Between the ages of 15 and 23 I bought a copy of every single edition of Glamour, Company and Cosmo. I read each one cover to cover and pretty much believed and took in everything. I can’t tell you the number of “wonder mascaras” and “life changing shampoos” I bought as a result of the beauty pages. I read and marvelled at the true stories and raised eyebrows at the celebrity interviews.
About two years ago I had an epiphany, I fell out of love with women’s magazines. The very idea of them is frustrating. They may have accurately represented women 30 years ago, but to be honest, although I am interested in hair, make up and men/relationships, they are not the core things I want to read about. I read about them independently now, from various sources across digital and print media.
I have transitioned my beauty reading to Sali Hughes’ excellent weekend column in The Guardian and have bought some actually useful products as a result. The thing about magazines is, they are heavily reliant on their advertisers for content. They will have agreements with all the mega brands that take out the full-page spreads and “Sponsored Features” that the products must be represented elsewhere in an article. That means the eyeliner by company X the beauty editor is raving on about on page 125 is only being featured because company X pays them a six figure cheque every month. Putting out a magazine is hugely expensive, so I can see why these people have to make these deals, but it is nothing more than lying to their readers. Sali Hughes is always very clear about not being coerced, sponsored or paid in any way to big up one lip gloss over another, so you can actually trust her advice.
Remember the trend for vibrating mascara (not a euphemism) about 2-3 years ago? I do. Beauty editors across the land encouraged women to buy mascara with wands that buzzed and shook from side to side. This was supposed to emulate the way make up artists apply mascara to clients. by using a criss cross action. Now I know what you’re all thinking. What kind of idiot thought that up and why wouldn’t you just use the criss cross action the make up artists use rather than spend £30 on a mascara that buzzes like a lack lustre sex toy?
There was a fairly big uptake on the mascaras and then a huge backlash. Fads are forever coming and going in beauty, and the magazines are huge culprits in this. Everyone has now returned to normal, mascara wise and I await the next big trend with interest. Now I wonder why the likes of Maybelliene, Estee Lauder and Lancome were able to gain glowing reviews. It really is a mystery *Cough* MASSIVE ADVERTISING BUDGETS *Cough*
That’s part one of my rant. Part two is about sex, love and men. Cosmo was, no doubt, the magazine associated with women having sex for fun. Coupled with better and more easily accessible contraception, Cosmo led the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s. Where as most women’s magazines before had been about knitting patterns and making a lovely pie for your husband, they were now about orgasms, multiple orgasms, more multiple orgasms and maybe a quiz called “Which Charlie’s Angel are you?”
Now I am not against casual sex. Not at all. I have engaged in some less than formal sex myself from time to time. But let me make a statement that will no doubt be met with some arguing and intake of breath. Women are not as good at no strings as they think they are. It’s a genetic, evolutionary thing. Women naturally get more attached to the person they are sleeping with than a man does. An anthropologist will explain much better than I could, something to do with men needing to spread their seed and women not. Sex is more of a serious issue for women as they would be the one lumbered with a pregnancy if the contraception failed.
I agree that we needed to reduce the heavy moral stance on sex. Sex is, after all, good fun. I do not believe though, that it is often possible for sex to just be sex. One person (usually, but not always the woman) will end up hurt. Women’s magazines, particularly Cosmo, have tried to get the message across that women can have sex just for fun and leave it there. I don’t know many women who can do that. Two girls I was at uni with thought they could. One of them was trying to escape a fairly troubled past and the other covering the pain of a break up. It didn’t go well for either of them and after a promiscuous spell they both felt much worse.
Magazines not only make women think they can have sex with anyone with no consequences (yes I know they always push the safe sex message – that’s one good thing they have done for women) but they also make all women think they should be absolute animals in bed. Every edition of Cosmo, Glamour and Company held one or two features on how to please your man, how to have mind-blowing sex, how to give the perfect blow job etc etc. Now obviously some of these tips were useful and some of them have certainly won me some Brownie points, but the sheer number of them just means we place a huge amount of importance on how good the sex is we’re having. To slightly misquote Woody Allen, “Bad sex is like bad pizza, it might not have been that great but at least it was pizza.” Sex is always good if you’re having it with someone who knows the basics. I certainly don’t expect to be swung from a chandelier. Maybe that’s just the settled part of me speaking, but I just don’t think it’s possible to have a new position every week, or a new way of doing this, that, the other. Sex is sex and has been for the last few thousand years. Let’s not mess up a formula that works. The most ludicrous example of this reinvention of the wheel was probably the time I read about a technique that claimed to be able to give your boyfriend a multiple orgasm. The one time I tried that with my fella at the time I was asked what the hell I was doing. I’m pretty sure they just made up the tip (which I won’t share with you) and left it at that. I wonder how many other women attempted it…
Diets are part 3 of my rant. THERE’S ALWAYS A SODDING DIET! They always claim you can lose a huge amount of weight with minimal effort. The only diet that works and is sustainable is to reduce your calorie intake, eat some healthy veg etc and do a sensible amount of exercise. That’s all I’m saying on that matter, apart from the annoying way magazines claim to promote inner beauty and “Real Women” and their curves yet allow their advertisers to use skinny models…I have nothing against skinny models, I’m sure some of them are naturally that thin, I do object to the massively mixed message this puts across though. Be proud of your curves, but lose weight so you look like this 17 year old Ukrainian who hasn’t eaten since last Wednesday.
So, in conclusion, magazines are not my friend any more. I feel much happier and less pressurised since I binned them, I don’t worry about my sex life, weight or hair anything like as much as I did.