Do magazines really advertise ‘real’ women?

GLAMOUR, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Look, Company, Elle, Sugar, Bliss, Now…the list is endless. Glossy magazines targeted magstowards females aged 14-21 litter the shelves of convenience stores and supermarkets offering freebies, sex tips and more. The impossibly beautiful model stares out from the cover page promising life will be more beautiful, more perfect and more fulfilling if only you read that magazine. Wrong.

According to a study conducted by three female researchers at the University of Missouri:

“After just one-to-three minutes of exposure to the type of advertising routinely found in magazines, teenage girls, felt depressed, guilty and shameful”

From bullies, television and even clothing stores, magazines are another dash of salt to the wound. As if women did not feel bad enough already being told that size 12 is fat but size 6 is too skinny by other women, but it’s a whole other thing having it rubbed in by a ‘perfect’ size 8 cover girl. The blame sits not with the model of course – it is after all their job – but with the editors that claim her diet is the best one going. Suggesting that unless you hair is styled into perfect curls/topknot/pixie cut or if you’re not privy to the latest sex secret, you suck as a woman. It’s time that women’s magazine start changing their ways – they are part of the problem, not the solution. Not only do these magazines contain articles predominately about image but they hint that improvement is constantly needed…”how to look better”, “lose weight” and “please your man” are some quotes from the covers littering shelves today. How are women supposed to feel if at every turn they are second-guessed by strangers? Even if high self confidence is something they possess, it is as fragile as a child’s innocence.

Women are confusingly told what new fad diets to try (Atkins, juicing and now teatoxing – it’s the same as fucking green tea, I just pay £2 for mine!!), then shown pictures of skinny celebrities (who have all the help that money can afford) by hundreds of magazines so often that it’s no wonder almost 90% of teenagers diet regularly. This can be especially damaging when one celebrity can go from being ‘fat’ to ‘too thin’ in one month at the opinion of the magazine. Furthermore this is heightened by the photoshopping of models which portrays an unattainable standard. If even celebrities are body shamed by magazines, real women can’t possibly be expected to hold themselves in high regard.

Anna Holmes states that:

“The standard of beauty, according to a 2003 study, is exemplified by a woman who wears a (US) size 4 in the hips, 2 in the waist, and 10 in the bust, a standard, this new study explains, that “is both thinner than the average woman and genetically impossible for most women to attain”.”

A limit is reached when an advert for ‘body correction’ aka plastic surgery is hidden between articles titled “how to have more self confidence” and “20 ways to be happier this summer”. Juxtapositions such as this are prevalent in magazine culture as advertisements are not selected due to their agreement or exemplification of the articles within a magazine. Magazines are literally advertising a standard of beauty that is impossible for the average women to reach and, although it may seem laughable at first, every woman at some point in her life has felt dissatisfied with her appearance, personality or life. It could be suggested that readership is a conscious choice, however for many young girls they know no better. This world of body shaming and unreachable perfection is encapsulated by magazines, from which teenagers ultimately find harder to escape – do we really want the next generation growing up with less self worth than ourselves? The drivel these magazines print is created by ordinary women. Do they not realise the harm their articles could be inflicting upon the minds of impressionable young women?

Furthermore it appears that time stands still within women’s magazines as the topics on the cover page are almost identical decade to decade. The only thing ‘glossy’ about those magazines is how much they gloss over what real women think, want and care about. Clearly these are topics women wish to read about but they are hardly pro-women, a slam poem by Desireé Dallagiacomo & Kaycee Filson called “Real Sex Tips” highlights just how outdated magazine advice has become. They notice how through fifty sex tips the word ‘vagina’ is not mentioned once. How exactly magazines can talk about sex equally without that is bizarre, and it clearly suggests women are inferior beings only built to please others.

Belinda Parmar notes that:

“Fashion, cosmetics, celebrities, lifestyle and attractive men: These are the only topics that we women care about – at least according to the UK’s eight top-selling women’s print ‘glossies’.”

The idea of magazines specifically tailored to women is not worthless. They are just, for the present time, seemingly anti-women. Articles about fashion, beauty, technology and other editorials are top hits for what women want to read, although if these topics feature they are littered with back-handed compliments and patronising tones. Additionally technology is rarely a topic featured in women’s magazines – perhaps they perceive us to still be in the kitchen pre-WW2. Statistically women spend more on technology than they do on beauty products, so why is this not reflected in the magazine’s targeted at them? Clearly magazines remain in the dark ages where women were excluded to their own sphere separate to the ‘things of men’, or perhaps they are oblivious to the fact that we have been caring about things other than sex and sexy men for decades (even if Christopher Hemsworth is still fine to look at). Just imagine a magazine where a topless Thor invited readers to “make the most of their year”, showed how to “travel light and sill feel amazing about yourself” and debated “Apple vs Android” – how refreshing it would be.

Women’s magazines may not be the only cause of poor body image or female oppression but they sure can help by conveying a tone that aligns more with feminism (don’t be scared of the word). In essence they simply have to think how they would feel about themselves if they read the articles, and stop shaming women for their appearance. Adding more ‘real’ women to the mix of cover models as well as promoting women in business or even ‘more legitimate’ sex tips (like making sure self enjoyment is a priority) would be a step forward for these archaic institutions. At present the advice they offer is barely viable and could not be said to represent real women’s views. Not all we care about is hair, beauty and men.