It was from television shows that I learned men leave for work to make money as women stay home to take care of the children. It was from movies that I learned women play the victim as men come to their rescue. And it was from magazines that I learned women need certain products and must act a certain way to gain the ultimate prize – a boyfriend.
Teen magazines are flooded with images of cute celebrity boys, new makeup and hair products and clothes to flatter “every” figure. When analyzing a teen magazine, one could come to the conclusion that the ultimate goal in reading them is to learn how to become the ‘ultimate female’. According to the glossy pages, this woman has dispensable amounts of money to perfect herself from head to toe with the best beauty products and clothes. Not only is she a 10 on the outside, she is a wealth of information about “what guys want”.
It’s no secret that magazines aim to sell its readers products – advertisements are where they make their money and make up over half of the pages. But, I would argue the entire magazine itself is a sales pitch, working to advertise the ultimate female I described above. I myself do read magazines as I know many women do but we must think twice before we put all our faith into the pages in our hands.
Women’s magazines try to send out the message that you are smart, beautiful and independent. You take care of yourself and value yourself highly – that’s why you picked up the magazine! But, this notion is weighted. Sure Cosmo wants to tell us we’re powerful and deserve satisfaction, but at the same time, they’re also telling us we can still be better, more beautiful and more smart! These magazines build our trust by flattering us with the assumption that we are intelligent and beautiful, and then use that trust to inform us there’s still a way to get closer to our ‘ideal self’.
I know I’m not presenting any radically new ideas – most people would admit these statements to be true. However, without this critical eye, women can fall prey to the tactics of magazines to sell us more stuff.
After showing us how we should look in order to “feel” our best, these magazines tell us how to be the ideal partner. They tell us what guys find sexy, their turn-ons and turn-offs, how they want us to wear our hair, what the right nail polish color is and the shoes we should wear. Past looks, they inform us how to keep our men satisfied, physically and mentally. It can’t be denied that this information keeps readers coming back. A magazine cover that reads “123 ways to get his attention” will of course get our attention. But we should really think about the assumptions these magazines are making about us! And, men in general!
To start, these magazines usually categorize guys into about 4 or 5 groups: the thinker, the athlete, the sweetheart and the rebel. Under these categories, they take polls from say, 100 men who somehow fit into one category or another. As much as this post may seem to be a “feminist” one, I need to stand up for the men as well and say they aren’t given nearly enough credit in these magazines either. Magazines calculate men down into general categories, projecting the smallest details down to whether he will like a girl in a ponytail. From experience, I know some men do not have strong preferences on the questions these polls present them with and will thus give answers that may not hold as much meaning as the magazines project.
What’s more, these “what men want” articles suppose a number of things about women: they are heterosexual, they don’t understand men and that they need a man. As I argued the magazine’s goal is to present the ‘ultimate female’: part of that woman is the ability to find and catch the ‘perfect man’. But, let’s be honest, there is no perfect man, nor is the main goal of all women to find one. If magazines put more emphasis on the development of the mind and soul of women, without the end goal being to find a boyfriend, I would consider them more valuable.
This assumption that women need to have a boyfriend to be happy is demeaning. In demonstrating how to get perfect skin, perfect hair, nails, and wardrobe, magazines are giving you advice for catching the perfect man. But, none of these things exist! Women, and men for that matter, cannot be clumped into categories who somehow all have the same likes, dislikes and goals.
Does this mean I will never pick up a Cosmo magazine again? No. Sometimes there is information I find valuable and can give me new ideas about style. But, I will take the advice columns with a grain of salt, and a hint of criticism.