that this is nothing more than cleavage on a cover hoping to sell issues. But of all the things we have to worry/struggle with I just can’t get worked up about boobs.

    I’ve seen more cleavage than this at the mall, to be frank. Men look at them just as women check out their body part of choice. At a certain point does it not all wash out to about equal?

    Commenting on the web is always a bad idea but you and your readers seemed open to a discussion so I thought I might contribute my thoughts.

    • Anonymous

      Imagine that a very influential magazine in your industry literally never covered two merit-worthy people of your gender for over ten years. You don’t resent all of the women who do make the cover. You actually respect them. You just wish you saw more people like you so you don’t feel like some sort of freak anomaly or something because you happen to like tech.

      Then that magazine comes out with a picture of a big crotch on the cover.

      I’m not so much offended as I’m saying it’s a stupid economic move. Women spend money and like technology too. A big crotch would be off putting to a male audience and a big pair of boobs is a bit off putting to us. Does that make sense?

      Those women at the mall can cleave out all they want. I just don’t expect to see their tatas on Wired.

  • Keith Kritselis

    I canceled my subscription to Wired almost a decade ago because I thought that it’s day (like most print media) had passed. In fact, I was a little surprised that it was still around.

    While I do see (and respect) your point, I think for many people it falls into that category with negative political ads. People always say they don’t want them, but in races where they are not present, voter turnout drops sharply.

    I am not a woman, and that fact certainly shapes my opinion on the subject, but there are many studies that support the fact that the provocative female form attracts the interest of both male and female audiences.

    Scan any magazine rack and you will find cleavage well represented on the covers of both men’s, women’s and gender neutral publications. This is not by accident.

    Print publications have a difficult time these days attracting readership, and I have no problem with them going to a proven formula to find new readers.

    I will not be buying this issue of Wired magazine, and if I’m being truthful, it’s for the same reason I won’t buy this month’s issue of Playboy… (because I never really bought them for the articles. :)

    Tech news is all about responding to a rapidly changing landscape, and waiting the 60+ days it takes to create, print, and ship a monthly periodical seems silly to me.

  • Matt Kelly

    I’ve never paid much attention to Wired. My reading list is pretty well defined and it’s rare that I add something. But occasionally I do.Blogs and what not get removed from my list when I see something offensive, in poor taste, or it just becomes less interesting.I think it’s safe to say in Wired case that I won’t be adding them to my reading list any time soon because of what I perceive as a cheap and insulting promotional move regarding women.

  • Lorin Rivers

    Actually, the article is almost entirely devoted to breast RECONSTRCTION after mastectomy.

    • Geekette

      So? How does that justify a pair of boobs on the cover? If it was a prostrate cancer article, are you saying you’d be ok with a pair of naked balls (without briefs) on the cover? Despite the organs involved, the issue is clearly a medical one, so why sensationalize/sexualize it, hence degrading the journalistic quality?