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Dec 12, 2012 03:54 PM

Are cooking magazines sexist?

My wife gave me a subscription to Bon Appetit magazine two years ago (I just renewed it) and I buy Food Network magazine more often than not and I have noticed in both that ALL advertising is aimed toward women despite the large number of male cooks and professional chefs. It really iritates me in Food Network magazine considering they have as many male chefs on their network as they do female (if not more).
Do any of you guys feel "ignored" when it comes to the cooking magazines you buy, or am I alone in this?

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  1. I'm female, but I know where you're coming from.

    While it's true that yes, there are many, many, many professional male chefs these days - as well as serious male home cooks - it's also still true that for the most part the day-to-day home cook in the average family is female.

    Advertising dollars are getting slimmer & slimmer, thus they need to spend their dollars where they feel they'll get the best end result. And that's not the professional male chef or even the male home cook.

    1. I think that you have chosen two examples that absolutely do target a female audience. The upwardly-mobile housewife = Bon Appetit. Just look at the advertizing. It is "shelter magazine" with an emphasis on living/food. FN magazine is geared towards the many female viewers of the shows (and day-to-day household cooks). Choose a more serious publication, Fine Cooking or Saveur, and you will not find the same gender bias.

      Professional chefs will likely read Food Arts since it is geared to the profession.

      1. I hardly ever buy that, but I found one issue from 2009. It has a few cosmetics advertisements in it. It never occurred to me to have an opinion on the possibility of "sexist" bias, and it still doesn't. I don't care what advertisements are in any food magazine I buy, because I buy one only for a particular article or recipe.

        1. I don't know if it is sexist. Advertisement is advertisement. Someone decided that the readers for these two magazines fit their markets. It is whoever they want to target their audience. Keep in mind that these two magazines are not really selling cooking techniques, but about life styles. To me, sexist is judging someone's ability based on their gender, and this is not the case.

          <considering they have as many male chefs on their network as they do female (if not more)>

          While this may be true, it isn't about who are on show, but who read the magazine. Advertisements on a dog magazine do not sell to the dogs, but the dog owners who read the magazine. Companies are not trying sell their products to the chefs, but to the readers. We know for sure that most readers of these magazines are indeed women, by a huge margin too. In fact, most the Chow readers are also women.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Interestingly (maybe), ever since BA changed editors-in-chief from Barbara Fairchild to Adam Rapoport, the magazine has been redesigned to look more like Vogue, or some other fashion magazine and less like a solid food/cooking magazine.

            1. re: MagicMarkR

              I agree. BA has jumped the shark. I discontinued my subscription before Fairchild's departure but was " gifted" with it once again when Gourmet tanked and my subscription was switched to BA. Can't end soon enough.

              1. re: nlgardener

                Me too, but in a different way. It was all set to expire when my mom told me she had renewed the subscription as a gift. Sigh. Well it is the thought that counts. I even think Gourmet went downhill (before tanking) and started to look more like a artsy photography magazine with a focus on food rather than a food magazine with yummy pictures.

          2. It's not just advertising either - I often read Cooking Light and in every issue there is a page featuring cosmetics/lotions, etc. in whatever the "flavor of the month" is.

            I am female, but my dad taught me to cook and is the ultimate chef in our family!

            10 Replies
            1. re: brirock

              <my dad taught me to cook and is the ultimate chef in our family>

              Yes, and I am sure a lot of men are great cooks. Does your dad subscribes Cooking Light? 84% of Cooking Light readers are females. 84 vs 16. This is more than 5-fold. When 84% of your readers are women, it would be "unrealistic" to pretend you have a 50:50 audience.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                He does, actually. Just something I've noticed in the magazine, no extreme social commentary intended :)

                1. re: brirock

                  :) Oh I see. Well, your dad is a minority then.

                  Here is some information if you are interested
                  Food Network: 90% Female
                  Cooking Light: 84% Female
                  Bon Appetit: 74% Female
                  Cook's Illustrated: 61% Female

                  Chef Magazine: 62% Male

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I wonder how those statistics are compiled? The only magazine we get that has any cooking content is Southern Living, maybe 20% is related to food. The subscription is in my wife's name. Am I being counted as a reader?

                    Their advertising is mainly geared towards women.

                    1. re: kengk

                      I guess the magazine collect the information when people subscribed to them. That is certainly one way, but like you said, there is a problem with this.

                      Or they do what pollsters do, they call/contact their subscribes and select a small sample ~100-200 people to get an idea of readership. Is the subscriber the only, reader? Who else read the magazine, what are their the age, gender, income...etc.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        In this age of data mining, they probably have info on other purchases by people who subscribe to the magazine.

                        1. re: FoodPopulist

                          That is certainly a better way than I have put it.

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I buy Cooking Light more than any other food mag, and never have given a moment's thought to a possible sex bias (I am male). I don't know that the magazine editors are pretending anything. They no doubt report their demographic (as far as they know it) to prospective advertisers, who then choose whether to place an ad. So I think your analysis is correct. If the demographic is 84% female, there will be much advertising of interest only to females. That doesn't affect my decision to buy a copy.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    <That doesn't affect my decision to buy a copy.>

                    Certainly not. I just want to say that a magazine with a 84% female readership will not have a 50:50 advertizement ratio. So I think I just want to say that it is not sexist. It is what it is -- simply marketing and business strategy. Most video game players are male, so you and I will find more male orienated advertisements in a video game magazine.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      I won't find any at all, since I never read such stuff.