No More “Women’s Magazines”

To be completely honest with you, I have been stalling this piece. I wasn’t afraid of writing it, the reactions, or even of the message I’m sending out to all of you with this article. No, it’s just always a bit weird to say goodbye to something I’ve cherished for so long.

Recently I picked up a copy of a Dutch women’s magazine. I had received a magazine subscription and chose this particular title because I thought it was fun, sarcastic and good to women. Well, I have been wrong before. However much anti-feminist the magazine was I wouldn’t want to bother you with (okay: notice how a “men’s magazine” isn’t an actual title, as men’s magazines are magazines about just anything, filling seventy-five percent of a magazine shelf in a book store), but however much anti-woman any women’s magazine is is beyond me.

You would think women buy magazines to read stories, to soak up brand-new information, or to look at beautiful photos and illustrations. Apparently though, there has been some kind of mix-up in my brain there. We don’t buy magazines to “soak up information,” we buy magazines to teach ourselves that everything we do in our lives is wrong, ugly and fat. These so-called “women’s magazines,” I found out after not reading one for a while, are anti-women. Are anti-women’s bodies. Are pro “keeping us dumb” so that we keep repeating what history tells us women are for. And the weird fact is that we women, we don’t care. We will keep reading and reading and reading and feeding ourselves with bullshit. It’s a weird vicious circle that I have just been able to escape from. Now it’s your turn.

Things that actually matter to me: eating delicious biological food at one of our best Dutch festivals, with my dear friend Merle

Just the other day I read a tweet by Lily Allen, asking why there were gender splits in categories at award shows. One smart man answered the following:

Pitting women against each other is lucrative. It sells magazines, it gets clicks for gossip blogs, it makes people buy stuff.

So in a way women are all taught to dislike each other, because then having more clothes than another girl feels good, or being thinner than another girl feels good. When you really think about it, guys don’t give a fuck about how big your wardrobe is, or however thin you are. It’s just your own self-esteem you’re feeding by comparing yourself to the likes of another girl. And you are being set up.

The Dutch magazine I read started with the editor’s letter, who told a little story about herself and the never-ending game of misleading the scales. It works all the time, she says, and when it doesn’t: whole day ruined. “Familiar story?” she asks next. I’m thinking, “no, it isn’t. I don’t own scales and I don’t care about pounds,” but apparently this magazine wants me to feel like this is a familiar story. Wants me to admit that I too have secretly been vomiting up my food. Like apparently all normal women, women who read this magazine, do. A big story full of confessions by readers follows and I’m getting more sceptic after reading every single confession. Are these really normal circumstances or does this magazine want me to believe just that?

Things that actually matter to me: reading Game of Thrones in a small cave in Croatia – we had to flee the scene a couple of moments later because the water started to rise

“Secretly I’m hoping to become really ill again this winter; last year I lost about five kilos after being sick in bed for ten days,” a reader confesses, or the magazine made up. I’d rather not be really ill for ten days, I think.

Another ‘reader’ confesses that she doesn’t want to weigh herself in front of her boyfriend because she only weighs a little less than him and finds this incredibly embarrassing. Another story mentions a girl finding it scarier to weigh herself before a bungee jump than actually doing the jumping part. And I’m just done.

These stories don’t tell us anything. They are not meant to teach you anything new or give you something to think about; the only thing they do is make you search your brain for your own low self-esteem stories and thereby keeping it low. The rest of the magazine urges me to buy lots of lingerie, hair products (for the straw on my head) and anti-aging creams (by answering a reader’s question: “at which age should I start applying anti-aging cream?” with “as soon as possible”). Also, to simply appear outside of your house without using three different products on your nails is just absurd. This is a fairly mild and stubborn women’s magazine, filling my head with the dull promotion of you’re-not-good-enough. It is dull to me, because I have been well informed about the business behind these magazines, but I can imagine clueless readers soaking up all this “information” like sponges. And don’t get me started on Dutch “women’s” magazines like Cosmopolitan or Grazia, the latter being the horror of all horrors in putting women down.

Things that actually matter to me: my home away from home in the summer – Vlieland

I’ve decided I’m done. I don’t want to engage my time in reading something so offensively anti-feminist and anti-woman as a women’s magazine. Better yet, I don’t want to keep on writing about weight. Or weight loss. Or anything negative having to do with my body. What’s in the past is in the past; I have moved on from Diet City and will continue on my journey to prove that women are individuals. And that we will not accept being put down by media any longer. Fuck. That.

I will leave you with a great quote by Tina Fey, in the opening speech of the 2014 Golden Globes:

On Matthew McConaughey: “For his role in Dallas Buyers Club, he lost 45 pounds. Or what actresses call, being in a movie.”

4 thoughts on “No More “Women’s Magazines”

  1. Excellent piece. I’ve also been trying to un-do the ‘damage’ done by years of reading toxic stuff like those magazines.

  2. Good piece with only one conclusion for me: do what you do with all your heart and not what is written in magazines like that.

  3. I am 62 years young, and I want to say thanks for such intelligent thoughts.
    The people who want to make money want to do JUST THAT and don’t care
    about women and their self image problems. I say, “No more lies!” Lets
    fight the madness gals!

  4. Yes I am in such agreement with you. Though I used to love reading these kinds of magazines as a teenager and pre-teen (shudder) I’ve found I’m much happier when I don’t read them, for reasons stated above. If I’m not being reminded about the “disgustingness” of my cellulite or whatever, obviously I’m happier. Now I buy food magazines if I’m feeling like a magazine.

    Thank goodness for the internet, there is much much more enjoyable, funny, interesting, thoughtful and thought-provoking material being written in blogs, in online “magazines” etc. Pieces that are difficult, pieces that are heartbreaking and pieces that are light and funny and inspiring.

    And why aren’t there any “Women’s Magazines” all about being a professional? No not about anti-aging creams or other nonsense but about careers? If I ever had a daughter, I would want her to read that. I would want her to expand her imagination in terms of what she can do. As far as aging, we all do. What’s the use. But passion, interest, hobbies and work can give joy for a lifetime.

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