How to Please Women
Every month at this magazine, we strive for the impossible.
When I was installed as the executive editor of this magazine five years ago, there were those at this company who feared I was an unwise choice. I won’t name names, but the naysayers included the co-workers I’d insulted either directly (e.g., “You colossal twit.”) or indirectly (e.g., “Hey, wanna hear a totally awesome limerick?”). Which is to say, most of the company.
Aside from their personal animosity toward me, they felt my editorial sensibilities were too “male.” I once pitched the idea of a fashion spread in which the models would wear only bacon. Stuff like that. The thing is, our audience—that’s you, dear reader—skews toward the distaff direction. D Magazine subscribers run about 70 percent female. Total readership—including newsstand buyers and those who presumably enjoy the magazine while waiting to see their gastroenterologists—is about 57 percent female. Knowing those data, some here wanted an executive editrix.
Listen, I’ll tell you why I don’t have to be a woman to helm a magazine enjoyed by women (and, let’s not forget, men who love women). Take this month’s cover subject, the smashing Janine Turner. When her publicist approached me about covering Janine’s new book, I said, “Bingo, sweetheart! I’ve been knocking around the notion of doing a story about cougar hunting in Dallas. Janine is, like, the ne plus ultra of cougars. She’d make the perfect cover model.”
There came over the phone from Beverly Hills such a profound silence in response to my suggestion that I had to say, “It’s Latin. It means she’s a good example.”
Turns out the publicist was more concerned about us calling her client a cougar than she was befuddled by my private-school vocabulary. At length I received an e-mail from her: “We don’t want to describe Janine as a cougar. How will you be using the word on the cover? As a general fun, playful term, we are fine with it as long as it doesn’t directly link to Janine. Let me know. Thanks so much!”
I replied: “We will NOT call Janine a cougar on the cover. But we’ll certainly IMPLY it. I can’t lie to you about that. I’m not sure what our headline will be, exactly. But it will communicate something along the lines of: ‘We’re going to tell you about cougars in Dallas.’ Pairing that with an image of Janine will imply she’s a cougar.
“Here’s how we make everything better: we’ll put an asterisk by the headline, and we’ll put these words on the cover: ‘Which is not to imply, in any way, that Janine Turner is a cougar. She’s a respected actress. And now she’s an author. Click here for a Q&A on her new book about single moms.’ ”
We had a deal.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the final version of the cover that you hold in your hands. Actually, two things. First, our managing editor, Eric Celeste, who is half-woman (judging by how careful he is about what he eats) and who wrote our groundbreaking story here about cougars, said, “You can’t put ‘cougar’ on the cover. Every cougar I talked to for the story said she hates the term ‘cougar.’ ” Second, our creative director, Todd Johnson, came up with a better cover line than the one I gave him, which was: “Yes, You Can Buy Me a Drink.”
That’s how it works. Three men. Two of them smart enough to think like a woman.[Stacey, does this thing work? I worry the ironic sexism isn’t funny. A different direction? I’m open to suggestions.]
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