I was scrolling through my Insta feed last year when I saw the news. Yet another magazine had officially announced that it would no longer go to press. Earlier this year, it was Look magazine who officially shut its doors. in 2015, it was Eva Chen’s Lucky Magazine who bid adieu to the world of media, before she transitioned over to Instagram as Head of Fashion Partnerships. Last year, it was Glamour US, who will officially cease printing and take its content online, save for two collectors’ editions they plan to print every Spring and Autumn, to set the tone for the season ahead, much like they’ve done in the UK. Go figure that each time I found out about these magazines ceasing publishing, it was from a blogger I followed on Instagram.
As much as I wish it wasn’t the case, my blasé reaction shocked even more than the actual news did. Twenty year old me who wanted nothing more than to be a fashion writer for a big, fancy magazine wouldn’t even want to know me right now.
I started my career in fashion magazines – as an intern at Grazia, then a freelance writer at Cosmopolitan and Elle in Mumbai just a little bit before the digital content boom. I absolutely loved the high of picking up a glossy fashion magazine, feeling its familiar weight in my hands and inhaling that fresh new magazine smell. I’d flip through page after colourful page, absorbing information like my life depended on it until I finally found my first byline in print. It was practically euphoric.
Now, however, the only time I to get up close and personal with a magazine is when I’m getting on a plane that doesn’t have in-flight entertainment, if I’m in the waiting room at the dentist’s clinic or when I use them as a prop for flatlay photos for Instagram. Which really makes me wonder if girls like me who eat, drink, live and breathe fashion aren’t reading women’s magazines anymore, who is?
Sadly, the only answer I could come up with were (a) patients at said dentist’s clinic (b) people who just aren’t internet and social media savvy. Since content and sales tend to go hand in hand, magazines, quite obviously, have been at a disadvantage since their content isn’t directly proportional to sales the way an influencer with a similar readership would be. However, personally, I think the issues behind magazines being officially left out of the larger narrative are a lot deeper. Here are a few of the reasons why I believe women’s magazines are the dinosaurs of the media age.
Old News is Stale News
Quite simple and straight to the point, why would I wait to read something in print when it comes out a month or even a week later, when it is trending on Twitter right now?
They’re Faceless and a Little Impersonal
This isn’t about magazines v/s bloggers in the slightest. However, the reason the concept of an influencer works is because women like having a figure they can relate to or aspire to be. Somebody who they can write to and actually receive an interaction back from. I couldn’t even imagine writing a letter to a magazine and actually getting some sort of response from the editor, could you? Sure, some bloggers don’t always respond to comments, but there is still a feeling of making a connection with another real person like yourself, which to me is irreplaceable. I’d rather have that than a non-penetrative, impersonal wall that surrounds most magazines.
Their Content is Often Unaffordable and Unrelatable
I don’t know about you, but I have rent and bills to pay. And while I may treat myself / be treated to a designer bag once every few years, on the whole, I couldn’t dream of being able to afford the fancy designer clothes, shoes, bags and jewellery that I am constantly being told are ‘good investments’ by women’s magazines. I’d rather see what my favourite blogger is wearing from a store I can actually afford, and then click the link to buy it on the spot. Sure, lots of bloggers promote luxury products, too. But 90% of the time, they are styled with high street pieces, with bloggers recommending ‘dupes’ or affordable alternatives to achieving a similar look on a budget. I’ll admit that magazines sometimes throw in high street items in certain sections. But the twenty pages, often more, of luxury brand advertisements at the start of the magazine coupled with the reinforcement of these luxury advertisers integrated into the content within, is a bit overwhelming, unrelatable and unaffordable for regular readers. Yours truly included.
They’re Still Not Inclusive Enough
If you speak to a woman of colour or a mid/plus sized woman or a more mature woman and ask her if she feels adequately represented in her magazine of choice, I can guarantee that 100% of them will say they don’t. Sure, magazines claim they are including more women of colour. But honestly, 85% of women you see in magazines are slim heterosexual Caucasians. Nothing against them, of course. But barring the rare editorial where mid and plus-sized women are finally brought out of the shadows, where are my curvy girls at? Where are the mid-sized women that make up 70% of the population? Where are my LGBTQ+ queens? Where are the more mature ladies hiding and where are women living with disabilities, who enjoy fashion and beauty like everyone else, but almost never grace their sacred pages. And on that note, why aren’t women from different cultures and ethnicities featured in more fashion stories rather than a ‘She ran away from xyz in her country’ type stories? Its almost as if we’re not glamorous enough, like fashion and women from different ethnic backgrounds are still separate entities that don’t co-exist. It is just baffling to me that it is 2020 and the whole world is becoming so much more diverse and inclusive of all sizes, ethnicities, backgrounds and sexual orientations. However, most magazines throw in a ‘token coloured person’ or a ‘token larger woman’ here or there and then call it a day. And these days, with fashion brands actually celebrating womens’ curves, imperfections and a huge increase in the number of models / women of colour on fashion websites, magazines simply can’t afford to fall behind. I’d rather follow an influencer who ticks the diversity boxes for me rather than wait around for magazines to finally realise that all women matter.
They Often Subliminally Endorse the Notion that We’re Not Good Enough
Most womens’ magazines have articles that center around ‘fixing’ your life and striving for perfection, whether it is following the latest workout to improve a part of your body, achieving the ‘perfect smile’ and even going so far as to writing articles on ‘how to look like a model’. Um, I don’t know about you, but if I had a daughter, I don’t think I’d want her reading that stuff. Women don’t need to look like models or aim to ‘look perfect’. They’re perfect enough on their own and accepting their own unique beauty is the most important thing. I wish it was a lesson I had learned back in my teens, but better in my late twenties than never I suppose.
People say that depression and anxiety have been at an all-time high since Instagram decided to dominate people’s lives. But if I’m being honest, magazines have been breeding grounds for body image issues, anxiety, depression, feelings of inadequacy, eating disorders and the like for decades. The saddest part is, that if someone I followed on Instagram was making me feel bad about my life, all I would have to do is unfollow them and find someone else I can relate to, but since 95% of women’s magazines post similar content, there aren’t many other print outlets young women can turn to. I’d take magazines a lot more seriously if in addition to being inclusive, they wrote articles on how to actually enjoy phases of your life, how to learn to be content with where you are and make the most of what you’ve got to work with.
I’m not saying that magazines purposefully mean to tear women down, but often, simple shifts in content strategies would make magazines a much healthier place for women to be. I’d rather read an article online by The Everygirl that says ‘Your Life Does Not Need To Follow A Timeline‘ than leaf through a magazine for stuff like ‘Summer Ab Blaster Workout’. The former says ‘You do you. Take your life into your own hands’. The latter reads ‘Your don’t look good enough – change yourself’. Which would you rather read?
Often, They’re the Opposite of Empowering
And honestly, who has time for that? Life is stressful, there are only twenty-four hours in the day and any downtime we get shouldn’t be spent reading magazines shaming women for what they look like. I sometimes feel so bad for the poor celebrities they ‘target’. Just let Jennifer Anniston go through her breakup and Sandra Bullock rock her dermal fillers in peace, for crying out loud. You do you, girls!
It is 2018 and I love that women are more supportive of each other than ever and more than anything, are genuinely interested in lifting each other up. For example, a few months ago, guy tweeted about how he thought it was silly that women were being nice to each other on social media when they didn’t know each other, and hundreds of women replied to the thread with nothing but more compliments and support for each other. This is the sort of encouraging environment that we need to be adopting for the sake of other young women and girls around us. For feminism and positive body image and for the sake of women’s mental health.
So yeah. For what it’s worth, that’s my take on things. Maybe it is age-related, but as I’m approaching thirty, what used to be a wonderful sensation of escape when I lost myself in the pages of a stunning editorial is now frustration over outdated concepts, sexist story titles and a sort of impenetrable bubble of exclusivity. A sort of ‘you can’t sit with us’ of media, if you will. And, to me, it seems like women’s magazines would rather die out than choose to evolve and adapt their content strategies to be more inclusive. Remind you of a certain prehistoric creature, perhaps? Which is why I feel like while they’re almost hiding their heads under the ground and ignoring the content and representation that women really want, websites like The Everygirl – modern, inclusive, fun and a lot more career-focused, are going from strength to strength.
Being relatable, inclusive, supportive and uplifting is the new black, but it seems to be a trend memo most women’s magazines have missed in the style section.
What are your thoughts? Are you likely to agree or would you like to rip me to shreds right now? Tell me all about it in the comments below or via social media.