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Feminspire | April 18, 2014

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5 Signs You Should Stop Reading That Magazine

5 Signs You Should Stop Reading That Magazine

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.

Vogue Netherlands features a model in black face

Vogue Netherlands features a model in blackface

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
Talk to her on twitter, here!

  • Dal

    I don’t have a problem with articles like “sexiest clothes” or whatever. Magazines should provide variety in what they write about and advertise, and so it sucks when they put way too much emphasis on looking sexy, but for some women in some situations, looking (and FEELING) sexually attractive is important and it’s not your place to say that it’s objectifying women. Saying that I objectify MYSELF by dressing sexy is just another way to slut shame and to skew messages in the media to make them MORE offensive. If dressing sexy makes you feel uncomfortable, or you think a magazine puts too much emphasis on the male perspective of it, then you shouldn’t read it. I’m not going to stop reading that magazine because it features articles about sexy clothing.

    Yes, its important for EVERYONE to constantly evaluate what we are reading and ingesting, but sometimes upon evaluation we find that things AREN’T offensive or that they are in fact celebratory of women. Women celebrating women through magazines means that we get to celebrate ALL aspects of women, including sexy-ness.

    • Laurel

      You’ve made some great points and yes we should celebrate a woman’s right to be sexy. But I think there’s a difference between when a woman dresses how she feels sexiest as opposed to how society thinks she looks sexiest and it seems magazines usually focus on the latter. Thanks for reading!

    • Sunny

      The real problem is magazines insisting that women must be sexy for the benefit of men, as well as not showing women who prefer to not dress in a sexy manner non-sexualized options in clothing. If you’re a magazine targeting yourself towards the female audience, you need to represent all of them, not just what you think will sell best and please advertisers.

      But I do not enjoy the implication that wearing sexy clothing or carrying yourself in a sexual manner automatically means you’re submitting to the patriarchy. That part needs to be re-written to remove the slut-shaming element out of it.

  • Kiana

    Awesome article! I used to love Seventeen magazine when I was younger but as I got older, I realized how many problems it enforces and promotes. Especially the “guy advice”.

    • Lexie

      Ugh, so agree! When I was younger (too young to be reading Cosmo!) an article that stuck out to me was “What not to do around/in front of guys”. Obviously, it was written by a guy. A few things that stuck out to me were: Don’t put clothes on in front of them (apparently it’s like watching a favorite part of a movie backwards), don’t pull your shirt off over your head (so I must wear button downs all the time?!) and don’t ever leave to pee during sex (Sweet, I’ll just get a UTI.) I only recently realized how ridiculous these things were and think that they don’t just impact the women who are the target market of these magazines, they affect the younger girls who get ahold of these magazines wanting to learn ‘womenly secrets’.

      I think another sign that you should stop reading a magazine is if there is a section on how to dress for different body types, and all the women shown have the same body type…

      • Laurel

        completely agree, thanks for reading!

      • Sunny

        I swear, Cosmo makes GQ look like a feminist magazine at times…

  • Sunny

    “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.”

    That’s not the only reason blackface is problematic. Blackface was originally created and used with the specific intention to mock and demean black people. It has an ugly, ugly history and seeing a white person sport blackface only serves to recall the brutal racism of earlier eras. It’s mostly European magazines that do this, with the excuse that they don’t have the same history with blackface as Americans do so it’s not as bad, but that is bullshit. There was (and still is) plenty of racism against blacks in Europe, and blackface was also used with the same intentions.

  • greatledbed

    Reason #2 does not make any sense. It’s pretty much saying that you should never care about a man’s opinion on how you look. News Flash: Many men go after girls who look attractive to them.

    • Eden Pomers

      “It’s pretty much saying that you should never care about a man’s opinion on how you look”

      And what’s wrong with that? Women are constantly pressured to adjust every aspect of themselves, from their physical appearance to their hobbies around what a man finds attractive. To the point that many women (and men who have their egos served by this) pretty much believe that then only reason they exist is for men’s pleasure.

      It’s something that’s been ingrained in women for hundreds of years. Not all women want to attract men that like a certain look. Not all women even want to attract men at all. We’ve got enough of society telling us “you need to do this and that to make a man like you”. Newsflash: if being yourself isn’t enough to make a man attracted to you, then he’s probably not worth going after in the first place.

  • Tiina

    Can I just say that I am so, so happy that you included asexuals on point number two? Really, it made my day. So thank you for including us.

  • Mztress Isis

    Every “fashion” / “women’s” magazine that I’ve ever seen in my entire life has three of the five issues listed. Consequently, I gave up on them after age 18.

  • :3

    I’d also add that the idea that “what men like” is universal is a sexist assumption, and the things that they claim men like are usually hilariously sexist stereotypes.

  • :3

    Does anyone have any recommendations for trashy, easy-read magazines that are common enough to be found at a large airport? I’m flying on Saturday and that’s the only time I let myself read Cosmo, Glamour, Self, Oprah, etc because they’re the only thing I can focus on. I kind of hate it, though. I like magazines geared towards particular interests like Dogs In Canada, but they’re not what I’m looking for when I’m flying. I miss Jane so much…