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!?!”?
I did.
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.
  1. You are you. A ‘type’ of Woman. And you can reject this ‘type’ of magazine. 😛
    * I liked the article and your suggestions for a perfect women’s magazine 🙂 *

  2. Vikram says:

    Nice …..
    I’m sure if someone were to do this to Mens’ mags from a woman’s point of view the pendulum would swing back the other way. Some people (on both sides) need to lighten up. If you are a guy and taking this seriously then you may be a bit too shallow to attract a long standing relationship with a good woman. If you are a woman taking offense to this then there might be some deeper issues/resentment that needs to be addressed. A lot of good satire is derived from a polarized view of a certain topic. That’s what makes this kind of satire funny. Yes, there is some truth to the “guys point of view” here but it is not meant as a strike at what is good but more a stab at the drivel that is pumped out into our vein and somewhat disjointed society.

  3. A brilliantly written piece on how the ‘glossy’s’ play on a woman’s mind and the affect it had on the author. Kudos.
    2 points that i wish to make on this (and this is my personal experience of roaming this earth for 36 yrs now)
    1. So it seems there are only 2 kinds of women – those who fall for glossies for the sake of ‘dolling up’ and those who shudder at the sight of it like an airplane in an air pocket. Well, there is a 3rd kind too..these women realise who they are and accept that they cant be like those long legged models in the magazines but would still read the glossies, for mutilple reasons. Could be to keep abreast with latest in fashion world or to get inspired by the designer wear to get it replicated by a local ‘master ji’. These women dont feel the need to get a complete makeover ala glossy dolls but would not mind doing up a few touches to look good (and that could be because they feel confident – just like some men feel confident if they exercise regularly). The calling can be different but in essence there is a grey shade to the kind of women and we should not ignore them. For them, these glossies are a great help and they havent sold their soul yet to any 1 in particular.

    2. Not all glossies are soul takers. I was once working for a media house and had the good fortune of re-doing the hindi magazine called ‘Kadambani’. It had a niche market and that consumer was driven primarily by the content of the magazine. My mother still makes me buy ‘Grehashobha’, ‘Womens era’ or ‘Sarita’ for her reading. She enjoys reading through the stories and ocassionally would like to try the special in the ‘silai- bunai vishesh ank’ or the ‘ dessert special’ for her kids and family. So, there are various needs of various consumers in the market. I guess the media houses (based on their values) would target specific needs and one of them could be the (misogynistic) women’s magazine.

    I dont disagree with the author on her viewpoint but there are other aspects that need to be looked into before we call all women’s magazines misogynistic.

    • I’d like to reply to that.
      My mother used to read all these Hindi women magazines. So I’ve read both Femina, Greh and the likes.
      And what I realised was, while the Hindi magazine had a page to give out important news events, English mag had for fashion news.
      Hindi magazines were far more holistic in their approach. Although since a decade or so now, Femina has seen a revival to include home/food sections in addition to fashion.
      I hope for a positive revival in all women magazine like these especially those that target younger audience, like Seventeen and Cosmopolitan because this is the age group that is more gullible and insecure about body image.

  4. Zena Costa says:

    And at times READERS (DO NOT ) Digest. Very well put across Paloma .

  5. I agree that a magazine can be a medium to highlight cases that needs Justice….bt this artcile does not have ANY relevance to any of the justice cases….Its articulated very well to bring out a person’s thought but I do not find any relevance of this article to be posted on Justice For Women India…hpe that the in house writers are the best judge to decide on the articles to be posted here…#BeingHonest

    • This blog talks about stereotyping women and a lot of time treat them as objects of beautification.
      I agree in part to the point this article has tried to put across which is why we have given space to it.
      Thank you for the feedback though, we’ll look into it.

    • Zena Costa says:

      FYI: The function of the media in INDIA and as is applicable to ALL registered publications is to diseminate ACCURATE information.

  6. Arihant says:

    Misogyny – hatred and discrimination against women. It is perhaps fashionable to throw around heavy words to be taken seriously. Calling Cosmopolitan et al misogynistic is akin to calling Car and Driver misandry.

    Indeed, they both stereotype and I know a few men who would loudly protest, perhaps even revolt at the though of having to flip through pages of a car or sports or guns and ammo magazine. Does that mean that these magazines actually hate men since they seem to have stereotyped them to hunter/gatherers/gun lovers?!

    This serves just to trivialize the real injustices and hateful discrimination against women. If you find women’s magazines or Ekta Kapoor serials distasteful, do what I do – flip the page, change the channel.

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