Gulf Elite’s Negative Portrayal of Women

While discussions of Gulf Elite’s portrayal of women exploded after The Gazelle published the article “Gulf Elite Perpetuates Media Sexism” in October ...

Apr 19, 2014

While discussions of Gulf Elite’s portrayal of women exploded after The Gazelle published the article “Gulf Elite Perpetuates Media Sexism” in October 2013, debate about the youth-led publication has subsided in recent months. As increasing attention is paid to the online magazine, notably in a recent article in The National, another analysis of Gulf Elite’s message would be timely. While much has been said about Gulf Elite’s portrayal of women, it seems that this portrayal is a symptom of a broader struggle on the part of Gulf Elite to market an image that, while polished on the outside, internally may be floundering. Furthermore, the issue of gender portrayals belies the larger issue of Gulf Elite’s message as a whole. While the magazine claims to be an innovative publication geared toward Generation Y, it in fact is peddling a regressive message about what type of person can be successful.
Vigorous marketing of Gulf Elite on the part of its founders and followers lends it the image of an innovative and robust publication uniquely tailored to our generation of rising professionals. However, structurally and content-wise, Gulf Elite is not equipped for this. While the publication markets itself as a full-scale magazine, it operates much like a blog or forum through a system of authorship which includes little to no filtering or editing. Images used on Gulf Elite’s website are not attributed to their owners, and authors’ works, while at times insightful, are rife with errors. Authors take an authoritative and didactic tone in addressing the reader, offering pithy words of advice which they have neither the qualifications to justify nor the evidence to support. In one article, a 20-year-old author offers words of advice for when you “hit your mid 20s” and need a meaningful relationship post-graduation. In that vein, the use of any evidence to support claims, critical to any journalistic endeavor, is scant. These structural weaknesses in combination with Gulf Elite’s content-related problems indicate that change is desperately needed. However, the lack of change in the publication despite criticisms and its rigorous defense by its founder raise the question of whether the successful image of the publication is being touted at the expense of its quality and message.
Issues of professionalism aside, Gulf Elite does not offer the fresh, contemporary vision of success that it claims to. Rather, it offers a regressive version of what it means to be successful, particularly with regard to women. The very structure of Gulf Elite’s website, which features a section labeled “Women” on its main menu, reveals that the majority of the publication’s content is intended for a default male audience.  Upon scanning the headings — Life, Business, Money, Women, et cetera — the reader is left wondering if “Women” is a category for women or if women are a category themselves. In fact, one Gulf Elite author seems confused about this too, having uploaded his article about “finding the woman of your life” in the “Women” section — unless, of course, this is part of Gulf Elite’s much-anticipated new series on LGBT perspectives on success, which I, and the rest of Generation Y, I’m sure, could totally get behind.
Gulf Elite persists in its publication of content about women for men, falling back upon regressive and occasionally offensive language when speaking about females — see their article “Correlation Between Dating and Personal Branding” for one example. Its author’s messages are revealingly contradictory, failing to decide whether to portray women as empowered professionals or whether they are “chicks” who are ready to “dramatize you in [their] mind” and “associate you with the romantic characters [they have] heard or read about again and again and again,” assuming, of course, that the presumably male reader can market himself properly.
Following criticisms of such content, Gulf Elite has introduced additional female writers, a solution which, as the only apparent fix thus far, amounts to little more than tokenism. And while some of the latest articles of female authorship are well-written, they conveniently do not contribute a view that at all complicates or challenges Gulf Elite’s outdated portrayal of women and their supposed role.
The image of success overwhelmingly favored by Gulf Elite authors is exclusive in other ways as well. Authors tout a narrow, Wall Street-inspired version of the path to success that is increasingly irrelevant in that it does not acknowledge the unique challenges and outlooks of our generation’s diverse constituents. Articles on success in dating, for example, are often as heterosexually-oriented as they are rooted in a narrow, still-Western cultural context; other pieces undermine women as much as they elevate affluence.  While some authors have made an apparent attempt to diversify this narrow version of success, many others continue to idolize a banal image of suit-clad success that stepped straight out of an episode of “Mad Men.” If Gulf Elite claims to be a publication innovatively geared for the next generation, it seems such talk may fall on deaf ears. While the publication’s vision sounds admirable, it has much work to do, both structurally and content-wise, to live up to the image it promotes. So heads up, Gulf Elite — some serious [re-]branding is in order.
Emma Leathly is a contributing writer. Email her at
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