One of my most favorite magazines to read, and only one of two I subscribe to, is Wired. They somehow manage to stay on the cutting edge of the tools, technologies and culture I am connected to as a technology consultant and web developer, and it's a publication that pays meticulous attention to creating outstanding production value - the reading experience is like nothing else. With only a few exceptions, there's rarely an issue of Wired that doesn't bring me some new insight into the human condition, excite me with adventures in hacking the world around us, or educate me about how things work.
That's why it's difficult for me to even pose this question, but I must: should I unsubscribe from Wired? Here's why I might: despite being a magazine that has chronicled the leveling of many playing fields, technological, social, and intellectual alike, they can't seem to stop objectifying women to sell magazines.
Sometimes its the ads they accept from their advertisers, which depict women as decorations to complement what a particular product, service or man has to offer. Sometimes its the use of scantily clad models to illustrate how one might use a particular tech gadget. And sometimes, like with the cover story in their current issue, it's a blatant use of the sexualized female body to increase newsstand sales.
I can't do a better job than Cindy Royal did in describing Wired's double standards and failures at cleverness.
Go back through your covers over the years. How exactly are young women supposed to feel about their role in technology by looking at your magazine?...
You’re better than this. You don’t need to treat women in this light to sell magazines. You have the power to influence the ways that women envision their roles with technology. Instead, you’re not helping.
Plenty of other people have noticed too. And Peggy Orenstein's timely article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine about the sexualization of breast cancer awareness certainly points to a larger trend in mainstream organizations generating new sources of income by feigning concern for womens` health issues while exploiting and demeaning women at the same time.
So, what's my role in this as a consumer who doesn't want to support or reward this kind of behavior?
I could cancel my subscription to Wired. I would be able to find most of their content on their website, eventually, but the reading experience would be lost. I would deprive them of $12/year which might mean they don't buy as many coffee filters one week, but I would also have lost any leverage I do have as a "paying subscriber."
Or, I could stay subscribed to Wired. I could write them letters and threaten revolution. I could tell myself that on the whole, the benefit and enjoyment I gain from reading the magazine outweighs the harm done by participating in their problematic editorial choices. And the next time an issue comes to my mailbox with a pair of bare breasts on the cover, I could again sheepishly apologize to the people around me who wonder about my taste in magazines, let alone my values as a human being.
I welcome your opinions.