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Men’s magazine Maxim is now up to its fourth issue since Kate Lanphear was announced as its first female editor-in-chief last year. Lanphear has made it clear that Maxim is shunning its oiled-up, in-your-face sex appeal in favor of a more subtle and discerning approach, going for boobless cover shots, non-gross photo stories, and bylines recognizable to readers of lady blogs like The Cutand The Hairpin. But this issue marks the magazine’s sharpest pivot yet. It’s the annual “Hot 100,” and it selects women based not on their aesthetic appeal but their cultural relevance and accomplishments.
“I was really determined with the issue to try and redefine what hot means for the brand,” Lanphear told WWD. For me, the barometer of hot isn’t just beauty; it’s relevance,” said Lanphear, who joined the team last September, after serving as style director at T: The New York Times Style Magazine. “Our audience likes to look at beautiful things and, among them, beautiful women, but they are interested in so much more than that.”
The #1 spot goes to Taylor Swift. “It’s really nice and such an incredible compliment,” the now openly feminist Swift told writer Jessica Roy of her first time being on the cover of a men’s magazine. It’s a fairly brief interview, probably given that Taylor has been pretty busy with all the assassin training and promo stuff for her epic “Bad Blood” music video. However it could just have likely come from the pages of Marie Claire as it could Maxim. The most space is given to her decision to be more focal about feminist issues.
“I didn’t see myself being held back until I was a woman,” she says. “Or 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.”
That last sentence seems less like self-reflection and more a proclamation aimed at the male reader.
This year’s Hot 100 list also spotlights Amy Schumer and Monica Bellucci. Bellucci is the first woman over 50 to ever make Maxim’s list, and Schumer is someone tirelessly dedicated to ripping into the same sexist beauty standards and values Maxim was perpetuating just a couple of years ago. The feature is prefaced with a piece by Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay, who calls for the inclusion of a “broader range of beautiful skin, fuller bodies and complicated surfaces.” And rather than being ranked, the women, bars, cars, films, and travel destinations included in the Hot 100 are organized into different categories. Whichever way you look at it, Maxim has certainly come a long way since it presented feminism as a nasty disease that needed to be “cured” in 2003.
Maxim isn’t the only lad’s mag to get a clap on the back from feminists recently. Last year, Playboypublished a handy flowchart called “Should You Catcall Her,” which gave the go-ahead only if men answered yes to, “Do you know her, and have you both consensually agreed to should sexually suggestive comments to each other in public?” Editorial director Jimmy Jillinek told Slate‘s Amanda Hess that their revamp is partly a plan to recruit more female readers.
The new Maxim man is one who reads Esquire or GQ rather than Playboy. Those magazines are also still figuring out how to empower women and objectify them at the same time. Esquirerecently published a piece on “How to Be a Male Feminist,” which inspired some pretty heated comments from MRA douchebags. The mag also copped a lot of flack for declaring that 42-year-old women could still — given they didn’t slack on Pilates attendance — be totally fuckable.
Maxim seems to be handling its transition a lot more smoothly, opting for equality-slated interviews rather than flashy flowcharts, buzzwordy headlines, and pompous think pieces. And any way you slice this whole feminist mens’s mag movement, at least it’s becoming easier to tell the language apart from that of a convicted rapist. We can definitely get on board with that.