Today’s Dispatch: BURN THIS.

Dear FHM Philippines:

THIS is what you call hot?

Let me put it this way for you, in case you did not get the memo already: We Pinays have a lot of problems with the messages we get from the likes of you. We do not need to be told that we’re not sexy enough because our thighs are not thin enough, our abs are not flat enough, and our boobs don’t stand on attention the way you like them. 
And now you have to tell us that we’re not white enough for you? 

Oh, don’t look at me like I’m some purist. I have read other editions of FHM in the past; I actually learned how to read en Francais thanks to the French edition of FHM. (In my defense, I picked that up because J.Lo was on the cover and I had a guy friend who loved her that much.) Other than that, I just think you’re not worth my time.

But this…

I am not going to deny that the use of black models here are racist in the same way that European editions of Vogue are racist. It’s the whole “oh, but we really didn’t mean to offend” strategy all over again here – the powerful publishers trying to “take a stand” when they should never have approved it in the first place. Oh, look, a play on “black” – how clever. Let’s put that front and center so we could sell more mags. 

But then you have to use that tagline, about “stepping out of the shadows,” like you’re trying to sell us on whitening cream to keep our thighs as milky as you want them. Oh, hell to the no. 
And you chose to break this controversy out on the same week that Octavia Spencer wins the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, on top of it all. Um, “accidental,” much? 
Let me put it to you another way: What kind of expectations are you setting up here? And I’m not just talking from the feminist standpoint here, because we’re used to putting up with that kind of bullshit from every magazine on record. 
I’m talking about the way you deal with your male readership. 
Sure, you have your defenders – your old boys who think we “girls” are too “modern” and too “politically correct” to get our collective bikinis in a twist – but step back and look at it for a sec: These are the guys who want their women subservient and silent. They want good Christian wives who must put up that respectable front in public for them while they fantasize about putting up sexy young things in posh condos with closets full of Victoria’s Secret. They send their daughters to “good schools,” but are disappointed when the same girls get bad grades because spend too much time buying clothes and dancing with rich boys. They want to be served in every way possible by everyone around them – up to, and including, their women, who are expected to worship them as if they were the second coming of George Clooney… in spite of the fact that everything else feels like George Burns. 
Is this the kind of modern man that you and your advertisers want to attract? Is this the kind of young, hip, cutting-edge readership that you want for your magazine? 
Do you really want our young men to grow up this way: to expect fast cars, easy money, and sex on demand if they want to be treated like real men? Do you really want our young men to feel inadequate – and question their sexuality, at least for a little bit – when they realize that good books and hard work are more up to their speed? (If so, can you please explain Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala to me? Points off for using the word “conyo.”) Do you really want our young men to be disappointed when spirited conversations with sweater-wearing women actually turn them on more than frolicking with bikini-clad babes at poolside?
If that’s the case, we do not want to know what you think about our husbands and long-term boyfriends. And we truly do not want to know what you really think about our fathers… let alone yours
I would say more, but I just pity you too much. 
EDITED to add: “The beauty of the cover”? REALLY? 

Love, Stella

2 Responses

  1. Agree.
    My first impression of this cover was "oh she's hot!" about the girl in pink bikini – didn't even notice the gorgeous "black" girls around her! Then when I noticed, I thought exactly the same as what you wrote here… These girls were obviously and purposely being used as light bulb for the start "white" girl, really. I don't know what else to say…

  2. Exactly, Ai. I have nothing against Bela being hot – she's pretty, and can pull off that swimsuit (though I call Photoshop on her cleavage, and other parts) – but I could think of different ways to show her off with the "shadow" metaphor than what we're looking at here.

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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