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Rewriting women’s magazines

Written By Hannah Burfield

‘The Woman’s Magazine’ – a place of shame, insecurity and inadequacy as the female readership are forced to compare themselves with other women in a ruthless contest of which nobody can surely emerge victorious.

The recent rise of the song 'Victoria's Secret' by Jax serves as evidence of the universal reality for women who are persistently hounded by a society which callously instills insecurities into females from a young age. The popularity of this new anthem attests to the fact that this is a collective experience among women.

Vividly, I recall snuggling under a blanket and reading magazines when my family and I went on canal boat trips when I was a young teenager. Every time, I would find magazine covers displaying women who conformed to typical societal standards of beauty. Being constantly exposed to such a specific figure, posited as the ‘perfect body’, was certainly harmful for me. They were always of a slim build with prominent abs and perfectly toned and sculpted physiques. They had flawless skin, devoid of any imperfections or blemishes.

Yet, thankfully, I have come to realize that such a model of a 'perfect' women is fundamentally fictitious. Attempting to reach such an unsustainable level of 'beauty' - something which is, of itself, defined by a society attempting to suppress individuality and personal identity - is toxic and draining.

I would find it incredibly difficult to find one woman I know who has never felt insecure after looking at a woman's magazine. This highlight’s the need for women’s magazines to be redesigned to end this toxic cycle of shame which it engenders. For years these magazines have been perpetuating messages which demean women and confine them to standards created by men.

I decided to have a think about what an ideal woman’s magazine would look like.

Firstly, let’s stop pushing pointless dieting and instead embrace a plethora of body types. We need to promote the vital message of self-love and acceptance, something that should never be constrained to a limited range of body shapes typically endorsed as the epitome of beauty.

Different skin types need to be celebrated in magazines, including blemish prone skin which is too often branded ‘unclean’ and ‘dirty’. Such harmful ideas need to be dismantled and eradicated as the potential they have to negatively impact an individual’s mental state is profound.

In light of this lack of diversity, I feel that there needs to be more inclusivity and representation for individuals with disabilities. By showcasing a variety of bodies which go beyond the typical scope of individuals who are able-bodied, women’s magazines will be presenting the reality of a population – one which is, rightly so, diverse, and unique.

It feels ridiculous that it needs to be explicitly stated that celebrities are humans too, but the intrusive nature of modern paparazzi makes it feel necessary. Whilst we are intrigued by the personal lives of the stars we look up to, there is a boundary that we need to respect.

Upon opening any woman’s magazine, you are immediately bombarded with an onslaught of injurious comments disparagingly dissecting the appearance of celebrities. Such comments are harmful to both the celebrities who are victim to such brutal scrutiny, and the readership who may feel these critical opinions resonate with their own precarious perception of their self-worth.

I have found that, even in this modern age, women’s magazines continue to push women to embrace motherhood and, whilst this is not necessarily a negative idea, it should be counterbalanced by examples of women excelling in a variety of diverse career paths.

Sadly, such examples are few and far between in mainstream media, but this doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There are a multitude of successful businesswomen and women transforming traditionally male dominated industries.

By pushing such examples to the forefront of women’s magazines, young females – the target audience for such magazines – will be inspired to broaden their own aspirations and the possibilities of what they can go on to achieve would be limitless.

More emphasis needs to be placed on normalizing education about feminine hygiene. By discussing such topics in women’s magazines, it would facilitate open conversations about periods and self-pleasure, just to name a few.

The sense of shame and embarrassment which is unjustly attached to this needs to be dismantled. Why should women feel shamed for their bodies and their natural processes when men can speak openly without ridicule?

Women’s magazines should be free of the ridiculous sex tips they are known to advertise. Instead of stressing how women can be ‘better’ in bed in a bid to ‘satisfy’ male desires, we should be encouraging women to explore their own sexuality and pleasure centre’s in the aim of satisfying their own beings.

Evidently, there is a vast array of issues with current women’s magazines which continue to be circulated worldwide. We have been conditioned to link our self-worth with our appearance, but this cycle can be broken. Just like the lyrics in ‘Victoria’s Secret’ reveal, ‘Victoria’ was ‘made up by a dude’ – fictitious, unreachable, and idealistic.

Instead of striving to replicate a photoshopped image on a magazine cover, let’s make women’s magazines a place of celebration, empathy, and compassion.

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