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Media, Musings

Why most women’s magazines are hell

Thanks to my pauper status, I’ve stopped buying as many magazines as I’d like to. This isn’t the first time I’ve denied myself the ‘pleasure’ of women’s mags though. For a year, I slapped myself with a ban on buying women’s magazines because of the negative effect they had on me. They still provided light reading in the waiting rooms of my doctor, dentist and while getting my hair snipped but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy into them and what they have to say.

Why? Well, you know that line in ‘Panic’  when Morrissey condemns radio DJs because “The music they constantly play says nothing to me about my life” –  that’s how I feel about most media aimed at women, particularly magazines. In fact, they seem so far removed from the actual experience of being a woman they make me a) think I’m a man or b) wish I was one.

On a trip to the airport, I got sucked into the glossies and, in need of a quick, unchallenging read, I broke my ban and bought one. OK so it served its purpose and occupied me on the flight but it also reaffirmed my belief that the majority of women’s magazines are turgid, moronic and actually insulting to women. Life’s just too short to have bitches you don’t know make you feel like shit about yourself.

Before any women’s mag scribes get offended, these are my main problems and they are not directed at ALL women’s mags:

1. In one issue you can have a ‘love your body the way you are’ article and, a couple of pages later, a 4 page spread on how to diet yourself into size six jeans. Lunacy. I actually feel like I’m being pulled in different directions by the time I’ve put the mag down and feel consumed with confusion and self loathing. This is not a magazine, it’s mental torture. It’s all ‘be this, be that’ – what about be yourself?

2. Holding up WAGS as role models. How can women’s mags claim to empower women and then put women like this on the cover? These women are more dangerous for society than the Playboy Bunnies ever were. Prior to the Abbey Clancy-Peter Crouch wedding, Glamour gushed via Twitter about Clancy’s meteoric rise. I tweeted them asking “Meteoric rise to what exactly? Being a footballer’s wife who stands back & lets him cheat on her? No thanks.” There was no response. If I had’ve written “OMG she looks amaaazing! I want to be a WAG someday” I would have gotten a retweet.

3. Women’s mags have no meat on their bones (and I’m not just talking about the models they use). Things just aren’t questioned enough and, more often than not, I feel like they talk to me as if I’m an idiot. Why is it that news, social problems and anything a bit more intelligent than stalking Kate Middleton is reserved for men’s media? Is it impossible to be entertaining AND smart? Oh hello Jezebel, thank God for you.

4. Clichéd or not, looks really aren’t everything. Women’s magazines continue to feed into the notion women are valued on looks alone. They also repeatedly shift the bar so often women will inevitably feel like shit after reading it. One week it’s “Curves are in!” the next week it’s “Get your bikini body!” One month it’s “Go brunette!” then the next they provide a guide to bleaching your hair. Just once I’d like to come across a magazine that 100% smacks of BE HAPPY WITH YOURSELF. And not like the condescending love yourself articles which manage to stick a pic of a Victoria’s Secret model into it while encouraging you to gorge on cream buns.

5. More balls please! I’d like to see a women’s mag with balls. I’d like to see a columnist say there’s nothing cool or inspirational about the plastic fantastic TOWIE brigade or who isn’t interested in assisting Jordan’s next publicity move. They seem to be all following each other, ‘let’s just go along with things, they clearly sell magazines’ but, with magazine sales dropping each year, is the passive approach of not sticking your neck out working against them? Take Ireland for example. Anyone with half a brain cell recognises how ridiculous and un-modelly Irish models are but still Irish women’s mags present them to us like they are Gisele Bundchen. And for the record, seeing an orange, 5ft glamour girl whose only talent is posing in knickers on the cover does NOT make me relate to the magazine more.

6. Copycat syndrome. Women’s media make lemmings out of us. I’m independent and I’m confident in who I am, what I like and I don’t need to compare myself to Kim Kardashian or get her look thank you very much. The whole ethos is ‘copy this’ and it infuriates me. Are women really that unimaginative and uninspired that we need a magazine to tell us what to do? Jesus wept.

7. We don’t all accept the bible that is Sex and the City and we’re not all perpetually on the pursuit of a man. Likewise, if women seem obsessed with weight and diets, maybe it’s because every single women’s magazine has at least one article per issue or one mention of weight per page. Just maybe.

8. Women’s magazines encourage bitchiness and competition between women. They have their guns loaded up on peer pressure and are fluent in bringing women down. Some examples: healthy weight celebs are described as plus size (no one wants to be plus size, it’s a polite term for fat) or they speculate on when she’ll lose weight. “Who wore it better?” articles are just an excuse to pick another woman apart and pit them against each other. They also love preaching to us in a patronising, covertly misogynist manner. Look at how much mileage they got out of lecturing us about bad Angelina versus sad Jen. The message is know your place, ladies and don’t step outside the box or we’ll claw you down to size. Women’s mags feed off bitchiness and make competing with other women a primary life goal. No wonder office politics can be so interesting…

9. The crappy relationship advice. Wanna be single forever? Then follow the advice of relationship columnists in your favourite magazine with their hilariously inept ideas about the male brain. If you want to get to know men better, talk to them and hang out with them, just ditch the half-psycho, half-desperado magazine “advice” first.

10. Does EVERYTHING have to be about age? Yes, age is a big deal for women but we really don’t need reminded of the pressure to be line-free at 78 by airbrushed articles plugging expensive “cremes” which are sandwiched between photoshopped ads of alien-like models. Also, stop with the pressure for us to have it all by a certain age. 25 is not the end of the world, neither is 30, or 40 or even 100. I’d like to see a magazine which advocates women do what we please, starting with the idea that kids and/or marriage are up to you. Go with the flow as long as you’re happy.

Admittedly, as a journalist, I’ve contributed myself to women’s magazines in the past but I’ve always tried to avoid going down the dumbed down, talking-like-Paris-Hilton route.  I naively thought I could change them from the inside out and I will continue to strive to do this. I’ve never written anything about a celeb getting fat because she looks a bit post-pasta bloated or written a guide to nabbing a millionaire. Maybe if I did I’d be snapped up by Cosmo or have my own column about the trials of a Stepford Wife in waiting but I don’t buy into this bullshit.

Women’s magazines are selling women short and making intelligence a dirty word that only men can enjoy. Too many of them present women’s value as based on the false lashes and hair extensions you use instead of your brain, personality or encouraging readers to go places in life. I love make up and fashion as much as the next girl but until I can find a magazine that isn’t a vacuous Bimbo’s Guide to the Universe, I’ll be reinforcing my magazine ban. If you want me, I’ll be in the corner reading National Geographic and dunking biscuits in my tea without worrying about getting my “Bikini Bod” – in other words, enjoying life as it should be.

If you still fancy a women’s mag, here are some of the more intelligent reads aimed at women which do a better job than most i.e. you won’t be suicidal after reading them:

  • Red – definitely a mag for the thinking woman
  • Company – commendable for articles like their recent campaign about getting home safely
  • STELLAR – Irish glossy with features on topics like life, health and careers with a positive outlook
  • Zest – their focus is always on health first, instead of weight loss or starving yourself to lollipopdom.
  • Stylist – Free mag in the UK about culture, emphasising importance of non chick-lit (ugh) books and career stories
Finally, I leave you with this, which puts things much better than I ever could.

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About Lisa Hughes

Hello! I am a journalist based in Dublin, Ireland and I mostly write about travel, music, film and - believe it or not - occasionally The Serious Stuff. I like old movies, 1960s Phil Spector girl groups, animals, thrift shopping and writing about my many obsessions. Oh and travelling but I bet you guessed that already.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Why most women’s magazines are hell

  1. Very true words. I subscribed to Cosmopolitan, Company and Glamour for a longtime but stopped about six months ago. THey make you feel inadequate no matter what you do and you can get all the goss on the internet anyway. I had a good LOL at the Overanalyzing magazine cover, funny coz its true. Do you really think Company is good? I don’t think it has any substance. The other things I hate about magazines are the airbrushing, Jennifer Lopez does not look like that, and the way they recommend stuff that’s really dear and all the ads. A good magazine is a fiver but it’s over half ads. Anyway keep up the good work.

    Posted by Andrea | July 26, 2011, 1:12 pm
  2. Hi Andrea, thanks for the comment :) Glad to know I’m not alone in having serious issues with women’s mags these days. Great points about airbrushing & the amount of ads in mags these days. I should’ve mentioned those – airbrushing in particular really bothers me, especially when they do it to make legs look thinner or to remove any signs the woman is indeed human, like lines, wrinkles, facial hair, cellulite, even changing eye and hair colour. Pretty soon women in magazines will resemble cartoons – Ugh! Finally, I think Company can run good features that’s why I included it. It was a toss up between Glamour & Company and I think the former is a bit more lightweight or concerned with appearance so I plumped for Company.

    Posted by Lisa Hughes | August 10, 2011, 7:52 pm
  3. Thank you!!!!!! You are so damn right!!!!!!

    Posted by Amy | March 14, 2012, 6:23 pm
  4. Lisa, you have read my mind. I haven’t bought a women’s (?) mag for ages. Why should I pay for that garbage, and why does anyone, actually? I discontinued a subscription I had and commented that I missed politics, economy, art, travel, etc etc etc. I never got an answer. Well, no wonder – the editorial is merely the framework for lots and lots of well-paid advertising by the cosmetics and fashion industry. Women have brains too? Naw… Thanks again, Lisa. Gabriele, Germany

    Posted by Gabriele | March 16, 2012, 9:08 am
    • Hi Gabriele, thanks for the comment and glad you agree! When you say “the editorial is merely the framework for lots and lots of well-paid advertising by the cosmetics and fashion industry” – this is completely true. I told my friends that most (if not all) women’s mags can’t be relied on to recommend cosmetics because it’s all about the advertising and what freebies PR people send them and they thought I was being typically cynical but it’s true.
      I will never understand why magazines aimed at women have to dumb themselves down. Recently I was enjoying a free magazine in London and only realised at the end that it was a magazine for men. It covered film, fashion, the news, politics, travel etc and not in a condescending way either, why can’t women have a magazine like that?
      Anyway, thanks for reading!

      Posted by Lisa Hughes | April 16, 2012, 9:57 pm
  5. Major lol at the Overanalyzing cover!

    This article is class. You should have your own column, maybe not in a women’s magazine, eh? ;-)

    Posted by Lily | May 14, 2012, 6:38 pm

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  1. Pingback: The Chakline and the Ladyflower: Pick-up Artists, Nice Guys and Pseudo-Feminists | DSR401. - February 19, 2013

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