Have you ever gone into a newsagent or supermarket, looked at the women’s magazines on offer, and thought, “well, these all look like total tripe”, before decamping to the wine aisle in disappointment?
This has happened to me so often that I don’t even flick through them anymore. I simply don’t hold out much hope of decent content from the publication that poses the question “is tongue the new sideboob?” on its front page (that would be you, Grazia).
The problem with voicing these criticisms – especially to other women – is that it’s very difficult not to sound snooty and pretentious: “ Grazia, you say? I wouldn’t dream of reading such muck. I subscribe to Intelligent Life, and have you read the Madwoman in the Attic? It’s simply an excellent exploration of feminism in the 19th century”.
I really don’t want to be that idiot.
Nonetheless, I have to ask: where are the decent magazines? I don’t have a narrow or limited range of interests: I like music, fiction, theatre, current affairs, anything to do with life in Asia (I have a vicarious interest, until I can afford to travel more), and buying handbags/clothes. What I find odd about the majority of women’s ‘lifestyle’ magazines is that the last item on that list dominates. I like shopping online for new clothes (in the same passive way I ‘like’ having a cup of coffee) – but that doesn’t mean I want to read an entire 130-page magazine about it.
I’m not even starting on the parade of celebrities I don’t recognise, articles on celebrity’s children (privacy anyone?), or the unsolicited advice on bikini diets – the latter often confusingly juxtaposed beside exhortations to ‘embrace your curves’.
Clothing (as a topic in a women’s magazine) seems to be an expansive subject. What clothes are fashionable, what clothes are not, red carpet faux pas, who looks fat, whose booty looks good in what skirt, and then the inevitable ‘wardrobe malfunction’. Woe betide the hapless celebrity who has furtively left the house for a pint of milk and not dressed for the occasion. I find two things odd about these articles/features: a) that the person writing/commissioning them gives a crap and b) that they expect me to as well. (For the record: the only time I’ll be interested in reading about a ‘wardrobe malfunction‘ will be if someone ever owns a rogue Winchester that springs to life, does a dance, and spews forth dancing clothes, like the one in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I’ll read that article.)
The thing is, I don’t think I’m some weird aberration of the female human race. Presumably the majority of women have a wide range of interests, which are blithely ignored by magazine editors. A recent article in the Economist talked about India and how family roles are changing – with an insight into the figure of the formidable mother-in-law. The BBC did a great feature on a famous neo-Nazi in the UK who led a double life in the Soho gay scene. Can’t we have something interesting this like sandwiched in among the discussions of sideboobs and Kate Middleton’s baby weight? I know the likes of Marie Claire purports to fill this void, but for me, it’s still too heavy on the clothes/accessories front. Not to mention style advice involving dresses that cost the same as my rent.
So that’s my wish for Christmas: to find a magazine to read in 2014 that reflects even a little more of my own interests. Any suggestions, let me know.