Magazines as “Anti-Feminist” and the Undulating Representations of Powerful Women

feminist-beyonce-onstage

Queen Bey and nothing else needs to be said.

In today’s modern world, not to know what the word “feminist” means (or at least have a preconceived notion of what it means) would raise many eyebrows. The word and culture of feminism has become a staple in today’s society and a constant in popular media. It is a prominent piece of America’s ever-changing government legislation, with feminists consistently reiterating issues in gender equality (such as for every dollar a man makes, a woman only makes 77 cents – if you haven’t heard this before you’ve been living under a rock!) For those who have studied the history of American feminism, you would know that we are in our third-wave, beginning back in the 1990s. What makes this wave stand out from others is the broadening of feminism both in terms of sexuality, race, ethnicity, and attempting to umbrella all women, no matter what color, culture, or even original birth gender they were as having the freedom that equality with men would grant. Whether they wear makeup, have a traditional wedding, and/or choose to not shave their legs, and work as a construction worker – feminism today is all about allowing women to have the freedom and equality to choose. But there is one thing about feminism, now, in 2015, which makes it different from the 90s. And that is the prevalence of the internet!

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Someone is making so much money off these mugs…

With the internet becoming a prominent forum for voice and opinion – feminists have been able to successfully garner large audiences of readers and writers and are beginning to pave the way for a future where the woman’s voice may become standard and not subordinate to patriarchal values. And, boy! (and girl!), has this caught the attention of the advertisement industry! FEMINISM, the brand, is hitting shelves hard with products and materials catered to our generation in a way that is almost confusing. Magazines (now highly branched out into the internet medium) are picking up on featuring articles on women who are strong and powerful influences in our world today – in a way that should hopeful appease the feminist (females in particular). You would think the image of powerful women across America in magazines would be more dynamic and colorful as ever, expressing different personalities, struggles, and lifestyles – yet this does not seem so….

Sarah Kendzior, in her article, “The Princess Effect: How women’s magazines demean powerful women – even when they’re trying to celebrate them”, speaks extensively on this idea that magazines are still attempting to cater to the growing population of female feminists by featuring strong women – but our doing it in all the wrong ways. She writes that “female political leaders, even after decades of alleged advancement, remain pre-selected personas, trotted out to readers to conflicting and confusing effect.” Kendzior points out that there are really only two sides portrayed by these women in magazines, “intimidating and powerful or submissive and charming.” For a woman to display all these characteristics is to be the ideal woman who “has it all”, but must successful stray away from the “bossy” persona in order to be respected as such. These magazines still hold true to their typical coverage of women by covering their fashion choices, beauty regiments, and managing their family and work flows. While some may scoff at the idea that magazines are continuing to pick at the superficial and superfluous qualities of powerful women, Kat Stoeffel, in her article “Finally, ‘Serious’ Women Are Standing Up for Fashion Magazines”, expresses the idea of why people find this so wrong. As true third wave feminism would go today, all women everywhere should be allowed to celebrate their interests from the most “feminine” of agendas and beyond.

marie-claire

A magazine with Jennifer Lawrence on the cover in modest clothing can’t be all that bad, right?

Both Kendzior and Stoeffel cover in their articles about how former Obama staffer Alyssa Mastromonaco picked up a new gig as editor for Marie Claire and respond with differing perspectives of what this means for the feminist agenda. While Kendzior speaks on the matter as an issue of typifying the powerful woman, downgrading her from a high executive governmental position to one as a mere editor of a high-selling fashion magazine, Stoeffel refutes this claim. She strongly believes that there should be no stigma and shame surrounding taking on the role of such a hard position to reach in the cutthroat world of magazine editorialism. Stoeffel quotes Mastromonaco responding to Kendzior’s claims, saying, “If we really want to talk honestly about ‘having it all,’ we need to start by according a woman’s many interests outside the office with the same deference we do a man’s.” Today, when a powerful man shows interest in sports and can spew facts about cars, it makes him “relatable,” while when women discuss shoes or makeup – it makes them seem weak and insubstantial. The real issue in how women are represented in magazines (and how people believe women are being represented by the magazine industry) is based around the full stigma of female magazines in general.

Alyssa Mastromonaco

Alyssa Mastromonaco just doing life.

Today, the word “women’s magazine” is slowly becoming archaic and symbolized with a past history of sexism and skewed stereotyping of women and women readers. Just like with the word “feminist,” some of the general public has preconceived notions on what you will find in a magazine and what should be in a magazine – so it only makes sense for people to feel frustrated that such a political hotshot like Mastromonaco would take up such a position. By why should we be so furious with this choice? After all, one should not pass judgement on a topic they have no knowledge and background in. So maybe, if you are passing judgment, be mindful that the interests of women are never trite, pick up a respectable piece of women’s magazine and get reading. (Also LOOK UP THE DAMN DEFINITION OF FEMINISM ALREADY!!)

Sources:

Kendzior, Sarah. “The Princess Effect: How women’s magazines demean powerful women – even when they’re trying to celebrate them.” Politico. Web. 4 April 2015. <http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/07/glass-ceilings-glass-mirrors-108516_Page2.html#.VSDESuHyfm4&gt;

Stoeffel, Kat. “Finally, ‘Serious’ Women Are Standing Up for Fashion Magazines.” NY Mag. 21 July 2014. Web. 4 April 2015. <http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/07/serious-women-are-standing-up-for-fashion-mags.html&gt;

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