The debate of the not-so-real women's magazines

Guardian journalist, Eva Wiseman,  has written what appears to be on a lot of people's minds. In a recent article she says that glossy women's magazines are behind the times and out of touch with modern women. She says that we've found new places to talk about women's issues because these magazines are no longer getting it right. She doesn't specify which magazines she is referring to, but I don't think that needs to really be clarified.

The article says that these magazines have outdated content - 'You look down at a page and lose a decade.' Of course, monthly women's magazines can't really be at the forefront of issues, no matter how hard they try. Something happens in the news or on television and it's being discussed on Twitter immediately. With the instantaneous sources of public dialogue we have, it's no wonder  monthly magazines are lagging behind.  This isn't an excuse, though. Unfortunately, many other types of magazines seem to manage keeping up with the times just fine. 

The closest I've ever come to being behind the scenes of a magazine is when I met with a journalist at Private Eye and got a glimpse of Ian Hislop's office (one year on and the excitement still lingers...). Therefore, I can't make presumptions. With a mass market to appeal to, however, it would seem that a Guardian journalist and her readers may be a little more discerning than the general public that these magazines target. That sounds highly offensive, but I'm on a roll so pretend I re-phrased that in a nicer-sounding way. 

The thing is, articles on what your boyfriend is thinking when you sleep together, what your boyfriend thinks about your friends and what your boyfriend thinks about your friends sleeping together may not be nail-biting stuff. It must, however, have some appeal to the mass market, or these magazines wouldn't survive. 

The interviews are the worst. A female actor promoting her latest film turns into an account of how she eats three chocolate brownies on set, despite looking impossibly tiny in the charcoal jeans and off-white knitted jumper she turned up in, with her hair scraped back and only a touch of make-up on. And how come the interviews always conclude that she is just having fun, figuring out who she is and doing normal stuff with her friends?

Although this perpetual set-up frustrates me, I resign to the fact that it must make a lot of readers feel content, like they've had a real glimpse of the actress and that's that. And that's fine - just don't expect these magazines to represent modern women. Very few of their articles take me by surprise or inspire me. But if I want to read something unpredictable and exciting, I read something else. 

We just need to realise that, whilst those that are criticising these magazines are ageing (slowly and gracefully, may I add), the magazines' target audiences are not. How to be a strong, self-sufficient and confident woman you will rarely learn from women's glossy mags, but you will learn how to stop your man cheating on you (and what he's thinking if he does, of course). 

The articles ends: 'Contrary to the narratives they tell, our lives are no longer measured out in wedding cake.' This is, however, the case for some women - it may not be the majority, but at least there's an abundance of stimulating conversation going on elsewhere for the rest of us. 


  1. Your point about the target audience not changing is really important I think, and something which gets overlooked - the magazines are not designed to grow with their original readers.

    I do wonder, though, how many of the readers are content with the content, or whether we read it because we're supposed to? Problem is, interviewing actress/musician after actress/musician is not going to make for varied content, they all have very similar lives!

  2. Exactly - the façade of these actors and musicians all having a life that differs from the typical famous person is wearing thin!

    I think, perhaps, some readers keep buying these magazines because they feel they might miss out on something? I know that's my excuse, but it's very rarely the case!

    Thanks for reading :)