Math Is Tough, and So Is Media Literacy

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif) takes to the Washington Post to save womanly virtue from Big Tobacco:

While we have come to expect this kind of sleazy marketing from tobacco companies, a big disappointment is that they've found an ally in women's fashion magazines. That's right, America's most popular magazines for women, which set trends for the country and have historically served as respected sources for articles on women's health and fitness, have sold out the well-being of their readers to help Big Tobacco in its search for new victims.

In June, 40 of my congressional colleagues joined me in writing to the publishers of 11 leading women's magazines: Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, InStyle, Interview Magazine, Lucky, Marie Claire, Soap Opera Digest, Us Weekly, Vogue and W. We asked them to stop accepting misleading advertisements for deadly cigarettes, particularly for Camel No. 9. Not one of the magazines bothered to formally respond. We wrote again on Aug. 1. Seven of the 11 magazines responded, but none has committed to dropping the ads.

Rep. Capps, who wastes no time informing us that she is "a mother, a grandmother, and a former school nurse," really needs to explain why targeting women--also known as most of humanity--is some special sort of problem. Wouldn't you expect a company to advertise to 51 percent of the population? Is that segment of the population less capable of rejecting transparently ridiculous marketing ploys? Do estrogen levels leave us especially helpless before Lucky Strike ads? You could take this entire op-ed and replace the word "women" with "children" or "half-wits" to the same effect.

Actually, Nurse Capps goes ahead and conflates those sets herself, referring repeatedly to "girls and young women." What's a young woman, exactly? We never find out, which makes it hard to know whether this set of people overlaps with the readership of, say, Elle or W. I don't see a lot of prepubescent girls reading W, but maybe I'm not hanging around cool enough girls.

She could easily argue that, pack for pack, smoking is more hazardous for women (again, most humans) than men, but she has to make that argument rather than leave us to wonder why Vogue ads are a problem and Details ads are not. Both potentially reach "young" readers. Instead we're left to assume that men, being capable of complex abstract thoughts, are immune to such marketing. And what savvy marketing it is! They've basically doused a Camel ad in pink, which is exactly the sort of thing that sets my ovaries humming. I don't know whether to be more offended that this is someone's idea of targeting women or that Ms. Capps thinks women are too fragile to be exposed to it.

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  • ||

    The articles that I have read have focused primarily on the fact that the packaging and the marketing is geared toward girls under the age of 18.

    I don't agree with it, nor do I really understand why pink is inherently attractive to under 18 women but not over 18 women, but that seemed to be the criticism I have seen so far.

    This is the first time I am seeing the argument that it there is something wrong with marketing the product to women in general.

  • ed||

    What that ad needs is a sexy girl camel.
    They could create a cartoon persona and name her...I don't know...Josephine?

  • ||

    I have come to enjoy a righteous Kerry Howley rant.

    What indeed is a young woman?

  • Russ 2000||

    You've regressed a long way, baby.

  • ||

    No, Kerry. You've drawn the wrong conclusion entirely. She doesn't object to ads targetting women and not to those targetting men because she thinks women are less intelligent. She does it because she hates men.

    By the way, sorry about the utter brainlessness of your entire gender. There; could I be a congresscritter?

  • ||

    She's not calling out the advertising to women as an especially egregious act by Big Tobacco, but the running of the ads by women's magazines as an egregious act by the women's magazines.

  • ed||

    In all seriousness I was rather shocked to learn that not-so-big tobacco still has (some) first amendment rights regarding (some forms of) advertising. I thought print ads had been banned long ago. Don't The Children(tm) read magazines? I'd like to see a Camel ad in Jack & Jill. California Dems' heads would explode.

  • ||

    Oh, wicked, bad, naughty women's magazines!

  • ||

    joe,
    Which brings us back to Kerry's complaint. Why is advertising in Vogue different than advertising in GQ or SI?

  • ||

    In all seriousness I was rather shocked to learn that not-so-big tobacco still has (some) first amendment rights regarding (some forms of) advertising. I thought print ads had been banned long ago.

    I think the restrictions on print ads are that they cannot show cartoon characters like Joe Camel and they also cannot show photographs of people smoking or holding the cigarettes. There are probably more.

  • ||

    "targeting women--also known as most of humanity--is some special sort of problem."

    Women are an oppressed minority. Haven't you been paying attention?

  • Episiarch||

    The fragile girlies must be protected from the world at all costs. Not one hymen must be broken.

  • ||

    joe's got it right. The congresswoman's complaint is more against the "young women's" magazines than against "big tobacco" for supposedly selling out their customers.

    They should drop those tobacco ads and get back to serving their customers by selling self-worth in a bottle, sexual availability as maturity, and anorexia as way of life.

    Of course, she doesn't have an issue with Maxim and FHM selling tobacco because those magazines already promote bad life choices and a self-abandoning perspective.

  • ||

    What indeed is a young woman?

    Oh, Dan, I thought your parents had that talk with you.

    Actually this explains a lot.

  • ||

    "Sets my ovaries humming" is the best line of the post. It left me with an extremely vivid, extremely disturbing mental image.

  • ||

    The irony of all this is that Ms. Howley appears to think that while women are immune to tobacco advertising, they really do need to be protected from Lois Capps.

  • ||

    You think this is a storm? Wait until one of the tobacco companies markets a cigarette aimed at the black community.

  • ||

    J sub D - um... have you ever seen a Newport ad?

  • ||

    The fragile girlies must be protected from the world at all costs. Not one hymen must be broken.

    Hows that go again, "I lost my cherry, but I still have the box it came in." ?

  • ||

    Mo,

    The tobacco companies advertising in those magazines in no worse than their advertising in any other magazines.

    What is "worse," in a sense, is that magazines that portray themselves as being resources for women's health run ads for cigarettes.

    If Reasons started selling half-pages for Michael Moore films, would have trouble understanding why some might object?

  • ||

    Could Jennifer please comment on this? I've been a big fan of her this week. 90% of her posts are so dry I almost A) Get angry at her before getting it, B)Need a drink of water afterwards.

  • ||

    We told those magazines what to do and they ignored us!

    Us!

    They are evil.

  • ||

    I hope Lois Capps is just soap-boxing. If she was serious, I'd be worried.

    Kerry, I don't think she's implying that men are capable of rejecting stupid ads like these. Rather, she seems to be one of those types who think that men deserve whatever harm they experience, or at the very least that she certainly doesn't need to be concerned about it. I don't know. I don't really understand the representative members of your sex really either.

  • Jennifer||

    America's most popular magazines for women, which set trends for the country and have historically served as respected sources for articles on women's health and fitness,

    This month's respected health 'n' fitness cover stories:

    FIFTEEN SEXY NEW EYE-MAKEUP TECHNIQUES (which you need to know because your natural eyes are just so hideously ugly on their own, so you'll never get laid without the right mascara)

    KICKY NEW FIGURE-ENHANCING FASHIONS (which you need to buy because your unenhanced figure, quite frankly, looks like a cow's)

    HOW TO MAKE HIM COMMIT TO YOU (which due to your various personality flaws he'd otherwise never consider doing unless you follow the techniques outlined in this-here $3.95 magazine)

    LOSE TEN POUNDS BY BATHING SUIT SEASON (Christ, what an unattractive lardass you are)

    MUST-HAVE TRENDY CLOTHES THAT WILL BE OUT OF STYLE BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR (nonetheless you need to buy them if you ever want a man in your life. What, save your money for investment purposes? Pshaw, a man is the only investment you'll ever need.)

  • ||

    J sub D - um... have you ever seen a Newport ad?

    Cigareete ads, hell most ads, don't usually register with me. I was thinking more along the lines of Playah or Gangsta Brand Cigrettes, something like that.

  • Jennifer||

    Whoa. I made that post before noticing DangerMan's.

  • ||

    Add "advertised in Jet and Ebony", to my previous post.

  • ||

    If Reasons started selling half-pages for Michael Moore films, would have trouble understanding why some might object?

    Yes I would have trouble understanding.

    Many liberal websites that hate "Big Oil" run Chevron and Shell advertisements. Does that inherently undermine anything they write about the oil companies?

    Many bloggers who attack the MSM also run ads from some of the publications that they attack.
    Is that an obvious problem?

    I have no problem with Vogue running an ad for cigs while at the same time discussing womens health issues. It doesn't make their points any less valid. My wife reads Cosmo, and the articles frequently discuss the drawbacks of smoking or drinking too much, yet they run cig ads and alcohol ads. The bottom line is you gotta pay the bills and if you are using RJ Reynolds' ad money to pay journalits to write anti-smoking articles, what is the problem?

    I would also like to note that even if the complain is "why are mags that care about women's health running cig ads" why did the uproar just come about when the product is geared towards women? One would think that these people would have been making the same stink about gender neutral cig ads that have been running for years in these mags, no?

  • ||

    WTF? This article was posted TWICE at 2:15 am, and now again at 2:15 pm?

  • ||

    What is "worse," in a sense, is that magazines that portray themselves as being resources for women's health run ads for cigarettes.

    I've never seen anything remotely health-related in Lucky or US Weekly. Calling Vogue, Elle, or W a "resource for women's health" is a stretch; these are fashion bibles, not health magazines like Prevention.

  • ||

    Oh, Dan, I thought your parents had that talk with you.

    jk, Dan, I know you know this. A young woman is a female who has not yet had children, and may therefore still be a libertarian.

  • ||

    I would also like to note that even if the complain is "why are mags that care about women's health running cig ads" why did the uproar just come about when the product is geared towards women?

    Yeah, and why did the uproar only include cigarette ads and not alcohol ads as well? And why just magazines aimed toward women and not websites aimed towards women? And why the uproar about health concerns but not spiritual concerns? Why is Ron Paul concerned with big government but not with the best techniques for fly fishing?

  • ||

    jk, Dan, I know you know this. A young woman is a female who has not yet had children, and may therefore still be a libertarian.

    But probably not. :)

  • ||

    Jennifer:

    How do you REALLY feel?

  • Jennifer||

    I really feel that if I had a teenaged daughter, I'd buy her a subscription to Playboy before I'd let her read Cosmo. For all Playboy's airbrushed unreality, the magazine's essential attitude is "women are great, and so is personal freedom," which beats the hell out of the "You're not good enough" philosophy underlying so-called "women's" magazines.

  • ||

    Of course not, Dan. She just registered Republican so she could vote for Ron Paul.

  • Dave Krueger||

    Out-friggin-standing! What a great commentary to end the week on! The only thing better would have been if those magazines actually grew a back bone and told those moronic crusaders that a refund of their subscription fee is in the mail.

  • ||

    Who in the hell reads women's magazines for "respected sources for articles on women's health and fitness?" (boggle)

    They have ciggy ads? Boo hoo. They also have make-up ads, hair shampoo and conditioner ads, ads for all sorts of clothing and kitchy stuff that will probably have a heck of a lot more effect on a woman's life through depletion of her bank account rather than an ad for a cigarette that she knows full well she shouldn't be smoking anyway.

    Maybe I'm just carrying out my name, but my feeling that anyone of age to smoke cigarettes at present who doesn't know the potential health effects involved isn't going to be swayed in one direction or another by an ad. (Or if she is, good riddance. Stupidity should hurt.)

  • Dave Krueger||

    Playboy airbrushes those models? Crap!

  • Jorgen||

    Lois Capps is the representative of my district and one of the least intelligent politicians I have ever met. She suffers from inability to distinguish things she doesn't like with thinks that should be illegal syndrome worse than anyone else I've seen. One of the candidates running against her once said that if she was any dumber you'd have to water her twice a week.

  • ||

    The irony of all this is that Ms. Howley appears to think that while women are immune to tobacco advertising, they really do need to be protected from Lois Capps.

    We all need to be protected from brainless politicos. Hence, limited government, separation of powers, inalienable rights, all that jazz.

  • Bee||

    Gotta second that, Jorgen. I have seen her speak a couple of times. She was ill-prepared, seemed just plain dumb, and was met by stony silence by the audience, who were presumably her constituents. She was truly cringeworthy.

    She doesn't strike me as someone who would appeal to Central Coasters. But maybe I'm wrong.

  • ||

    Feminism is cool with the idea that women are following any trend started by the corporate sluts over at Cosmo, but the second one of those trends is bad for you, well then we have a problem. Lack of individuality=good, lack of individuality+nicotine=bad.

  • dhex||


    If Reasons started selling half-pages for Michael Moore films, would have trouble understanding why some might object?


    joe that is a false strawman - some people actually enjoy smoking.

  • ||

    I'm still waiting for the hot chick on the right to put on a "Bomb Laos" shirt.

  • Episiarch||

    I'm still waiting for the hot chick on the right to put on a "Bomb Laos" shirt.

    Wouldn't you rather she took one off?

    OMG SEXIST PIG

  • ||

    At least Reason doesn't run ciggy or alcohol ads. They truly love us subscribers.

    (Irony Alert: Reason has run ciggy and alcohol ads in the print mag for Natural American Spirit and AbsintheReason.com.)

  • ||

    Wouldn't you rather she took one off?

    ...and of course, on this thread, she should light one up. In deference to Lois Capps, however, she can spark a joint instead of a Camel.

  • ||

    Somehow I just can't get it out of my head that the female-targeted version of Joe Camel should be Jane Camel...toe.

  • Jane Camel Toe.||

    Funny part? All the college age female smokers switched to Camel #9. It's like Virgina Slims for the thong wearing crowd. Probably one of their most successful recent campaigns. Personally, I like the Turkish Royals, those are pretty tasty.

  • ||

    Wow, brutal, Jennifer.

    Lol, dhex.

    Bomb Laos?

  • ||

    If Reasons started selling half-pages for Michael Moore films, would have trouble understanding why some might object?

    Now, joe, how libertarian would it be to object to unbridled free enterprise like that? That ad might out the Donderoooooo-right-wing trolls, the rest of us would roll our eyes and head down to the hot conservative bikini chick ad.

    What indeed is a young woman?

    Look for something like this, Dan:

    * *
    *
    ()

    or this Brazilian version:

    *
    *
    ()

  • Paul||

    You could take this entire op-ed and replace the word "women" with "children" or "half-wits"

    There's a joke here... right here man, but if I say it, I'll be so in trouble.

  • Paul||

    She's not calling out the advertising to women as an especially egregious act by Big Tobacco, but the running of the ads by women's magazines as an egregious act by the women's magazines.

    Joe, that's a distinction without a difference. To quote the Capps piece:

    for articles on women's health and fitness, have sold out the well-being of their readers to help Big Tobacco in its search for new victims.



    Who cares if Capps is making a back-handed complaint about the magazines, or a front handed complaint about advertising to women, or an argument straddling both. She has explicity suggested that women will see these ads and it will affect their well-being and hence be "victimized".

  • Paul||

    What is "worse," in a sense, is that magazines that portray themselves as being resources for women's health run ads for cigarettes.

    What, Cosmo does an occasional puff-piece about menopause and now it's a "women's health" magazine? Come on, joe, you're stretching here.

    I just hit the Cosmo web page. Lessee here. Headline categories:

    o Sex & Love
    o Style & Beauty
    o Celebs & Gossip
    o You, You, You (item # 6 under this category is "health" 3 categories down from "horoscopes"
    o Fun & Games
    o Cosmolicious

    Then on their flash ditty, "5 Dates that will Drive him Wild." "Sex Tips from Guys" "Bachelor Bonanza"

    Oh, it's a health extravaganza over at Cosmo. I feel like I've just been to the Dr's office.

  • ||

    Does Kerry Howley think that Washington Post readers are too stupid to understand the silliness of Lois Capps's op-ed?

    Washington Post readers are smart, intelligent people who can reach their own conclusions -- and even if they reach what you or I would call dumb conclusions, that's certainly their prerogative to do so. Some people *prefer* that their elected officials take (non-coercive) action to protect their children from advertising; who are we to judge them?

    I'm not sure what I'm more offended by -- Camel's effective advertisting, a Congresswoman's ineffective public pressure campaign, or Kerry Howley's blog post. Can someone help?

  • Jennifer||

    Barbar, do you think Hit and Run readers are too stupid to notice the flaws of Kerry Howley's blog post?

    Hit and Run readers are smart, intelligent people who can reach their own conclusions -- and even if they reach what you would call dumb conclusions, that's certainly their prerogative to do so. Some people *prefer* that their bloggers take (non-coercive) action to make fun of stuff they find stupid; who are you to judge them?

    I'm not sure what I'm more offended by -- Camel's advertising, a Congresswoman's ineffective public pressure campaign, or your comment. Can someone help?

  • Bob||

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/13/AR2007101301071.html

    This link has absolutely nothing to do, at all, with this story, but I am posting it anyway. Why? Because for weeks, this website posted the same old tired bullshit about how people that claimed Iraq was improving were liars peddling vile propaganda. However, given the nature of this site, I expect to see no blog entries at all making corrections. Therefore I will be posting this link in every blog entries comments section. Time to eat crow, assholes.

  • Jennifer||

    Bob, before anyone eats crow you need better news than "People are still dying over there, but not quite as many as last month, and it's too early yet to tell if this is the start of a definite less-fatal trend or just a momentary blip." Remember: success in Iraq is supposed to be "a happy, stable, secular democracy," not "a civil war where slightly less people died than last month."

  • LarryA||

    Take it easy on the womens' magazines, folks. They're doing their part. They absolutely, positively refuse to run any advertising or publish any articles whatsoever on the pro side of the firearms issue.

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