Magazine Profits and Readership Will Soar, After They Do This

About two years ago, Julia Bluhm gave a magazine an idea that could have propelled it from mediocre (at best) to groundbreaking. I am bringing it up now because I recently wrote a rant on magazines, and I don’t like complaining without offering a solution. Granted, the solution for the over-sexualization and dumbing down of women’s magazines should be obvious (stop reiterating the same (weird) sex advice and start putting current events in your magazines). But nevertheless, this is a push in the right direction.

On May 3rd 2012, Jim Dwyer for the New York Times wrote a story on a red-headed, blue eyed cherub who led an online petition asking seventeen magazine to publish one untouched photo-spread per magazine in order to show what “real girls” look like, in the hopes of removing the impossible standards that have girls nation wide purging and starving. This impressive feat began in ballet class, where she claims her fellow dancers, like most adolescent women, “declared that they were having a fat day. Or that their skin was pimply or blemished. Or that they looked disgusting.” Which she, of course, thought was ludicrous.

To say the least, publishing unretouched photos would definitely cause a dent in the whirlwind of self- loath that has ravaged the nation since Twiggy first sat in front of a camera. In fact, many others agreed and she got 46,000 people to sign her petition. In addition, Bluhm actually managed to receive an invitation from Seventeen’s editor in chief Ann Shoket to discuss the matter. Did I mention? Julia Bluhm was fourteen at the time. Oh, the courage that comes from the mouth of babes.

Unfortunately, nothing really happened. Shoket and Bluhm exchanged emails, and although it WOULD be really cool if Seventeen led the way down the road of self- worth and body appreciation by not choosing emaciated waifs to grace their glossy pages, lets face it, its a stretch.

However, I do know this. At some point, some day, women are going to start getting fed up with the standards (if we are not already). The National Women’s Health Information Center states that fashion models weigh 23% less than the average female- and that is supposed to be seen as normal (Adolescent Girls and Body Image, NASW, 2001). Women nationwide are going to get fed up with feeling abnormal. And then, some mainstream magazine (Seventeen, possibly) will catch up with this trend and begin to actually show real girls in their magazines. They will defame the other magazines, saying they are contributing to the rise in eating disorders (which this magazine has already done, but never mind that). And do you know what will happen with this intelligent magazine? Their sales will skyrocket. Having already made a name for themselves in the conventional way, they will now use their name to promote something that girls and their mom’s have been praying for. Reality. Quite frankly, it was idiotic of Seventeen to refuse this offer. Yes, Bluhm singled them out of dozens of other magazines that do the same thing. But this was not a stroke of bad luck- this was an opportunity. Dove has been immensely successful with their campaigns for Real Beauty; it would have been nothing less for this magazine.

But, alas, they decided to maintain the status quo and continue along their fake, plastic and retouched way- to the detriment of their readership (and they call themselves feminists….). Perhaps one day (hopefully soon) another magazine will get the hint and start the revolution. Until then, we will wait.

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Why Does Cosmopolitan Magazine Exist?

Go to any magazine rack, anywhere in America. Look at the women’s section.  What you will probably see are racks and racks of smiling, beautiful and fashionable faces underneath captions like, “How to Please Your Man, 100 Men Tell All!” or “Fifty Hairstyles That Will Turn Heads this Winter” or “Oprah, The First Woman President?”.  Then, to a stark contrast, I would like you to turn to the “Men’s Section” (in quotations because its not technically called that- but you know its geared towards men).  Yea sure, you will see maybe a dozen adult magazines, a few sports magazines, a whole lot of fitness magazines and some car magazines- but do you know what else you will see? Magazines discussing foreign affairs, business, science. Scientific American, National Geographic, Psychology Today, Entrepreneur Magazine… When was the last time you saw one of those magazines outline in pink with a bright orange background and bright yellow words trying to tell us all about the benefits to staring an online company? You won’t see one; they aren’t geared towards women, because women usually aren’t the ones who buy these types of magazines.

The Economist? 64% of their readerships are men. The Atlantic? 61%. Newsweek? 56% male to female ratio. An exception would be The New Yorker, who boasts a 51% female to male readership. The reason? Its content is substantially higher in the “Culture/ Lifestyle” section, and substantially lower in National Affairs, the Economy, and International Affairs sections.

I find this disappointing. Please note, this is absolutely not meant to be a bash on women or our reading habits. Absolutely not. It could definitely be said that these magazines do themselves a disservice by not targeting women. In terms of color scheme and language, why does The Atlantic look more like GQ than Women’s Health?  

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However, what I am attempting to do here is questioning why Cosmopolitan exists. How does that magazine, and others like it, help us earn the position we deserve in society? (While we are asking questions, how does it even entertain women?) It is not the same to earn something rather than simply demand it of a world that is desperately trying to be politically correct. That’s all.  I’m not saying that your average twenty something year old guy is reading up on foreign affairs in his spare time either (These magazines also boast an older readership, on both sides of the gender equation). I’m saying that being knowledgeable on topics other than the newest seduction techniques or the latest gossips within your sorority is imperative to being taken seriously in today’s’ world. And I am finding it harder and harder to have these conversations with people other than my older male colleagues.

So ladies, do your brains a favor, please stop reading Cosmo and start reading a magazine that does not reiterate the same topic in bold new colors each month. For the love of feminism.