The problem with women’s magazines

Dear T

I’m sure you’ve seen this circulating social media circles in the recent weeks.

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I know what you’re thinking. How truly grim it is that this sort of discrimination is still a frequent occurrence? Definitely.

How scary the world is? Absolutely.

How inspiring this story is? Ye… wait. What?

The other day my friend Lucy sent me this:

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Inspiring. Inspiring. Is that what you would call it?

Like one of those videos that you see posted on Facebook about a dog freaking out when it sees its owner for the first time in years or a 9 year old boy giving his coat to a cold looking girl at a bus stop. Those things are always labelled ‘inspiring’.

But then again, there’s no racist graffiti plastered all over the subway in those videos.

Here’s how I imagine the meeting at Glamour HQ went down:

Writer: We need to talk about this story, but it’s pretty intense.

Editor: I agree.

Writer: Why don’t we sugar coat it by skimming the issue? Write about how inspiring it is that people cleaned off the anti-Semitic hate?

Editor: BINGO

It was during this meeting – presumably in a desperately sleep deprived state – that they came up with this really fitting and appropriate tagline to sell the story: ‘This will brighten up your Sunday!’

My friends and I discussed this over Whatsapp, where many of our deep conversations and debates (and what we’re going to wear on a night out) take place. My friend, Jess, said that she was all up for seeing positive in negative situations, but felt ‘like that just shits all over a horrific news story.’

Because at the end of the day, this news isn’t about the people who wiped off the Nazi symbolism (which in my eyes is pure human decency). No, it’s about how terrifying it is that this hate is still being scrawled over walls in 2017. And as Lucy pointed out, it ‘hasn’t brightened up anyone’s fucking Sunday.’

Buried underneath Glamour’s glitter and unicorn shit is a real issue.

I wondered how many other stories like this one get camoflaged everyday in women’s magazines.

That’s when I noticed it.

Women’s magazines are seriously behind the times when it comes to progression. Here’s a cute montage I made earlier:

From my research, the majority of women’s magazines contain most or all of these wise and thought-provoking articles:

  • How to have good sex, specifically with a man (Because apparently you can’t if you’re sleeping with a woman)
  • What clothes you should be wearing atm and will suit your figure (This is important for seducing the man that you might have sex with and conforming to the popular notion that appearances are there to be judged)
  • How to be happy (Man+sex and good clothes/body/hair xox)
  • Which celebrities look shit and why (Play close attention so you don’t make a fool out of yourself in front of men)
  • How to style your hair and do your make up right. I’m not even going to speak in brackets. I know about as much about make up as my brother. The magazine will tell me a) I’m brave for going ‘bare faced’ b) I should try a better moisturiser if I’m going to do that.

I’m not brave, just lazy. I like painting my nails. Sometimes I put concealer on my spots. Occasionally I wear lipstick. It’s not a hobby. I don’t know the brands or ‘what’s hot.’

Just like some girls like red wine and some don’t. Some dabble. Why not. Free country.

The point is: make up and hair doesn’t interest every girl. Neither does wine. Neither do Shane Meadows movies. There is no universal interest.

These common articles are not common articles of woman kind. These tropes are not defining of femininity. But they are in every women’s mag and I find that weird.

It’s weird that we can still be lumped into one model of culturally constructed femininity, a woman whose life revolves around fashion, beauty and sex. 50 years ago it was this.

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It’s weird that these magazines also preach their allegiance to feminism, like its a trend. Equality and all that, yeah. Stand up for what you believe in, but careful not to wear too much eyeliner because that’s a serious faux pas this season and no-one will take you seriously.

It’s fine to be a feminist and also want to have good hair. It’s also fine not to. The whole point of feminism is that you can be whoever you want to be without restriction. These magazines have codes and control.

Today these magazines should be brave. They should be without restriction.

But it might not sell.

Luckily, for us in 2017 everything is so accessible. We can pick and choose for ourselves what we want to read about, what each of us can specifically relate to. We can like, retweet, share. We are the creators of our own publications. And in a few years, physical copies of magazines will be dying out anyway. But wouldn’t it be nice if, before they do, the editors take a stand and make a real difference. Because soceity could really do with it, now more than ever.

What do you think? Reckon I’m being unreasonable?

Looking forward to a catch up soon

Alex xoxo

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4 thoughts on “The problem with women’s magazines

  1. sibillerose

    Great points! I find this to be true of most media, not just in women’s magazines. People would rather paint over the deeper issue with how good a person is or giving themselves a pat on the back instead of saying “there is something seriously wrong with this and what can we do to change this type of hate”. It’s this type of influence the media has that keeps many people uninformed about serious issues and thus people are making decisions without having the majority of the facts (a recent example my boyfriend and I were discussing is how many people didn’t realize Obamacare is the same as the Affordable Care Act). Great post!

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  2. Cherylene

    Hi Alex, thank you for your article. I agree, magazines should try to go deeper in their contributions and not focus primarily on skin deep or surface issues of women. A thought provoking article, inspirational or motivational piece that feeds our minds and spirit would be a welcome change. I have no objection to magazines informing women about products or techniques to help us look and feel our best. I do have a problem when they overlook or ignore the fact that we are so much more than our skin, hair and nails. We are intellectual and emotional beings that should be stimulated on ALL levels not just the surface.

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