It all started with a letter to the editor on June 10, 2015 regarding the cover art of their publications at the onset of the 2015 year. It seems every other month there is cover art that objectifies women.
The letter to the editor is below:
Dear Mr. Stone,
I find myself reading Traffic Technology International when it arrives in my mailbox because it often contains information that is relevant to my work and interests. However, I have found myself put off by the cover art on two of the three issues in the 2015 production. The January and the most current edition of Traffic Technology International show under dressed, un-professional women sitting in provocative or helpless positions, and to the best of my knowledge that is the extent that any female has ever been featured on the cover of this periodical. While I do not believe it is your intent, I must say that the portrayal of women in such a light is damaging to our role in this field because it further promotes the objectification of women and gender inequality. I hope that in future issues the cover art represents women in ITS and otherwise more positively.
Alexandria M. Noble
The editor’s response to my email is below. It is quite lengthy.
Thank you for taking the time to write. I do very much value all feedback, good and bad! It probably won’t surprise you to learn that others share your view of the January cover. In my defence I come from a consumer background, working on titles such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Men’s Health, so in my past career such images are fairly run of the mill. My ambition is to create eye-catching covers that grab people’s attention and make them want to read the magazine. However, if I put you off reading then I have obviously failed in one of the most important parts of my ambition! Although perhaps I can take small comfort that at least I caught your attention.
I’m glad, that you realise it is not my intention to cause offence. Also in my defence I would say that I certainly would not shy away from under-dressed men on the cover should there be a good picture of one – Men’s Health has certainly had great success with that formula! However, really, I think you can rest assured that the likes of the January cover are unlikely to be seen again – whether it is a man or woman in the picture.
Another important point I should make is that, as with so many things, my choices are restricted by budgets. The images in question are from image libraries, therefore I do not have complete editorial control over them. We do not have the budget to shoot our own photographs – photo shoots are prohibitively expensive. All our original imagery is illustration, but I want to try to get more photography into the magazine where possible as I believe it has a greater impact. The problem being that I must work with what I can find in libraries. Which brings me to the more recent cover. Had I been able to control the shoot I would certainly not have styled the woman in the same way. I think, as you intimate, more professional attire would have been much more appropriate. However, on the flip-side, I really love the image of the car crash. As you might imagine, creating such a picture would go way beyond the price of a normal photoshoot into realms that even consumer magazines would think twice about, so we were very lucky to get this image. Accordingly I was prepared to accept the, I agree, rather unsatisfactory styling of the woman in the picture, as I feel the whole is very much more than the sum of its parts, if you see what I mean.
I hope this goes some way to explaining my thinking on these two covers. And I do hope you will continue to enjoy Traffic Technology International in the future – I’m really glad you are a keen reader and the content is useful. Again I must thank you for taking the time to write. As I am new to this role (I have just completed my first year) I am still learning what works and what doesn’t, while also trying to ensure the magazine evolves and moves with the times – comments like yours are invaluable in helping me with this process and I will certainly be bearing them in mind when planning future covers. Please accept my apologies for any offence caused. I’m hoping that I may yet find or commission some dramatic cover images that you will really love.
So imagine my annoyance when I check my office mail and I see this cover. I can’t understand the rationale behind the decision to use these photos in what is supposed to be a professional publication. I’ve seen nothing of the like in Popular Science or Popular Mechanics (ehhh – they may have slipped up once or twice) which makes it even more frustrating that this is an intentional decision to portray women (and now men) in this way.
Research by Canada’s Center for Digital and Media Literacy finds a correlation between the objectification and victimization of women in video games and violence against them. The study quotes media psychologist Dr. Karen Dill-Shackleford (2011), who states: “When women are consistently shown as sex objects rather than agents, consistently depicted in demeaning and degrading ways, and consistently shown as submissive, the result is to condone and support violence against women, and anti-woman attitudes.”
Whether these images inspire anti-woman attitudes or objectification, I don’t know. But quite frankly I would have preferred to see something that actually pertains to the key topic of the magazine. The illustration to the left is supposed to allude to traffic scenarios if London were to be without power… I think a big red double decker bus sitting in traffic with all the lights out would have been a great representation. This did nothing but make me mad.