January 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
So, last term I attempted to put together a feminist radio show, for music played by women & discussion of women in the media. We recorded one episode, I’m not sure if the station ever put it out, and basically it was a disaster. I am still interested in regularly writing and talking about magazines and television, etc., from a feminist perspective, so I’m going to start a series of posts looking at them here. This post serves as a kind of introduction to the problems I see with women’s magazines, and focuses on More!, a weekly that’s aimed at twenty-sometimes who like high street shops and sex tips illustrated with barbie dolls. Full disclaimer: this was first published in a student paper that I write for back in October. I’ll try and post something new up in the next few days.
WHY ARE MAGAZINES ANTI-FEMINIST
There are swathes of women’s magazines available in any shop that carries periodicals, from corner shops to supermarkets – they range from weeklies like More!, glossy monthlies such as Cosmo, full of interviews with Jordan, high street fashion photoshoots and tips on how to give blow jobs, to magazines for older readers like Women’s Weekly. These magazines are mostly shallow and thoughtless, and are at worst actively anti-feminist.
In an average issue of More!, a writer asks 40 young men what they deem ‘ONE BIG QUESTION’. In the edition from the 30th of August, these men were asked ‘What’s the one thing you’d change about your girlfriend?’. The double-page spread makes depressing reading – one guy wants his girlfriend to ‘have bigger boobs and blonder hair’, while another says he wants to ‘sellotape her mouth shut’, and a third wishes that he could ‘transform her into Cheryl Cole’. More! didn’t necessarily feed answers into these men’s mouths, but it gives them a prominent place in the magazine, and claims to have found what men ‘really wish was different about us’, as if this is important, and casually sexist jokes made by a few men are representative.
On the cover of the same issue, the magazine advertises a piece on three men who are ‘YOUNG, HOT…’ and ‘SLEEP WITH PROSTITUTES’. Inside, the first question asked to each man is ‘is sex better with a prostitute?’, followed with ‘do you ask them to do things you wouldn’t ask a girlfriend?’. No questions are raised about safety, beyond that of whether the men can tell if the prostitutes are over 16, to which one says he has never thought about it – the focus is firmly on the sexual inadequacy of girlfriends. More! goes out of its way to present the men as wild and desirable – the first describes himself as ‘not the best-looking guy’ and the second says that he has been open with ex-girlfriends about sleeping with prostitutes and wouldn’t pay for sex while in a relationship, yet More! claims that they are ‘HOT’, and that ‘unlike Peter Crouch… [they] don’t care if they get caught’.
MORE! is filled with articles like this. It is casually transphobic, with another cover asking readers ‘which of these girls used to be A MAN’. It belittles women like Julia Roberts for not removing body hair, using the ‘ONE BIG QUESTION’ format to make the issue all about men’s desires rather than women’s thoughts about their own bodies. Other magazines are little better – Grazia recently had a piece that claimed that by wearing leather and having pale skin, celebrities are ‘toying with their sexual identities via the medium of their wardrobes’, as if sexual orientation is a product of surface and little else.
Why do publications about music, business, sports and current affairs often get placed under the ‘for men’ section in shops, as if women should only read the regressive magazines that are written for them on the basis of gender alone? Magazines like More! and Grazia are vapid, harmful, and are read by hundreds of thousands of women every week, every month, and there is no obvious alternative to their endless barrage of mindless sexism and deference to the attitudes of random men towards women’s bodies, behaviour and lives.