“These men love their hobbies … almost as much as their girlfriends!” Are your sides splitting yet? According to July’s issue of Company magazine, the equation for summer this year is a ‘girl’, plus a ‘boy’, plus … a motorbike! A surfboard! A mountain bike! But guess who owns that motorbike, that surfboard, that mountain bike? Not the girls, silly. You didn’t expect a women’s magazine to write about women with non-fashion hobbies did you?
In a three page ‘staycation special’ that is basically an advertisement for Watergate Bay in Cornwall, Company introduces us to three couples through statements in which the men talk about their passions and the women talk about … watching them do stuff. Brian, 23, and Holly, 24, are from Bristol and have been together for three years. Holly says, “There’s no need for me to be a biker chick in my own right, I much prefer sitting on the back of Brian’s bike and enjoying the ride. Plus he looks good in leathers!” Holly, we learn, is currently directing a ‘small mystery thriller’ but we don’t get to hear about that, instead it’s all about Brian. After all, he looks good in leathers!
Steve, 26, and Iona, 20, from Devon, have been together for two years. Iona is a bit of a photographer by the sounds of it, but Steve’s surfing is the main show here. She says, “I’m a real sun-seeker so I love being at the beach, I watch Steve surf a lot, which works for me because I take cool photos and lay in the sun.” Iona has a surfboard too but doesn’t express an interest in taking it up during the interview. Nevertheless Steve says when she’s got all the gear he’ll be her ‘surf mentor’. He’s determined to start teaching her how to surf this summer and feels pretty lucky that she’s so supportive of his ‘wave obsession’. A few questions, does Iona take photographs of things that aren’t her boyfriend? If not, does she want to? What does Steve think about her photographs? What does he do to support her ‘photo obsession’? Thanks to this feature’s WAG approach, we never find out.
The final couple is Simon, 23, and Jess, 18, from Dorset, who have been together for nine months. Jess says she is a very ‘clumsy’ person so she doesn’t think she would ever try racing mountain bikes like Simon. But she does like more relaxed countryside bike rides. Now there’s a big increase in women taking up cycling and there are loads of style blogs run by women like Vélo-City-Girl popping up all over the internet lately. Cycling, even non-competitively, is clearly a hobby and one that would have made an interesting feature (and allowed Company to print lots of nice photos). Unfortunately Company doesn’t seem very interested in what Jess gets up to in her spare time outside of cheering on her man.
Now I don’t want to hate on the people in this article. God knows what kinds of questions they were asked. It’s the framing of the article that is the problem. It’s very clear that the women in these relationships do have interesting things going on in their lives, and yet their passions are practically invisible. Women’s magazines are notorious for presenting pretty standard sexism wrapped up in ‘love yourself girl!’ wrapping paper. This Company feature makes it pretty clear they can’t even be bothered doing that sometimes. Even though the WAG-worship phenomenon is pretty widespread in the media, I still can’t picture how ‘girls who watch their boyfriends do stuff’ got through a features editorial team (let alone an all-female one) in 2012. How many of us actually want to read about women watching their boyfriends? It doesn't exactly make for a thrilling afternoon. Women's magazines are always so keen for us to masturbate in front of our boyfriends. How come they get fanny fun and we get snorkelling or some shit? Bollocks to that.