I noticed this phenomenon for the first time when I read O! (Oprah's magazine). I had assumed it would be great about building women's self-esteem, etc., etc., but when I read it, I was astonished to find multiple articles about losing weight, the perfect hair style, etc. Fascinating, given Oprah's stand for women.
Tonight I went through the November 2010 edition of Working Mother. I had never read it before so I was curious to see what it was like. Primarily there were articles about women working outside the home and how they managed to balance work and family life. There was an interview with a star, Brooke Burke. There were profiles on many of the Mothers-of-the-year from the top 100 companies. And there were many many ads, of course. The trend I noticed in the ads was that they were for toys or for vitamins or for stress-reducing supplements. There was a large focus on stress. I saw that in the ads but also in the articles like, for example, the one about the frequency of addiction in women and why women turn to drugs and alcohol (stress and family history).
Of course almost all of the women in the magazine were beautiful. On page 22, there is a picture of a woman, ostensibly a mother. She is tall, beautiful, perfectly coiffed with giraffe legs, wearing 3" spiky heels, with a beautiful smiling baby. Yeah, right. I looked like that all the time. I believe that pictures like that set up an expectation that we CAN and SHOULD look like that and that there's something wrong with us if we don't.
On page 16 there's the typical women's magazine spread of products they're touting. The first one says,
"Dull Complexion". Dust on a bit of Benefit Dandelion Pink Perk-Me-Up Face Powder for lasting radiance ($28, benefitcosmetics.com).From that little bit, I get the message that I'm not supposed to have a dull complexion and that using face powder can solve that dilemma. When my grandmother was a young woman, face powder was used to dull the complexion so it wouldn't be shiny - women weren't supposed to "glisten". Has that shifted? Now we're supposed to radiate? Shine? Glow?
Not-So-Fine-Lines: Prevage Eye Anti-aging Moisturizing Treatment eases crow's-feet, dark circles and puffiness ($98, shop.elizabetharden.com).
Big Pores: Sonic waves from the 'Pore'-fector Gadget by Bliss purify pores, leaving them less prominent ($185, blissworld.com).I was previously blissfully unaware that big pores were an issue. How does one know what "big pores" look like? Is there a special pore measurer to assess the correct size? And why are they an issue? Who is going to notice? How close do you have to get to a person to see her pores anyway? And aren't women supposed to wear foundation and powder anyway? Can you see pores through all that?
Dry Skin: A single drop of Diptyque Huiles Precieuses in the bath nourishes on contact, then continues to protect and pamper parched body parts ($78, diptyqueparis.com).I'm guessing that isn't quite true. One drop? In an entire bathtub full of water? One drop of this precious stuff will nourish my skin then continue to protect and pamper it? How? Will it close my pores so they're not big anymore? Will it get rid of my crow's-feet? It offers help to parched body parts - parched? At least a $78 bottle will last a long time if I only have to use one drop, but it really is a challenge for me to believe it would have an effect.
Makeup Blunders: Can't apply a sultry cat eye? Stila's Talking Palette supplies all the tools, including step-by-step directions from a pro. Just press the button ($45, stilacosmetics.com)So now I feel inadequate that I can't apply make up (not that I wear it) and that I need a pro to help me out. This is a kit with eye liner, eye shadow and an application brush AND a little button you can push to hear someone tell you how to do it right. This week. There's a natural obsolesence built in to this though since colors will change soon enough, and the styles of eye shadow will too.
On Working Mother's website, one of the things that popped up is a picture of a young girl. The text to it reads...
By: Tiffany Forte, Photo: Alloy Photography/VeerI wonder where she gets that idea? Maybe she's been reading these magazines?
“I have to get all A’s.” “I look terrible in these jeans.” “My drawings suck.” If your grade schooler continually spouts self-deprecating remarks and sets unrealistic goals, she may be plagued by perfectionism. “Children who strive to be perfect tend to feel what they do is never good enough,” says Robyn Silverman, PhD, child development expert and author of ...
OK - so do you get my drift? This wasn't even a full single page of a single magazine, and just from reading it, I get the message that I have to worry about aging, wrinkles, crow's-feet, dry skin, damaged hair, a dull complexion, big pores, chapped lips, and makeup blunders. How can a woman get through the day with so many worries?
Aren't there more important things to focus on though? Like our kids? Or our spouses? Or our careers? Or our souls? Or doing good in the world? Or following our bliss and making a real difference in the world. I just don't see where wearing eye shadow or high heels or worrying about my wrinkles is going to make the world a better place. All I see it doing is supporting companies who are doing their best to make me buy their products so they can make another buck.
There are more important things in life.
(If you have examples of things you've read which are ironically anti-woman, I'd love for you to send them to me. I'll be happy to post as many as I can. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!)