Top 10 Crimes Against Womanity Committed by Ladies Mags

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.

10. Demented Digital Manipulation

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?"

8. Faux Recession Friendly Spreads

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.
-Quit smoking.
-Pay down your credit card.


David said:

As much as I hate to admit it, Men's Health magazine pretty much runs the same gamut - for about a six month cycle. At least it's got some different workout routines.

Body language decoder? Check!

I can't tell you how many times I have read to eat plenty of tomatoes, because tomatoes have lycopene, and lycopene prevents prostate cancer.

Although, Men's Health does not seem to be as vapid as your womanly magazines - but I'm a dude, so I am pretty dense.

Sara said:

Totally agree; worked in magazines for 5 years and can't stand it now. I only like to read ones who have something to say, and still say it even if it goes against advertisers. Very strange that some have longevity but no integrity.

Vince said:

This is a really great top ten list, thank you for calling out all those magazines. I agree with you @Sara, there are very few magazines that have something to say. If you have something to say you can post your own list to our site The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

Sam Walton said:

How is this a crime? Women are property and should be treated as such. Now shut the fuck up and get back in the kitchen.

Beckster said:

HERE HERE! It's about time someone said it. Very clever and SO TRUE!

If I have to read one more article in Cosmo that tells me "how to get the guy you want with one simple trick!" or "what he wants in bed!" I'm going to start using the pages as toilet paper.

if i cared about what the hell HE wanted, i wouldn't be reading a woman's magazine. AND HOLY CRAP TACOS...okay, my face is "heart-shaped." That doesn't mean i am going to buy your $40 blush

and sam walton. oh my gosh that's hilarious. i have never heard a joke like that before in my life, you should probably tell many, many more.

Oh, Oh no, you shouldn't.

you should probably google "humor," browse a few web pages, figure out how to tell a funny joke, and then get back to us. Don't give up hope :)

mia said:

i have an issue with cosmo's constant terror stories. they write about how some woman has been in a horrifying situation, rape, murder, disease, etc.

women's magazines are the most acceptable case of sexism i see now.

courtney said:

your style is amazing

courtney said:

your style is amazing

The Exegesis Fairy said:

David: Yeah, Men's Health has basically the same idea, but 'for men!'

But they don't actively try to make you feel bad about yourself. Then again, I only read one issue, and they have their own problems (I just blogged about MH and Cosmo, actually).

12 pages of 'love your body! Take care of it! Cellulite is not a crime! Other positive messages!' Followed by
4829 pages of advertising and
5 pages on how to get rid of cellulite and
at least 1 page of blatantly wrong exercise advice.


chan said:


holy fuck. cumdumpsters just need to shut up.

David said:

I have to say I've flicked through womens magazines at the dentist etc and I always come away slightly annoyed, as the women I know are simply not stupid enough to be taken in by the utter guff these rags peddle...

Presumably someone must read them (well, look at the pictures anyway) but I bet they can't walk and breathe at the same time.

Margo said:

This was great - there are a lot of takedown's of the fash mags, but you've nailed their noxiousness so well, and hilariously.

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