Guest post by Paloma Sharma, student and writer at Going Bananas
I flip through a women’s magazine on the stand (while the stall owner has been lulled into steady sleep by the hot, lazy afternoon) and I have to admit that I’m highly amused. I’ve never read one of these things before. But something about the glossy images, posh advertisement and suave colors makes me queasy.
Perhaps I feel uncomfortable because I find that this ‘women’s magazine’ has absolutely nothing to do with real, actual women. Honestly, it looks more like a catalogue for dolls and their accessories. Occasionally, I come across a male model that bears an eerie resemblance to Ken. That’s when I realize something – something shocking, probably path breaking and even blasphemous.
Women’s magazines are not women’s magazines. They’re as far away from being woman-friendly as water is from being combustible. Basically, this is what these ‘women’s magazines’ really are: of misogynists, by misogynists, for women.
I know this may sound like a radical feminist tirade against all the things you hold sacred in this world, especially if you’re a subscriber to one such magazine. So do yourself a favor and run down to your nearest newspaper stall or pick up the first thing under the women’s section. (God knows why we don’t just have a people’s section. Stereotype, much?) Observe the first thing that you see on the cover – a famous, glamorous, long-legged and ample-breasted woman who’s stock in show biz has recently gone up thanks to a new movie/album she has coming out.
If you’re done with being in awe of her striking (read: Photoshop-ed) features, take a look at the words, which seem only secondary, around her. They probably resemble one of these sentences:
’10 Things That Will Drive Him Wild’
‘Revenge Is Best Served Hawt!’
‘From Flab to Fab in Six Weeks’
Did those words, minus the polished images, make your head hurt? Did you pull your hair out with your own two hands and scream out loud, “WHAT SORCERY IS THIS!?!”?
But don’t give up yet. Get to the first page, beyond the Contents section. Have you seen a pale or deliberately whitened, swallow-boned creature with an empty expression, pouting lips and a perfectly straight nose yet? Yes, that one. Now flip through the magazine randomly. You’ll find them everywhere, like a fungal infestation upon a young sapling – some will be known, other’s just forgettable faces – but they will all have one thing in common: they will be taller, thinner and whiter than the average woman.
Don’t believe me?
Ok, then, take your nose out of that magazine and look around you. Look at the women you see. Do they even remotely resemble the women in the magazine in your hands? Unless you’re back stage or at a movie producer’s office, the answer is going to be a big, fat NO!
Remember when you randomly flipped through the magazine and looked at all the women spread out across the pages? Try to recall their clothes. Yeah I know, big brands, huh? Don’t forget the impossibly high heeled shoes! Yes, those are a must-have for your daily travel from Virar to Churchgate via the jam-packed local train and potholed roads lacking proper sidewalks. Or if you’re a stay-at-home spouse/mother, those heels are obviously going to do wonders for your spine (an irreplaceable part of your anatomy).
Don’t forget to check the gossip column, since we women so obviously love to while our time away, gossiping merrily, finding out whose boyfriend slept with whom and which starlet has fake breasts (or worse, a fake nose!). Clearly women have no interest in knowing what’s going on around the world, which politician supported a ban on mobile phones for girls and who’s the jerk trying to take away their right to own their bodies.
Yes, my friend, that abomination of a compilation of words you hold in your hand is a women’s magazine. It claims to represent women. It goes as far as saying that it is for the modern woman and that it adds brains to the gloss. It will give you diet tips on how to eat a particular substance or even starve yourself but it will not tell you how to plan a complete meal and what kind of exercise is best for your body-type and age.
It will tell you what the latest style is and which designer is in but you probably won’t be able to either afford those clothes in the pictures or buy them.
It will give you snippets from an interview with the hottest celebrity in tinsel town but it will push back or maybe not even carry articles about real men and women, real role models like Rita Banerji, Nick Kristof, Somaly Mam or Malala Yousufzai and their struggles to make sure that girls and women (as well as the rest of society) are no longer silent, suffering victims of patriarchy.
This women’s magazine – which claims to be overflowing with new-age, feminine wisdom – will tell you how to doll up until you don’t look like you any more and what pubs to hit but it won’t give you self-defense tips (which 9 out of 10 men will recommend you learn) to escape the almost inevitable sexual assault that will come your way.
Your friendly, neighborhood (misogynistic) women’s magazine will take your pride and your self-esteem and turn it against you until the mirror is your worst enemy; and you – yes, you the subscriber will love it still and love it anyway, for you have sold out not only your brain but also your soul for a piece of super shined shit.
You may tell me that I shouldn’t expect a political or financial section in a women’s magazine. You may tell me to pick up a newspaper instead. But I will not. You don’t get to decide that women who like to take care of their hair and want real, relatable styles and tips for it (as I do) are a separate interest group from women who follow politics. You will not place me into stereotypes of ‘tomboy’ or ‘daddy’s girl’. You will not decide who I am and who I shall be.
I am me. A Woman. And I reject this magazine.