Saturday, October 29, 2005

Two things he's truly interested in

I was very serious yesterday (and didn't manage to say Labour sucks once, very bad form), so I thought I'd start off today with some old fashioned mocking. I was wondering who to mock (I've decided to resign as Shadow spokesperson for ridiculing Wayne Mapp - I don't have the time). But then Jedmunds of Pandagon comes to my rescue and reminds me of the existance of Brio Magazine. Two of the most mockable things in the world are advice given to teenage girls and religious fundamentalists, you put them both together and it's the perfect material for a lazy blogger on a Saturday morning.

Jedmunds already posted the breathless tale of Brad:

"Say your friend Brad is standing before your youth group because your youth pastor asked him to read a passage from the Bible. Brad pauses as he’s reading to make eye contact with the group, just as his speech teacher taught him to do.
The moment Brad looks up, he sees a girl wearing a tight T-shirt. Immediately, Brad’s mind is distracted from the Lord and the Bible — two things he’s truly interested in.

Brad’s able to keep going. He doesn’t let on that he’s no longer concentrating on the words coming from his mouth. But in fact, for the rest of the evening, Brad feels uncomfortable around the girl he spotted, struggling between sinful thoughts and wanting to treat her as a sister in Christ.

All because of a T-shirt? you might think. Yes — all because of a tight T-shirt that showed too much of a girl’s body."

But there's so much more. Did you want to know the Christian way to pluck your eyebrows? Did you know God wanted you to be thinner, and he believes the best way of achieving that is to find a sister in Christ to keep you accountable for your nutritional choices? Do you fall asleep with your head on you boyfriend's shoulder on the bus on the way home, are you worried about the implications this has for your soul?

I believe that women have agency, thoughts, desires, and a purpose outside of whatever functionality men can find from them. What's either amusing or depressing, depending on my mood, is that the advice in Brio isn't that much worse than what was in my friends' Dollys and Girlfriends. Sure there are a few extra references to God thrown in there, and you can't have sex without getting pregnant or an STD, but either way women's role is to please men and deny their own desires.

I was once out driving when I had to stop suddenly at a zebra crossing (I do that quite often, driving isn't necessarily my strongest point) and this school girl crossed the road carrying in a Cleo and I said to her "Oh sweetie, no don't read that, you're great just the way you are" she didn't hear me, but I don't think she needed to.

Because fundamentally I believe that women's sense of self is stronger than the efforts to squash it, so the readers of Brio & Cleo will be OK in their own ways. I'm not saying it doesn't matter, I know how hard it is to try and stop the many voices that get put in our heads, I'm just saying that girls will grow into women, no matter how hard magazines try to stop them.

Besides the only reason anyone ever reads Cleo is because they want to know about sex (and sadly looking at the tale of Brad, that might be true for Brio as well).


  1. I don't understand this attack on women's magazines. These are magazines made by women and its women who buy them. Surely the greatest freedom that feminism gives every women is the freedom to be herself, and if that includes buying magazines such as the ones mentioned then so be it.

    Your condescending attitude towards women who enjoy them smacks to me of the same condescending thinking that looked down on women who worked outside the home a few generations ago. It's replacing one idea of how women should think and act with another. I don't think any less of women who don't buy magazines and I certainly don't see women who chose to buy them as girls.

  2. My problems with women's magazines (besides the fact they're actually made for, and to some extent by, advertisers) are many, but the main issue in this post is that they encourage women to prioritise men's needs over their own.

    I don't think feminism is about the freedom to read women's magazines. That's one freedom that feminism has never had to fight for.

    I wasn't being condescending towards readers of those magazines. I was using the terms girls because I was talking primarily about magazines aimed at teenage girls, Brio, Dolly & Girlfriend (and threw Cleo in there mainly because it rhymed with Cleo, and because a lot of teenage girls do read it).

    My whole point is that I think that women who read these magazines are much cooler than the magazines want them to be.

  3. also there's been some research done (no idea where, too lazy to look it up) which shows that women's magazines are really really bad for positive body image - after just a few minutes of reading one, a woman will feel worse about her body image than she did before. And actually it's more about the pictures, and particularly those in the adverts, than the articles.

    I do buy women's mags - mainly Cosmo (i used to buy New Woman until they published this unfortunate preying picture of Sadie Frost and i've been on a one-woman boycott since then because it was definitely not a sisterly thing to do). But i innoculate myself by reminding myself that the pics are airbrushed, clothes are pinned, etc etc. Frankly I don't see why it isn't false advertising for cosmetic companies to airbrush their pics.