Waterloo publication apologizes for article suggesting women 'be seductive'

An article published in the Women of Merit magazine, a Waterloo region-based publication featuring local women, sparked outrage on Twitter for suggesting women be nice and attractive when interacting with men for better communication.

One reader says the article felt like 'it was written in the 1960s'

Volume 5 of the Women in Merit magazine featured an article many people took issue with, saying it sends the wrong message about women and men. (Flora Pan/CBC)

When Michaela Angemeer flipped through the fifth volume of the Women of Merit magazine, she said she was "shocked" to find an article saying women should "be attractive" and "be seductive" when communicating with men to achieve "better results."

"It was almost anti-feminist and anti-men at the same time," Angemeer told CBC News. She lives in Waterloo and works at a Kitchener-based company.

"It felt like it was written in the 1960s. It just doesn't belong in this time."

The magazine is a publication based in Waterloo region featuring local women's accomplishments in their careers or personal lives. The issue was distributed to people's mailboxes, which was how Angemeer read it.

The article in question is titled "What women need to know about men," and it's written by Marcia Martin, a life coach and communication expert.

Angemeer said the article came off as accusatory to women, in particular the part that said "too many times, women are b--tchy and mean trying to get what they want."

The rest of the articles in the issue features women such as the chair on the Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region board of directors, a partner at KPMG LLP and a number of small business owners.

The magazine is a project started by Lesley Warren, the creative director of a design firm in Waterloo, which also printed the magazine. Warren was the editor for this issue.

Publication apologizes

After a storm of tweets expressing concern about the article, the team behind Women of Merit released a statement with an apology.

"We deeply apologize for the comments that were made in that article," the statement posted to Twitter said.

"We believe that the publication is a platform for women to share their stories and perspectives earned through their experiences, and will improve our review and editorial process for future editions."

Warren did not want to comment on the existing review and editorial process and said she had never intended to offend anyone with the content in the magazine and that she was "deeply sorry."

"I believe at its most basic, the article was meant to provide some tips to effectively communicate. It just obviously wasn't delivered in an effective way," she said.

Some people also tweeted to the Region of Waterloo and the City of Waterloo, demanding an explanation for how distributions of certain publications are regulated.

Shayne Turner, the director of municipal enforcement services at the City of Waterloo, said in an online statement that the city is not responsible for the content that gets distributed to private property.

"If some content borders on advocating 'hate,' then the police may be called. Otherwise the individual who objects needs to talk to the publisher," Turner said.

Not anti-feminist

Martin said she had only heard from people who said they enjoyed the article in the initial conversation with CBC News.

When she learned of Angemeer's comment about the piece being anti-feminist, Martin denied the claim.

Marcia Martin says the article was meant to be light-hearted and is sorry people took offence to it. (Courtesy of Marcia Martin)

Martin was unavailable for further comment but sent an email statement saying the article was meant to be "light-hearted" and "another way of looking at things."

"I do not think that if a women is attractive, seductive and fun, that it means she is not working on improving the community or is not working on busting the old paradigm of patriarchy," Martin wrote.

"But it seems to work to thank our men and appreciate what they do, and to consider that possibly men and women are quite different from each other, and have different ways of being inspired and empowered."

Martin ended the email saying she is "sorry anyone took any offence."

'Disservice' to women

While Martin said she didn't mean for people to take her words so seriously, Karen Scian, former Waterloo city councillor, said the publication should reprint the magazine without the article.

At first she thought the article was written as satire, but she changed her mind when she couldn't find a punchline or other signs it wasn't meant to be taken seriously.

"It was written with full intent," Scian told CBC News. "It absolutely ridiculed men, paints the picture of men as basically pets that need to be rewarded and manipulated."

"It's a complete disservice to the excellent women that are profiled in that magazine."

Warren said based on the reaction from the community, the piece will be taken off the online version of the publication but the physical copies will not be reprinted.

Despite the problems Angemeer had with this issue, she said she hasn't given up on the publication and will support them in the future if it improves.

"I would like to believe that that's not the mission of the magazine," she said.

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