Because we work behind the scenes, a lot of people don’t realize exactly how much of a difference an editor can make. Last year, Maxim switched editors, hiring their very first female editor-in-chief, Kate Lanphear. The latest issue has made headlines for its divergence from previous issues, and has Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Bustle, and The Daily Beast buzzing. It features a head shot of Taylor Swift on the cover—which in itself is already quite different—and an interview wherein she discusses feminism and misogyny:
“[…] the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived. A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining. Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s just basically another word for equality.”
As Styleite points out, the magazine also contains an article by feminist author Roxane Gay about more inclusive standards of beauty, the “Hot 100″ no longer lists women by rank and it features feminist trailblazer Amy Schumer—a far cry from the 2003 feature on “How to Cure a Feminist: Turn an Unshaven, Militant, Protesting Vegan into an Actual Girl!” which discussed tired tropes on how to unleash a woman’s “repressed Malibu Barbie fantasies” using language proven to be difficult to distinguish from that of a convicted rapist. Styleit further notes that other men’s magazines, such as Playboy and Esquire, are also muting their once hyper-macho tone in an effort to attract new readership, albeit not as drastically.
I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again: language is powerful. A new editor has the ability to change societal perceptions, especially when editing for such a widely distributed media outlet. (Maxim has a readership of two million.) What was described 12 years ago as a disease that needed to be cured is now defined by the same publication as “another word for equality.”
On the other hand, if major men’s mags begin changing their tune, a new question arises: will current readers stay loyal, or switch to smaller, more old-fashioned publications? Of course, you can’t win everyone over. Styleit’s comments section contains remarks such as “Great, now feminazis have taken over Maxim,” and, “This is why historically women have not been favoured to run things outside the family. Ladies I present you with the real reason women are poorly represented in higher management positions.” The majority of the comments display similar sentiments.
Maxim‘s new editor sure has her work cut out for her, but the amount of buzz she has attracted with her latest issue also suggests that readers may be ready for a change. Conservative commenters may not like it, but something tells me Lanphear will end up laughing her way to the bank.