Reading a magazine seems like an easy, carefree way to pass the time. There’s always a plethora of them to choose from whether you are at the checkout at the grocery store or waiting for your hair to dry at the salon. Maybe you like to read them for the latest fashion trends, or maybe you prefer to read ones that feature short stories or scientific news and theories. While there’s nothing wrong with a little relaxation and escapism, it should be noted that not all magazines are created equal. If you note any of the following in your magazine of choice, you may want to pass instead of purchasing:
1. It slut shames you. A certain popular magazine has a monthly feature they’ve entitled “Sexy vs. Skanky,” where they pit different celebrities or fashion trends against each other and label one as “sexy” and the other “skanky”. For example, a little black dress is shown on two different celebrities. One of the celebrities has more cleavage showing than the other one. Guess who gets labeled skanky? It’s disappointing that women can’t escape judgment about their clothing and bodies even in media made specifically for them.
2. It tells you “what men like”. Any magazine that purports to support and celebrate women should do just that. Putting emphasis on what men like, what features of women are sexiest to them, or how men like a woman’s makeup to look, downgrades a women’s worth to how much male attention she receives. Who cares if a guy thinks you look hottest in his t-shirt and sweats? A man’s approval is never necessary. Furthermore, these articles alienate asexual and lesbian women who probably wanted their fashion tips without a side of patriarchy.
3. It makes you feel uncomfortable. Despite our society’s growing ethnic diversity, most women’s fashion magazines still prominently feature white, thin, women. In fact, a study analyzed 962 fashion magazine advertisements and found that only 23 advertisements contained black women — approximately 2% at the time. If you feel a magazine you enjoy reading isn’t representing you, write to the editor — let them know how you feel. Obviously, magazines depend heavily on their readerships to survive, and they should be focusing on representing every woman who reads them. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, stop buying the magazine. Change sometimes only happens when money (or the loss of it) is involved.
4. It’s racist. The use of blackface is never okay. It is never fashion-forward or trendy. Using blackface is even more insulting when you consider what we already know, that magazines underrepresent women of color. It is incredibly problematic to paint a white woman’s face black and consider it “creative” or “edgy” while not addressing the fact that women of color are uniquely oppressed within our society. A white model can wash off the blackface and go back to a life of white privilege, while a woman of color has to live in her body every day.
5. It sexualizes/objectifies women. Even when magazines are “made for women” the advertisements certainly don’t seem that way. Women are photographed in sexual poses no matter what product they are selling. While there’s nothing wrong with women embracing their sexuality if they choose to do so, often women are photographed sexually for advertisements solely because it sells. Articles that talk about the “sexiest” clothing options for your body type are also problematic. We are people — not sexual objects.
When consuming media, whether it is television, print, or online, it is important for women to constantly evaluate the messages we are receiving. We need to encourage women in positions of power in the media to make spaces that are safe for and respectful of all women. And if you can’t find a magazine that properly represents you or makes you feel respected, look online for more independent publications… or start your very own!
Written by Laurel Reed
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