If you’re a woman who lives on Earth, you’ve spent plenty of time around magazines geared towards women. You know the ones: blaring titties from the checkout stand and promising the “50 Hottest Sex Tips to Trap a Man.” I doubt I’m alone when I say that I totally “bought in” during my teen years, thumbing through the glossy pages of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Glamour, and their ilk whenever I had the chance. I was naïve and curious about my body and womanhood and it felt like reading a secret scroll, as though I was decoding a sacred feminine scripture, all the while credulous to the osmosis of some very unrealistic standards of both.
But after a year or two in the Cosmo game, I began to bore from the topics and themes reoccurring over and over again. One such theme was that of “taking your look from day to night.” For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a classic women’s rag trope, instructing women how to transform their daytime looks (which are plain and prude) to spicier, more picture-ready nighttime look. This usually involves the application of additional make-up, changing clothes or shoes, and/or releasing that librarian bun held up with a pencil and whipping off those *dorky* glasses to reveal a smokin’ hot avatar of the boring, bookish woman she was but a few moments ago.
Young as I was, I had a hunch that there was something more sinister about this than what appeared on the surface. “Why can’t women just go out as they are?” I wondered. “Why do we need unique products for this random two-hour period of the day?” “Isn’t ‘getting ready’ once per day, like, way more than enough??” And of course, “Do men ever think twice about their day-to-night looks?”
It was a fine day, probably rainy or sunny, when it finally clicked in my brain that women’s magazines are trash. I was 18 years old at the time and looking through Cosmo when I came across yet another article on quick, fun ways to spruce up your look after work, but this time using…office supplies. Office supplies, you say? Whatever do you mean? I kid you the fuck not, ladies, the article suggested putting PINK HIGHLIGHTER on your lips before heading out for a night on the town. HEY THERE WORKER GIRL, DON’T HAVE HOT PINK LIPSTICK HANDY?? NOT TO FRET! PUT THIS TOXIC MARKER ALL OVER YOUR MOUTH!
I laughed and laughed and laughed at this article, and then sighed and whispered under my breath “well that is so fucking stupid.” Throughout my twenties, I distanced myself from magazines that displayed only bone-thin models, less some occasional entertainment for lack of better options. (Like the doctor’s office, so healthy lol.) But recently, I blundered upon a women’s magazine headline and article so stunningly garbaaj it brought rushing back to me every proverbial pink highlighter article from my past. Ladies, I encourage you to arrange your will and testament before proceeding, because the following headline might actually make you die:
Ummm no one. No one is obsessed with this. The headline is bad enough, and then the article goes on to explore what is, for women, the most pressing question of our age:
No seriously, this is an image from the article. I wish that it was I who created this outrageous editorial postulation, but alas, it is real. The author goes on to describe what are some not-so-great side effects of ingesting cockroach puss (!!!), but still ponders whether the beauty benefits could be “worth it.”
Even when not outright selling you a product (tho I smell an exciting new brand partnership coming on!), Cosmo is selling the idea that a woman in her most natural state is unacceptable. Cosmo is an easy scapegoat, but this is the reality of so many messages disseminated to woman within a capitalist structure, and particularly in women’s magazines. Not only do magazines and products make billions of dollars when women are insecure about the way they look, but beauty and youth are put on a pedestal as a woman’s primary source of value. Therefore, any marginal improvement in beauty is worth any cost of obtaining it. (Thank you, Andi Zeisler.) Dull lips? MY GOD, USE WHATEVER’S AVAILABLE. Tiny forehead wrinkle? FORGET SAVING FOR THE FUTURE, FIX THAT SHIT. Naturally aging, as humans typically do? DRINK SOME COCKROACH JIZZ.
After spending twenty or thirty minutes wondering how the fuck you milk a cockroach, I felt inspired to do a deep dive into the world of lady’s magazines to see what fresh seeds of insecurity they’re sowing and all the wacky ways they’re convincing women to spend money these days. I took no more than 90 minutes to poke around the usual spots, and here’s some of the madness that I found.
The Worst Women’s Magazine Headlines From Last Week
Hey Gemini ladies! According to The Best Summer Sandals for Your Zodiac Sign, you’ve got a split personality, so you need to buy two-toned pink heels that balance your practical side with your ~~pArtY giRl~~ side. Wait a minute here—well crap on a cracker—according to this Essential Summer Shoes According to Your Zodiac, a Gemini is actually an independent, lively woman that prefers classic leather sandals!!*
*Not raggin’ on astrology, but the lazy, blatant commodification of it.
Everyone? EVERYONE? Well gosh golly, I feel so out of the loop. Someone pass me my Bic!!
First, Big Razor came for your leg hair. Big Porn came for your pubes. And the Big Beauty won’t sleep until they have that single black straggler that sprouts from your chin.
“You can only obtain the image of having a career if you look like one of these models and dress in these clothes!! Otherwise absolutely no one will believe that you have a career!!!!!!!”
“Hey, there pretty lady! Does your make-up end up looking like Heath Ledger’s Joker every time you sniff a tulip? Paint your eyeballs using a product that only a dangerous chemical solvent will budge!”
Ya know what? I’ll let the cockroach jizz thing slide. (Never thought I’d type those words.) Whatever. But suggesting that women leverage high-interest debt to buy some dumb woven cherry earrings should be illegal in general, but especially in a “women’s empowerment” magazine. And this article probably ran adjacent to one about women owning their power, money, and/or lives. Now I’m actually pissed. Again, we are being told that any marginal improvement in beauty and fashion are worth any cost of obtaining it.
Still on the fence about ladies’ magazines?? Well, chew on this. With your nails:
What’s the worst women’s magazine headline you’ve seen recently? Let’s overcome the feelings of insecurity bred by women’s mags by laughing at their ridiculousness. It’s the only way to survive out here. xo. Doggy