Pick Your Poison

I don’t know when it started exactly, but over the last few years I’ve decided that I hate women’s magazines. Granted, I would usually only pick them up when I was at the airport and desperate for some reading material other than the in-flight magazine,  or when sitting at the salon gettin’ my hair did, or when waiting in a long, impossibly slow checkout line at the grocery store while the Eskaton busload of seniors in front of me write out their checks and have the bag boy run and locate items they couldn’t find.

Perhaps it was me getting older and no longer finding anything remotely relatable in the fashion magazines’ narrow interpretation of what represents style and beauty.  Perhaps it was just me getting wiser, and seeing all these “up with women” articles for what they really are – mostly empty platitudes amidst the relentless, profit-driven exploitation of our insecurities.  But  my dislike of women’s magazines really began in earnest when my daughters became pre-teens and then teenagers.  I hated the idea that they could be looking at these air-brushed, photo-shopped images of perfect women and somehow think that they were anything less than completely beautiful for who they were, both inside and out.

I’m sure the magazine publisher’s would assure me that things are different now.  They would say they no longer use underage, anorexic girls as models, or objectify women to peddle the distorted realities of Hollywood celebs and Manhattan fashionistas. But one glance through the pages ofVogue, Shape, Us, Cosmo, or countless others would show that – at least as currently portrayed  – we really haven’t come a long way, baby.

Don’t believe me?  Well let’s take a look at just a few samples of what I found in the magazine aisle today…

Vogue – April Issue

 Ms. Karlie modeling her curves for Victoria Secret.

Interestingly enough, this issue was touted as the “shape issue.”  With such warm and fuzzy proclamations  as “our bodies are beautiful” and “celebrate them in all their divine individuality” you’d think that they might actually be willing to explore some different concepts of beauty, right?  But alas…you’d be wrong.  Their fashion spread features the stunning Karlie Kloss, who at 6’1″ and 115 pounds is hardly breaking barriers for women of all shapes and sizes.  She personifies the almost unobtainable “ideal” the fashion industry promotes. Ironically, the story of a Kentucky inmate that starved to death is fueling outrage this week – with reporters stating in somber tones that he was 6′ and only 138 pounds when he died…but he’d still be way too fat to ever grace the pages of Vogue.

The issue  goes on to bravely profile women of various sizes.  All I can say is poor Mindy Kaling.  I guess being Indian and a size 10 makes her the go-to poster child for the “look how inclusive we are!” movement. She is the most voluptuous woman profiled by far. The remaining 4  profiles of women with “diverse body shapes” include the very pregnant Emily Blunt, 31 years old; the amazingly beautiful and fit athlete Skylar Diggins, 23; the 5 foot tall, size 0 political consultant and occasional Girls actress Audrey Gelman, 26; and the nearly 6′ tall Parisian fashion industry exec Virginie Courtin-Clarins, 28.  Wow.  Apparently Anna Wintour has never set foot inside a Walmart if this is her idea of expanding our concept of beauty.

Then there are the ads.  Versace has one featuring Lady Gaga that is practically unrecognizable from the non photo-shopped version.  I’m not going so far as to say we should ban photo-shopped ads completely, but at the same time, as far removed from actual reality as we are, we might as well swap CGI for actual flesh and blood models – at least it would be more honest.

This particular ad features Esmeralda Seay Reynolds, Marc Jacobs latest muse.  She is only 16 years old.  She is being featured in a series of post apocalyptic style ads along with a very depressed looking Miley Cyrus.  Perhaps I’m just not seeing it as the avant garde artistic statement it was obviously intended to be, but don’t for a minute assume putting every tween girl’s favorite singer front and center in these ads was not a calculated maneuver.  Can we at least agree that our young models should not appear like they’re seriously ill and close to death?

New Beauty – Spring/Summer Issue

Here is a magazine that on the surface, seems to be geared toward a slightly older woman.  Encouraging, right?  Well, take a look inside and you’ll find out what the media really thinks about our demographic.  Apparently, us 40 to 50 year olds fall into one of two categories – either we are represented by magazines like Women’s Day and Family Circle, where we are all oddly obsessed with crockpot recipes and DIY projects, or we are desperate cougars willing to do anything to hold onto the last fading remnants of our youthful beauty.  Well over half the pages were promoting some kind of surgical enhancement.  Again, I’m not a militant here, but do we really need to be force fed going under the knife?  Having a few wrinkles and some sagging skin should be a testament to your  wisdom and strength – trying to look like a 20 year old when your actually 60 is rejecting the more interesting  and sophisticated  beauty that you have rightfully earned for an invariably second rate resurrection of the fresh faced glamour of  youth.

The last category of women’s magazine that I need to mention is what I refer to as the “Celebutard Rags.”  It is obvious that these tabloids attempt to appeal to the lowest common female denominator.  Just a glance through their press-released articles disguised as news reflects that the vast majority of the people their readers are apparently obsessed with knowing every detail about, have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever – other than being savvy enough to realize that they need to work the shit out of their 15 minutes of fame.

If these snippets are any indication, knowing whether Snookie is going to have a girl or a boy, understanding the legal battles being faced by another insufferable real housewife, the answer to whether Lindsay Lohan might be headed back to rehab, and what the state of Tori Spelling’s dysfunctional marriage is, are matters of global importance.  Throw in some bikini shots of one of the God awful Kardashian clan along with expert analysis of their possible cellulite, and you’ve got yourself another vapid, soul sucking rag that contributes nothing to our society.  If these people are actually viewed as legitimately interesting and important and not merely as the shiny but meaningless objects that they are, then I would like to  request an alien invasion immediately so we can get our priorities in order.

Who are these people, why are they famous, and why the fuck would I care about their drama?!

Actually I must confess that I am a sucker for recipes, and fashion and beauty advice.  But like a side of lumpy mashed potatoes, it needs to be served with a slab of meat.  Give me some protein with my carbs…don’t leave me feeling empty, nauseous, and full of regret.  When I pick up a magazine now, I find it is usually something like Esquire, Wired, or Vanity Fair.  I want the eye candy but I also want the substance.  As a female, I don’t think I’m unique in my desire for something that has a little more depth.  As the saying goes, Junk in, junk out. Time to practice a little mindful – instead of mindless – consumption ladies.  So get a clue out there publishers, or you will leave us no choice but to forsake all women’s mags and kick your skinny, shallow, and condescending asses to the curb once and for all.

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