The Vagenda

Grazia Goes ‘Feminist’

Grazia’s gone all feminist, yo. I genuinely don’t know what to make of this. I mean, it’s good for you guys, and like, the world, but it might put us out of business. They’ve got Laurie Penny talking about what ‘having it all’ means. Yeah. Then again, we all know what having it all means, and that’s what the advert NEXT TO the having it all piece says, which is having ‘a good hair day, every day.’ 
I most definitely don’t have it all. I cut my own fringe the other day. AGAIN. When will I ever fucking learn that doing that inevitably makes me look like Richard III? I’m like a cat that faceplants into a reflection of itself every hour on the hour, never realising that the mirror does not constitute a door to magic happy land in which a new best cat friend awaits it, but is actually a solid surface capable of delivering intense cranium pain.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Well, if I’m a mentally subnormal cat then so is Grazia. This week they take shots at both Demi and Jen. ‘Is Jen’s Baby Dream Over?’ screams the cover, implying that she’s barren, or some such, when actually all she did was say in an interview that she’s not sure kids are always the road to happiness, ta very much. You know how you always have one friend who reads into everything way too much and inevitably gives you shitty advice as a result? So you’re like, showing her a text message from the dude you’re shagging which says ‘will you please stop calling me full stop no kiss’ and she’s all, ‘he’s probably just scared of how much he loves you.’ Please. Well, that friend is Grazia.
Incidentally, while we’re on the topic: no man is scared by how much he loves you. This is another one of those myths peddled by women’s mags. I actually saw an advice column in Cosmo in which the agony aunt told a woman who’d had a one night stand with a guy who had left while she was asleep that he was probably just scared by all the FEELINGS he was having. FFS. He doesn’t want to bang you again. Move on.
So, Jen doesn’t want a baby, and Grazia fancies Abby Crouch, who, despite not being anywhere else, is in this week’s Chart of Lust. ‘Who got stuck on a roller coaster! Thirty feet in the air at Alton Towers! But who is still hot, so that’s ok.’ Grazia is full of sentences like this, where you read them and you’re like, what does that EVEN MEAN? Are we speaking the same language at all? It’s accompanied by a picture of Abby looking so emaciated that you want to pick her up and take her for a Little Chef Full English pronto. Her life was possibly in danger but hey, she’s still a size four or whatever, so no biggie. 
Then in ‘This Week’s Conversation’ we have ‘Is it ever OK to joke about rape?’ a good two weeks after everyone else stopped talking about this. Writer Anna Hart writes a column which features so many lines of argument that it’s the equivalent of a toddler standing on the dinner table during a family row and going ‘can mummy and daddy just stop fighting?’ She concludes that, no, rape jokes shouldn’t be banned because it takes someone crossing the line to mark out our personal boundaries. Of course, no one cares what she thinks because everyone else has already read this, by Lindy West.
Then Beauty writer Sali Hughes wades into the debate and says ‘I do find it mildly patronising that any crime can be used for satire except a crime against women.’ Which quite frankly, baffles me. Things comedians with any sense avoid talking about include many, many horrific crimes, not always perpetrated against women. I don’t see Michael Macintyre cracking jokes about the murder of Steven Lawrence during Live at the Apollo, but maybe that bit was on just after Russell Howard, the Manic Pixie Dreamboy of comedians, and consequently I switched off. Either way, pretty much everything Sali Hughes says in and out of print bugs me.
Anyway, who cares? Because BUSTLES ARE BACK! Marc Jacobs (whom I love, possibly more than any man, ever) has been inspired by the Edwardian Street Style photography of Edward Linley Sambourne for his new collection. Basically, we have just been given free licence to dress like Suffragettes all the time. Be still my beating heart.
Next up we have ‘Why it takes six men to find the one’. Writer Jessica Massa says that ‘every woman has a gaggle of men who will help her find TBP (the boyfriend prospect.)’ So, not only do you need a man, but you also now need SIX other men to help you find the man that you need in the first place, something which, in my mind, constitutes a massive win for the patriarchy. 
Shit like this really fucks me off, because every week there seems to be a new book being promoed about ‘how to find the one’. Do you know how you find the one? You put the self-help books down and GO OUTSIDE. 
On page 39 you will note that Grazia has also taken to picking on teenagers. Miley Cyrus is 19 and seems to be cutting herself. ‘it’s very sad’, says a source, who obviously doesn’t find it too sad to talk to the harpies at Grazia about. It’s when articles like this crop up that you realise that, no matter how many token feminist gestures a magazine might make, those gestures are essentially worthless when said magazine also spends its time treating young women like laboratory specimens. Polly Vernon can argue for equal pay all she wants, and Suzanne Moore and Laurie Penny can contribute, and they can get a political columnist to talk about all the big important stuff that women are now allowed to care about, but while they’re still stalking troubled young women, we don’t want to know. In fact, the whole attitude of the magazine is encapsulated by an article called: ‘We’re Facebook Stalkers, so what?’ ‘we need to stop our collective obsessive behaviour’, says Grazia, thus implicating YOU in the crime, when actually, you probably spend very little time stalking your ex boyfriend on Facebook, instead favouring fun stuff like bike rides and meals with chorizo in them. But as long as the team at Grazia believe that we want to be a part of this sick celebrity panopticon, then they’ll carry on printing this shit.
It does sadden me that intelligent women with thoughtful opinions are endorsing this magazine in its current state. Perhaps they think they can change it from the inside, or perhaps they don’t even care. If you manage to get a double page spread on FGM into Grazia, does it matter if it’s next to an advert for Veet with the tagline ‘what beauty feels like’? How much of a feminist can you really be when you’re seemingly happy to become a part of a system that focuses so heavily on shaming women? And why does Grazia still want me to wear Espadrilles?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but, like the ‘friend’ of Miley Cyrus who felt it was OK to talk to the press about her cutting herself, I’m feeling ‘very sad’. I’m going to go and crawl into a hole now. 

UPDATE: We had a little debate on Twitter, and Laurie has come out and said that she DIDN’T write for Grazia, but was interviewed for a feature. So although it LOOKED like she wrote it, and had a byline photo etc. she didn’t. However, it did lead to a rather lengthy debate on what constitutes compromise for journalists/whether it’s better to have SOME feminism in a mainstream magazines rather than none. You can let us know what you think in the comments. 

18 thoughts on “Grazia Goes ‘Feminist’

  1. Writing shit that makes women hate themselves doesn’t make you “mentally subnormal”. Being learning disabled has nothing to do with sexism. Could you please stop using disablist language?

  2. Totally agree with Alanna! Mental health, disabilities and special needs are always looked down but hey! we all know disabled people can’t be feminists…!!

  3. ideally, shit like grazia wouldn’t exist but since it does i guess its better to have some ‘feminism’ in it just so that it exists in the mainstream, even if it exists in a really crap way.

  4. I have to say, the fringe-and-cat combo seems like the perfect antidote to confidence-knocking, incompetence-inducing glossies. I’m keeping that one for a rainy day.

  5. Wow, classy reply, Vagenda Team. The writer equated Grazia with being “mentally subnormal”, regardless of the cat reference. Seriously, you call yourselves feminists yet won’t even attempt to respond when you’re called out on using language that harms women?

  6. I wouldn’t be saddened if I were you. I saw Hannah Pool (Guardian journo) discuss whether, as a feminist journalist, it’s right to get your work in publications like the Daily Mail, Grazia etc. Would you rather there was zero feminism in these publications, even if their inclusion is paradoxical with a lot of the messages they convey? These pubs have massive, massive readerships – bigger than Laurie Penny’s blog ever will be, bigger (sadly) by 20, 50, 100 times than the Vagenda’s readership is ever going to be. Social change happens (partly) by ideas drip, dripping into mainstream media. I know it’s hypocritical for these mags to include tokenistic feminism – but better to have a little than none.

  7. Did you read that right? It seemed to me that they were referring to the fact that Grazia looks far too much into things, the way a cat might think that the mirror is something bigger and better than it seems. Adding the phrase “mentally subnormal” was just some comedic spice-wording (<–super technical) to convey that this sort of repetitive behavior isn’t even normal for a cat. Maybe it’s just the way I was reading it, but it didn’t seem like disablist language at all to me.

  8. “yet won’t even attempt to respond when you’re called out on using language that harms women?”

    do you mean ‘harms mentally limited people who happen to be women’? This seems to imply that it’s OK to harm male ones which is, contrariwise, sexist…

  9. Sorry to go off topic, but I’m trying to contact the Vagenda team to see if they’ll review my blog and new book but can’t find a contact email anywhere on this site. So, maybe you’d like to take a look yourselves and see what you think. Its a parody blog called ‘Clamidia Staines – Agony Aunt & Sexpert’. . It’s very adult humour, very rude, but silly as hell and I hope very funny. I like the reviews on this site and would be interested in some intelligent feedback, particularly as this is a feminist review site and Clamidia is the antithesis of the simpering weakling Ana in 50 Shades. She is also a complete and unapologetic hussy. I’ve written and honed Clamidia on and off for 7 years but really pushed her since 50 Shades came out. Had 3000 hits on the blog in 3 weeks and have pestered every damn blog and news / ents site in the world. I post in character as Clamidia mainly. But a feminist perspective on her would be interesting. All the problems are really daft morality / dilemma tales and I hope the writing works on that level too, however lightly disguised as nonsense. I hope too that the irony translates. Won’t go on anymore and sorry to invade you comments so I’ll bugger off now. I await any comments with some trepidation! There’s an email contact on my site. Thanks

  10. You might not want to hear it… but Laurie Penny is quite of a useless public feminist most of the times, and half of what she says makes no sense at all. I used to like her writing, until I read too much of it.
    And yeah, to have ‘some’ feminism in Grazia is almost insulting. It’s like McDonals being the official sponsor of the Olympics.
    Why don’t we start a magazine for women without ads and diets and sex and boyfriends and fashion? In France they have one, it’s called Causette

  11. I’m against the token feminism in products like Grazia, because these few pro-women articles act like bait to keep the readership loyal while prolonging their exposure to the other harmful content. If you stop putting diamonds in bags of shit people become less eager to get dirty.

  12. Weighing in a bit late, but, using “mentally subnormal” as a modifier to make something or someone “funny”, “to be pitied” or otherwise less deserving of respect than another example of the same that was not “mentally subnormal” is probably ableist, and I think it’s not a stretch to read this in that way – even if it’s talking about a cat.

    The Vagenda is not an especially intersectional example of feminism, which is a shame, really, because it would be nice if they at least weren’t consistently cissexist. I don’t blame them for messing things up outside of their areas of experience (it would be hypocritical of me to expect them to do substantial research before a short post), and I think staying within one’s areas of expertise is generally a great idea. But if one has one’s failings pointed out, being dismissive of the problem is not exactly encouraging.

    This is a great blog with great articles, but it could be so much greater even by fixing the little stuff which gets pointed out.

    Simon, I think it’s fairly reasonable to talk about harming women in particular when talking about a group’s justification in calling itself feminist, and wouldn’t assume it implied that harming men under the same category was okay. If they were called out on claiming to be tolerant of people with mental disabilities and it was phrased the same way I would be more inclined to read it that way, but it’s not. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be read as sexist – and we all know intent isn’t magic, so that would be no excuse if it were read that way – but I think it’s more likely and more reasonable not to read it as sexist. If you disagree, I’d be happy to hear any explanation you might be willing to offer or just accept that it may well be more problematic than I realise.

  13. Hi Thirst for Knowledge

    Thanks for writing because it’s given me the opportunity to raise some points.

    Firstly, the infamous cat reference: When I am writing, and I think something is treading the line language-wise, my thought process generally is ‘would it upset my mother?’ This is because my brother is severely disabled (I would ask ‘would it upset him?’ but he can’t read, or speak). In the case of the cat, it was a pretty categorial ‘no’, but I cannot write with every reader in mind, otherwise I’d never get anything published. I’m sorry that some people were offended by the language used to describe the cat. Being offended about something is a choice. A few readers made a choice in this case, but most people didn’t, and as a writer who is sensitive to disability myself I still stand by the term. This may be seen as being dismissive but it’s no so much that as the fact that I don’t agree that it is sufficiently offensive to our readers to change it. I may have appeared dismissive earlier – I won’t lie – I don’t view this discussion as entirely productive (I am writing a lengthy comment about a cat rather than producing more content for the site)

    Secondly, ‘intersectionality’. We tend to avoid using phrases like this on the Vagenda, and give gender studies lingo a wide berth. Not because we don’t have respect for the academic field, but because it’s a sure fire way to turn off any potential mainstream readers, especially teenage girls. We’re a funny website, not a serious one (although we occasionally publish serious subject matter, we acknowledge that there are a raft of internet sites out there who are doing it much better). But I digress – you can call us cissexist if you want (90% of the people reading your comment won’t know what you’re on about, btw, which is a shame), despite the fact that we have a transgender readership too. In terms of having more articles up about the issues surrounding transgender community (and indeed, lesbians, which we have almost nothing about either) – articles are published on merit. If someone wanted to contribute an article about these topics, and it was well written, and funny, it would automatically go up. So we’re waiting, and hopefully people will get in touch.

    So, yeah, those are my two cents. We don’t tend to get involved in the comments too much, but when we’re accused of something (like viewing transgender people as inferior, or mocking the disabled) that we view as unfair, we like to get our point across.

  14. Okay, I can understand that. You probably have a better perspective on whether or not it was offensive than I do, in that case, and I’m happy to back down on that.

    Yeah, it’s unfortunate that that kind of language turns people off, and on second thought I’m fairly sure going for the most inclusive language possible would detract from the quality.

    The cissexism wasn’t so much in terms of being directly offensive so much as the implications that “all women have vaginas and all men have penises”. You’re certainly no worse than most of the rest of the world on the subject, and probably significantly better.

    That’s entirely reasonable, and I’m sorry for wasting your time on the subject. The response is very much appreciated.