The Vagenda

So You Think Women’s Magazines Aren’t That Bad? Bullshit.

All these clippings are from magazines bought last week. We do not want our future daughters to grow up thinking that this is what being a woman looks like. Do you?

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It all makes for pretty depressing reading, which is why we hope that you will take a look at our book, The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media. Hopefully it will cheer you up by making you laugh a lot, but it also passionately demands a media that we all deserve, a media that acknowledges that women are multifaceted beings with brains and dreams and wide-ranging interests. We’ve been banging this drum for over two years now and, with the exception of our wonderful readers, twitter followers and commenters, we’ve been banging it pretty much alone. Join us! You can pre-order it from amazon here. 



33 thoughts on “So You Think Women’s Magazines Aren’t That Bad? Bullshit.

  1. I had no idea that my personality could be determined from the shape of my bottom and may have lived in perpetual ignorance without the type of investigative journalism showcased here.

    Seriously though, there’s some fairly unpleasant stuff here and the attitudes to food particularly bothered me as someone who’s eaten chaotically for at least 25 years now. It seems pretty unbelievable that someone could be criticised for eating pasta with only 336 calories or told to despise themselves. Why aren’t they recommending Susie Orbach to us and telling us that really in the end if you’re fairly active and healthy it doesn’t matter what size you are?

  2. Buying beauty products if going to do sweet fuck all for my cravings.
    I CAN’T EAT THEM. How can they be calorie free?!

    • I know! I honestly could not believe it! But I’m going to read your article and hope it makes me feel a little better.

    • Yeah this is the one I was most shocked by. God! Sexism hurts everybody. :( I shall now read your article.

  3. Hey women, here’s an idea. Why don’t you all STOP BUYING these shitty magazines. The easiest form of direct action there is – simply don;t do anything. No purchases and no falling for these media shit that makes you all feel worthless and crap.

    • They are trying to raise awareness by posting these damaging images on this website. The problem with other women who buy these magazines is that they are not aware of what it is doing to them…

  4. Oh gosh aren’t we a bunch of silly women. Of course, it’s so simple just stop buying it! I guess I should also get rid of the tv, probably stop going on the intenet too and listening to the radio: oh and I’ll also travel to work on the underground with my eyes closed as these messages are present in pretty much every form of media there is. I would rather put my efforts into changing content like this than wander through life running away from it.

    • Well, frankly, it IS simple to stop buying them. And not to watch TV, or if you must at least not to watch programmes involving ‘celebrities’, makeovers or diets etc. And to use the internet without ever running up against this crap. I don’t really understand why women talk as if they don’t have control over these things. There’s plenty we don’t have control over, but this we do. These magazines exist because women won’t grow up and stop buying them. But the world is full of interesting things to read – you just need to get over being interested in bitchy gossip about other women, and, y’know, learn to enjoy text without pictures of semi-naked women. As long as women go on telling themselves that these magazines and all the sorts of attitudes and interests their content is designed to fulfill, are ‘guilty pleasures’ and/or they just can’t resist the temptation to read them, we will go on being the second sex.

      I’ve always thought that the Page 3 campaign, while good in its way, was really going after the wrong target. But the reason for that is that the campaigners know full well that most women in the population would rather be unequal and see other women objectified than give up reading demeaning rubbish. We should be asking why.

      • I’ve NEVER bought one I these magazines. So please don’t act like “most” women enjoy this crap. It’s insulting.

      • I think it’s a little from column A & a little from column B. As women we can send a message to editors & publishers & whoever is producing this stuff by not buying it, but in the meantime … why not also work to change it too? Essentially both tactics are forms of protest against this garbage & not mutually exclusive.

    • I don’t think he means to sound flip. I think he just means to suggest that we use our buying power to change the marketplace. That won’t immediately change those images you see on the underground, but could create long-term change. Money talks.

  5. I only just found out about your book, which led me to your site. It’s interesting to read this angle on feminism – I have recently developed some really strong feelings about the subliminal (and not so subliminal) messaging we receive through the media, whether we choose to pick it up or not. Also damaging, I think, is when a magazine that seems to be for the ‘thinking woman’ gives us the message that we should spend our hard earned pounds to reverse wrinkles on one page, while counselling us to embrace age on another. I wrote a blog post about it which heralded my birth as an angry feminist

  6. Yes, all this stuff is a complete waste of brain cells but am I the only one who wonders why Vagenda’s ‘no tolerance guide to the media’ has the body of a skinny, flawless woman on the cover? Surely this is going along with the ‘desirable’ imagery that is forced down our throats in everyday publications and broadcasts ….

      • You did what everyone else in the media does with an image of an attractive woman–you used it to sell your product.
        Adding a ripped triangular area to the crotch on the image isn’t subversion–tell me, what exactly has been subverted in the space where you placed the title of your book?
        Is it ‘subverted’ just because you intended it to be? Because it looks to me like you just used a mildly provocative picture of a woman’s torso and the ‘implied’ space where her genitals should be and whored her out for your book cover.

  7. That’s the thing though isn’t it. These magazines are bought by women, edited by women, written by women.

    Why? Why do women do this? These magazines sell an absolute ton – they are actually fulfilling a demand. The supply matches that demand.

    It’s a genuine question – not one I expect answered any time soon- that really perplexes me. The genders do really counter-intuitive things. When you look at populations, both men and women do things en-masse that basically cause harm to themselves. And do it out of choice!

    It makes no sense to me (even though I’m guilty of doing all the stupid crap that men do to themselves, at my own expense, and I know it.) I know so many women who buy these mags even whilst admitting they are nasty.

    I fear the contemporary study of gender has become too partisan to actually shed light on answering these questions objectively.

    • I’m not a sociologist or behavioral scientist, but here’s my speculation on why women buy these magazines. As someone else mentioned in the comments above, women are bombarded every day by these kinds of messages in the media. Young girls and women grow up believing this kind of BS, because the people out there speaking out against this shit and offering other views are outnumbered and often aren’t heard.

      Look at these magazines. Look at how many areas of our lives are touched on in these magazines. Family, significant others, food, health, beauty, self-esteem, home management, careers – I’m sure I’m missing some, but my point is that each magazine tries to cover as many of these bases as they can. You know why? To prey on our vulnerabilities.

      So maybe you’re someone who has chosen to live your life not caring what other people say about your body shape. You figured out that society’s expectations in this area are ridiculous. But are you worried about your relationship? Are you worried you’re not raising your kids right? Maybe you’re concerned about your career prospects. My point is that people don’t have to believe or be interested in everything printed in the magazines they purchase. If a magazine has an article touching on even one of a person’s insecurities, regardless of the other obvious (to that person) BS printed in it, that person is more likely to buy it. So it pays for these magazines to diversify their messages. It doesn’t mean that every purchaser supports everything that magazine says.

    • There’s a concept called “psychological investment.” The upshot is that anything you’ve spent time and effort on believing is going to be more important to you to defend than something you’ve just casually heard about. So if you’ve spent most of your formative years hearing that losing weight is important, that’s one dollop of psychological investment. If you have people you love and trust emphasizing that, that’s another big dollop. And if you’ve spent years pursuing that goal, that’s another huge investment.

      If, after all of that investment, somebody comes along and says, “This isn’t really necessary, you know, you’ve been wasting your life on this,” the most likely response is anger and attack, because if someone lets themselves suspect that they’ve invested time in a useless activity, that’s an admission that they invested unwisely. So the strongest defenders of this type of advertising will of course be women, because men haven’t got that investment.

  8. Wish I’d known about this book last week before I handed in my essay on this very subject!

    These magazines are not only damaging to women, but also set the wrong ideals for men as well.
    Environmentally speaking, they are an unnecessary drain on the earth’s resources, from the paper they print onto, the inks that pollute the water table, to the vast amount of CO2 created in transporting this trash.

  9. This. This makes me so angry. Sure being healthy is important but fear mongering people into being afraid of fat? Do they want everyone to develop self-hatred for their bodies or develop eating disorders or go on never-ending diets? Isn’t it better to be plump or normal but to allow yourself to live and not torture yourself for eating a muffin?

  10. To all of you wondering why women buy these hateful magazines and read them –

    These magazines tell you how to live your entire life. For anyone with insecurities or who isn’t applying cold logical thought to their self-image, these magazines are addictive. They tell you ‘the rules’. They tell you how to be beautiful and popular. They play on our greatest needs and insecurities – to be admired and to be accepted.

    Those insecurities and embarrassments are at their worst in teenage years. The magazines seem authoritative. I remember my lovely feminist mother trying to persuade me that I looked beautiful when all I could do was stare at photoshopped images in a magazine and wish I had the ‘right’ clothes, makeup, hair, shoes and products. She didn’t want me to read them – but I felt cut off from all of my friends and the popular girls by not knowing what this season’s rules were.

    For anyone needing a pick-me-up of self confidence, I’d highly recommend avoiding all highstreet shops / malls and spending your time in a student or hipster area for a while. The clothes on people are totally bonkers and have nothing to do with fashion. No one’s getting manicures or eating diet food. I love living in East London – it’s a liberating feeling to wear whatever the f*ck you want and feel good about it.

  11. while a lot of these magazines are really, really awful, i think there are certain magazines that are improving their messages. im subscribed to seventeen, which is slightly different from some of these in demographics but still features some of the same stuff. However, instead of putting people down, their stories feature successful girls. They show how to show off your body type and dont encourage dieting but do give tips on different exercises you can do. Also, within the past year, theyve included more articles about girls of different sexualities and some about feminism. While i think there’s a lot of junk out there, im glad that some magazines are making changes for the better

  12. Just reading through this collage makes me so unutterably angry. To think that there are 12/13 year olds reading this bullshit is even more upsetting…

  13. These are exactly the sort of issues that I’ve been discussing this year on my own website, it’s wonderful to know how widely this bullshit is being recognised and called out.

    By the way, I wrote a review of your book. I think it’s magnificent:

  14. It’s so scary seeing all of it together like this. Often I just avoid looking at the magazines at all, and seeing so many of these awful snippets is so disheartening. I want to do something about the way women are treated; I only wish I knew what to do.

  15. Anyone else remember when Grazia launched? It promised to do away with all this BS we see above in those images. That mag fell into line pretty quickly. peddling the same dribble. I think I lasted 2 editions and gave up.

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