Posted at 5:00 AM May 04, 2009
By Kathleen Willcox
Women's magazines: I love them. No! I hate them! They're evil! But sooo glossy and purtty. Let's face it: most women's magazines sans a feminist or political bent are like your worst ex; you're glad you had the experience with them and all, but in the end, they just made you feel kind of empty, lonely and sad.
And that's what they count on: it's a vicious cycle in which magazines (or evil exes) make you feel like you're some sort of sexually clueless, disgustingly obese, fashion-challenged, in danger of dying from a horrific and totally obscure disease, hirsute megabeast who without its (or his) advice, attention and love will die - gasp - a reviled and detested old spinster cat lady!
So whenever you're feelin' vulnerable in that grocery aisle and you mechanically reach for a shiny 900-page spread of beautifully laid-out "women's service" lies (they do, like the ex, give you a delicious, dizzy buzz in the short term) just try to remember the crimes they've committed against womanity and resist their disservice! Same goes for the ex: Dolls don't have time for repeat offenders.
Airbrushing is so 1989. What we're dealing with now is more than the harmless zit-zap; we're talking FrankenBarbie. Models these days weigh 23% less than the average American woman (two decades ago, they weighed just 8% less), but their already unattainably tall and thin bodies become even more so with a few thigh-lengthening, waist-whittling, eye-enlarging, nose-thinning and bust-building swirls of photo retouchers' evil wands. Remember what it was like when you were 12, paging through YM and gawking greedily at the spreads of impossibly chipper, cute girls? It's so much worse now. The most notorious (though not necessarily insidious) cases of airbrushing involve celebs - Redbook redid Faith Hill; Elle edited Nicole Kidman; Shape reshaped Jenny McCarthy and Vogue revamped Adele. Ugh.
9. Shameless Shilling for Advertisers
Nine out of 10 rocket scientists agree: magazines and advertisers - despite their most outspoken claims to the contrary - have been shacking up together for years. But you'd think they'd have tact and the common decency to be a smidge less blatant about it. That's right, ladies - that article on the hottest new wrinkle-annihilating serum positioned right next to an ad for said serum isn't just a coinkydink! And what's up with all of the glossy-page hogging content designed to look like editorial page with tiny black writing at the top that you can read with a magnifying glass informing you that it's "sponsored content?"
Every rag out there - from Woman's World to Vogue - is trying to get in on the fiscal crisis action and score points with readers with "recession friendly" fashion spreads. The problem is (as noted above) the powers that be (advertisers) ain't having it. Mags are put in the tough spot of being even more blatantly hypocritical than usual. This month's Lucky, (which, for the record, as far as doing actual harm to womanity is relatively benign), sports a cover this month that screams recession-friendly fashion finds (Under $100: 30 easy head-to-toe looks; FREE Sensational giveaways and deals LUCKY BREAKS) but delivers the usual load of pretty enough, but essentially insipid and wildly overpriced pencil skirts, ruffled tops, cardigans and handbags that could easily be found at Target, Kohl's, H&M or a flea market for a fraction of the price and definitely more flair. (Who spends $750 on a drab tweed pencil skirt, $270 on a plain ivory, mumsy-looking boyfriend blazer or $370 on a twee necklace sporting a little bow that a violent sneeze could shatter?)
7. Gag-Me-With-a-Spoon Man "Decoder" Tips
Women's magazines have become synonymous with idiotic relationship tips - make that heterosexual relationship tips. (I'm sure I've missed a few, but I can't think of too many examples of mainstream women's mags acknowledging, never mind touting same-sex hookups - aside from this great piece in O, exploring why women are leaving men for other women). In Cosmo's latest, editors bravely tackle the issue, arming readers with such golden chestnuts as the Body Language Decoder: Whether you've just met your man or are long-term loves, this guide deciphers the meanings behind his actions (a.k.a. how to turn into an obsessive compulsive ruminator who spends all of her spare time dissecting her "tasty man morsel's" "half smiles" and yes, eyebrow "lifts"). Nothing says "fun, fearless and female" like putting a guy's teeniest twitch under the microscope turned to crazy-lady level magnification.
6. Landing a Man is the Most Important Thing You Will Ever Accomplish Ever Ever Ever
Women's magazines occupy the same strange and spooky land shared by sororities, well-meaning Aunt Idas and your friendly neighborhood rabbi or priest in which being a single woman is not a choice, but a dangerous state of affairs that must be amended lest one's loins fail to be put to the use for which they were intended (presumably the four various parties would clash on the best way in which your loins should be put to use). Even magazines that purport to be "More Than a Pretty Face" (Ahem, Marie Claire!) run pieces every month with headlines like How to Be Happy - Even If You're Single, likening singledom to a dread disease or mental deficiency in one breezy stroke. And the brilliant "tips"? "There are also self-contained things you can do to feel better about yourself. Like:
-Get up every morning a little early to go for a run--and stick to your new exercise routine.
-Pay down your credit card.