Women's Mags: Not Pretty Attractive News

 None of us like being lied to.  Or treated like we're stupid. 

Hillary Rosner talks about what kind of truth ladies' rags aren't willing to talk about in Their So-Called Journalism, or What I Saw at the Womens' Mags.  It's probably stuff you'd like to know about.

Here's one stomach-churning snippet:

One destination on my Borneo trip was an orangutan sanctuary run by an incredible Danish woman, who was passionate and unflappable and very photogenic. Maybe, I thought, I could interest a women’s magazine in a short profile of this woman, as a way to inform readers about the palm oil problem—which, despite sporadic publicity over the years, very few people seem to know about or understand. So I contacted a friend of a friend, a smart and lovely editor at a high-profile women’s magazine that from time to time runs articles about strong women doing worthwhile work. Her reply was quick, honest, and upsetting: The magazine couldn’t tackle the palm oil issue head on, because half its advertisers were beauty companies guilty of destroying the very same forests my Danish woman was trying to save.

The "pretty then strong" woman profile is a sad fact.  My old coworker submitted her story about how she quit smoking to a ladies' fitness magazine.  How did we know she was going to get picked?  Because she had a heartbreaking story involving performing CPR on her dad?  No, because she was a blue-eyed wholesome apple pie American blonde.  And she was picked.  It seemed her photo shoot was more important than her story, which was heavily edited without integrity.

Okay, they can't buck their advertisers.  We know that.  But we never know who all of their advertisers are at one time and exactly what issues they have to omit because of them.  A great reason to not trust anything they write.

I know most of us don't turn to women's mags for hard news but if they're going to try, they should make a better effort.  To not treat their readers like dunces.  To not only feature "pretty and strong" women.

What's the answer?  To hold them accountable?  How?  To not buy them and be glad my money isn't going to support them?  To frequent blogs without sponsors instead?  To not use a non-news source as news?  It's frightening to think this might be the only news a teenage (or adult) might see.

Oh, and here's info on palm oil.  It's just strong - not pretty - which is pretty attractive.


  1. It sickens me to think about how much human and environmental destruction goes on to sustain our First World lifestyles, and worse, how we pretend it doesn't happen to some degree or another. It took me ages to break the habit of buying chocolate at the grocery store without thinking about it, because there is nothing on a Hershey's bar that reminds you that child slaves made it.

  2. We could try to support magazines that do not treat their readers like dunces instead. Bust, for example, always makes me feel smarter and better and like I want to go do something good in the world. Maybe if we shared those kinds of magazines with friends, wrote about them online, etc, they could do better than the dumb lady mags.
    PS- I wrote a rant about Cosmo when I was in college and over at livejournal. I just reread it and it is still dead on.

  3. Thanks for that link. This type of stuff is really troubling and discouraging. The fashion/clothing/cosmetics industry is full of unethical practices and questionable issues, and I guess it figures that the magazines and the advertizers refuse to deal with any of those issues. All the more reason to read ad-free blogs, I guess.

  4. I once pitched a story to Ms. Magazine about women's use of guns. It was politically incorrect for the time...but at least then they didn't have advertising.

  5. I had a lengthy wait at a Dr Surgery the other day with my son,and picked up an OK! Magazine. It was literally story after story about actresses that are too thin..as in the stories were saying how troubled these actresses were and how skinny they've become - and then the HEALTH section was diets you can try to lose those unwanted pounds. Seriously. Bullsh*t. I don't buy "women's" magazines, the ones available to me are complete rubbish.

  6. Hi Jesse! I've found that the past year and half or so, Cath and I have stopped buying women's mags. We used to be subscribers to a bunch of them (Vogue, Vogue UK, Elle, Bazaar, etc.), but they just seem a bit out of touch. Everything is pricey or about fleeting trends and very rarely do they touch on anything of significance (like strong women doing inspiring/responsible things). I much prefer reading blogs like yours and others out there that don't make me feel like I should be constantly shopping and thinking about chemical serums for my wrinkles.
    I had no idea about the havoc that the palm oil industry is responsible for. Thanks for the link!

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  8. Thanks for the link. I'm off to read it next.
    Years ago a dear friend told me that she had stopped buying women's magazines entirely and had felt much happier about her body, her looks, her style ever since. Food for thought.


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