This well-appointed website isn’t the first time I’ve been “Token Bloke”. I was also TB at the first consumer magazine I was lucky enough to land a job on: the mighty More!. I worked there from 1994 (“nineteen-ninety-phwoar”, we called it) until 1996 (you guessed it, “nineteen-ninety-sex”).
Sadly, More!’s closure was announced this week. The news brought back a Proustian rush of memories. Being one of three male members of staff out of 30. The office ringing to the sounds of cackling women, pounding pop on the stereo and bottles of Hooch being opened on the stroke of 6pm. Nipping to the pub across the road for a pee on the afternoon of staff parties because the office loos were hogged by girls getting ready. Editing the legendary “Position Of The Fortnight” and, when we did a special full-page, gymnastically elaborate position for the 200th issue – a manoeuvre called “The Twister” – having to get down on the office carpet with the female sub-editor and check it was anatomically possible. Fully clothed, I hasten to add. And it was just about possible, provided you were a yoga-trained Russian gymnast, he had an eye-wateringly flexible penis, your bedroom was structurally sound and the neighbours were deaf.
So what did I learn from those heady days of alcopops, Britpop and Token Blokehood? That women en masse are just as filthy and witty as men, if not more so. That contrary to popular myth, an office full of women isn’t bitchy and backstabby but warm, supportive and sisterly. And that no team anywhere has a better, boozier, funnier time than 27 young women and three slightly terrified (but mainly loving it) blokes.
All this made it all the more infuriating this week when certain feminist factions gloated over More!’s demise, just because it didn’t fit into their narrow, elitist and rather joyless worldview. Regardless of your politics, a bunch of skilled people losing their jobs is never something to celebrate. Especially if they’re mainly women in an extremely tough industry and you purport to be a feminist (as would any More! staff member, I’d wager).
Besides, I genuinely believe that magazines for young women back then – More!, Just 17 (which I also worked on), Sugar, Bliss and Minx – were a tremendous force for good. They didn’t snark at other women, make readers feel rubbish about themselves or gleefully put red rings round celebrity cellulite. Instead we were the reader’s slightly older, more worldly-wise best friend – full of high street fashion and beauty, saucy sex tips, problem-solving agony columns, smart careers advice, shirtless men to ogle and most of all, cheeky humour.
We tried to make sure women were well-informed and confident, always used condoms (whenever and with whomever they chose to have sex), looked the best they could, knew that their mates were more important than rubbish men and had a great time all of the time. Judging by More!’s bulging mailbag and buoyant sales – we were selling well over 1m copies a month at our peak – we largely succeeded. But times have changed and the digital age of young women getting their celebrity fix from Mail Online; or Perez Hilton, TMZ, Twitter and a host of other less-regulated gossip sites means that mags like More! struggle to maintain their position (ahem). It’s certainly not feminism that won today – it’s the Sidebar of Shame that triumphed.
So R.I.P. More! magazine, condolences to its readers (it’s always horrible when you lose your favourite mag) and good luck to its team. If my experience was anything to go by – and I suspect little has changed – they’re talented, hard-working and now a bit heartbroken. But they’ll bounce back, go on to big things and remember More! as some of the best days – not just of their career, but of their life. Ignore the haterz, More! girls and Token Blokes, and have a Hooch on me.