THE HEADLINES WOMEN ARE STILL DEALING WITH
Mainstream women's media. The double message. Freshly-chopped headlines. And the questions to keep asking.
There’s feminism and women’s rights, and then there’s an idea of feminism that rides trend waves of best-selling book lists and pop culture moments. That’s the type of feminism that sells in the media, stories that intrigue and inspire mostly everyone, told with inconsistencies that disrupt no one. When our fame-obsessed society praises a woman in the spotlight for taking a stand, and then scrutinizes her image over celebrity gossip a few moments later, is one positive challenge not pushed over by the contradiction?
There are many things happening this year that make us think, "Wait, 2016?" And way down in the mayhem of mainstream media, there are women’s magazines — a small yet mighty dynamic. We’ve come a long way from the “Loose Weight, Get a Husband" era, but underneath today's "power woman" and "be yourself, you're beautiful" headlines, the sexist fairy tale continues.
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Cultural references, and even thought-provoking ideas, justify faint injections of intellectuality and artistic exchange... Creative pieces of complex politics reflected on commercial sexuality and objectification. Publishing’s systemized advertising structure reminds us that these outlets are women’s interests, not necessarily women’s best interests. Perhaps it's ideal for the creation side and the funding side of magazines to co-exist as a venn diagram. Instead it’s more like a polar eclipse, in the shape of a pyramid, with the disguise of authenticity — and at the top of this steep pyramid, there’s a blatant bottom line. If executive moguls spell information with dollar signs, then any authentic content is inevitably at odds with finically beneficial content. Enter: agenda-setting.
Beauty is Powerful. Never be satisfied until you reach the unattainable. There are the beautiful bodies, and then there are the ones told it's OK to feel sexy — diversity doesn't yet exist side by side, but rather in packages that are mostly labeled and separated.
It’s no secret, and it’s not as if women in favor of healthier media portrayals aren’t leaning in (*cringe*), it’s that there aren’t enough of them sitting at the table to begin with. Gender inequality is evident in print, on television, and online across nearly all media outlets and in nearly all topics, most notably in news, with little change in recent years. The Women’s Media Center reported the divide to be around 62.1% men and 37.3% women in 2015… But, I could drown in the grand spectrum of this before we even get started.
It might be a bit more indirect, but having it all remains the aspirational wonderland. Beauty. Babies. Career. Not only that, but it must be done effortlessly.
We would never associate mainstream women’s magazines with the types of critical journalism that bring us information of democratic significance. Still, research has continuously revealed their implicit political impacts as profound influencers of ideology on the woman’s role in society.
I adore magazines, probably more than most, but for what I consider to be my own reasons — photography, fashion, art, travel, culture. Aspirational or otherwise, there’s a narrative that I find interesting. My initial instinct is to ignore everything else. I know what Photoshop is. I’m aware of adverts, and I’m conscious of diversity, ageism... My instinct is that I’m knowledgeable of these issues, therefore I’m immune. Such as a curated perspective, to like "the legitimate pieces" and then disregard blatant stereotyping, avoid unrealistic body expectations and evade the proliferation of to-do lists.
This is naïve. It would be complacent to ignore massive influences that perpetuate the unjust ideas of patriarchy. To not ask questions is also to forget about the unconscious blind spots, and the issues of an unconscious bias — and the impressionable young girls who have yet to discover the separation of a distorted reality.