Gulf Elite Perpetuates Media Sexism

A new publication emerged on the NYU Abu Dhabi radar this semester after students collaborated with their marketing startup to found a magazine. The ...

Oct 26, 2013

A new publication emerged on the NYU Abu Dhabi radar this semester after students collaborated with their marketing startup to found a magazine. The publication, Gulf Elite, partners with and takes inspiration from Elite Daily, a U.S. magazine that bills itself as “the voice of Generation-Y.” Gulf Elite’s content ranges from entrepreneurship and career strategies to relationship advice, covering the topics it deems most relevant to today’s youth. Two issues have been released to date.
Like Elite Daily, Gulf Elite markets itself to a diverse audience of young people in the region. One of its advertisements in its first issue labels it “Gulf Elite: for men and women.” Yet inconsistent with this message is content that overwhelmingly focuses on the male experience. Its “Dress for Success” piece only features male fashion. An article on choosing a supportive partner, “Find Your Michelle [Obama]” makes no attempt to relate to readers who are not straight and male.
This disconnect is puzzling, but Gulf Elite takes its exclusion further to full-fledged sexism. Otherwise noncontroversial and even motivating pieces on personal branding, goal-setting and risk-taking contain bizarre slices of misogyny that undermine the publication’s credibility.
A profile of Saana Azzam, who won the award for Swedish Female Economist of the Year in 2010, strangely dwells on the author’s assessment of Azzam’s sex appeal: “She opens the door and you see this tall dark brunette, with a pair of black stilletos [sic], approaching the table … damn!”
An article from the second issue, appropriately titled “Douchebags of the 21st Century,” relies on tired, juvenile stereotypes that insult women and men alike. According to its author, all women are looking for “Mr. Perfect,” while all men have “traits imbedded in their DNA” that compel them to seek casual sex.
Yet another piece, “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance,” proves especially tasteless. I began reading and agreed with its titular message, until I reached this turn:
“Ever wonder why rich ass ugly men end up with the young sexy 25 year olds? Well there is a key word here—rich … How the hell do you think Donald Trump ended up marrying the Slovenian supermodel Melania Knauss — well, it wasn’t for his personality or good looks Ill [sic] tell you that much. It was because he could provide, provide one of the things every woman is looking for, financial security.”
My astonishment at reading this in a magazine that claims to be “by the youth, for the youth” was indescribable. Then again, when one looks at the big brother publication, Elite Daily, it’s easy to see where this attitude comes from. Read at your own risk a few of the masterpieces found in Elite Daily:
Unfortunately, this bro-culture hypermasculinity surfaces again and again and is targeted at our generation through the media, from popular music and video games to print channels. It fosters the attitude that being a real man requires separating oneself as far as possible from femininity, its symbol of weakness and emotional instability. It declares that sexism is fine if it’s ironic — it’s always just a joke. It promotes the idea that women are comparable to objects that exist to entertain and satisfy men: “Who needs a woman when you could have a Ferrari?” Gulf Elite asks in its second issue.
These attitudes are not harmless. They contribute to the inequity that still exists between men and women even in the most developed countries of the world. They limit women’s aspirations to attracting and pleasing men and limit men’s aspirations to sexual conquest. This way of thinking provides no room for growth, exploration or empathy across genders.
Sexism isn’t sexy. It’s ugly and shameful. There’s nothing wrong with a magazine that caters specifically to men or to women — by all means, know thy audience. But don’t demean and disempower people as you try to reach that audience, especially when you claim to be creating your product for them.
Though I admire the entrepreneurial spirit behind Gulf Elite, I am disappointed in its execution. I expect better from my peers at NYUAD that contribute to this publication, and I hope that going forward they will focus more on its inspirational and informative content and less on stereotyping and sexualizing. There’s enough sexism in youth culture and the media as it is. Rather than conform to a lowest common denominator, let’s be thoughtful leaders and set a high standard to which other media might aspire.
Correction: This article has been updated to distinguish Elite Daily's articles from those of Gulf Elite.
Olivia Bergen is a contributing writer. Email her at 
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