Confidence Killers: Cosmo’s Grip on the Female Consumer

Throughout the majority of Duffy’s Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age, the author takes the liberty to comment upon the progress that women have galvanized since the early days of regulated publication. She regards the progress as nothing short of phenomenal, and notes the rise of magazines detailing subjects mostly for and by other women. The examples given in the Remake, Remodel reading includes the popular Cosmopolitan and Glamour magazine. The magazines have always garnered significant disdain from me, and I find it ironic that magazines that are meant to promote womanhood or a feminist ideal instead exposes and manipulates their flaws in the guise of sexual expression and freedom.

Every time that I go into a store like CVS and notice Cosmopolitan, Glamour, People, or most other gossip magazines geared towards women, the first question I feel inclined to ask the clerk is “Does anyone ACTUALLY read this crap?” Cosmo in particular tends to garner such reactions from me. Upon simply gazing at the cover, the magazine immediately bombards me, the viewer with seemingly mindless topics of sex, clothes, and surprise, surprise: more sex. The magazines covers that I usually see have signs like “700 sex tips to help you have a better life”, or “500 ways to please your man” and “Ways to get in shape”. Same topic, EVERY SINGLE ISSUE. What these aforementioned captions truly seem to translate to me are “Ladies, you aren’t good at sex and your life is terrible”, “You can’t please your man” and “You’re fat and unattractive, be self-conscious about it”. While I find it nice that a group of women have and operate their own magazines, I feel as though most of these magazines take advantage of feminist attitudes, but to a negative effect and instead serves to crush their own self-esteem.

The author herself states that these aforementioned magazines influenced nearly every aspect of her personality and her fashion sense when she was younger in the introduction. She states that

I faithfully relied upon these glossies for formative guidance in matters of fashion, beauty, fitness, and relationships; at the same time, I began to sense a widespread disapproval of the genre. My initial exposure to this critical perspective came in the form of an undergraduate course on the political economies of media, which located women’s magazines within systems of patriarchal capitalism, asymmetrical power relations, and a gendered culture of consumerism. Gloria Steinem’s “Sex, Lies, and Advertising” and Ben Bagdikian’s The Media Monopoly struck a particular nerve and encouraged me to think critically about the unseen forces that shaped the content of my magazines. (Brooke Erin Duffy, Remake, Remodel, ix)

I believe that if the magazines didn’t sell itself solely on the same repetitive subjects and the insecurities of others, and sought to encourage people to be better overall, they would be better received by critics and onlookers. These magazines have potential to be emotionally reinforcing, but instead become emotional parasites feeding on the self-conscious thought of the women that purchase them. It still surprises and appalls me that ANYONE with a brain would still support magazines that promote this sort of thing, and I have lost all respect for the majority of these types of magazines which berate their own customers on the sly, but alas, I suppose fools will remain fools… Even comedian Dave Chappelle has noted and commented upon this formula present in the vast majority of women’s magazines.

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