Every now and then, I do have a serious problem with a serious topic. If you’re looking for something lighthearted, maybe wait for my next entry, or search for “funny cats” on YouTube.
I dislike women’s magazines in general but that’s largely down to a disinterest in and lack of ability at fashion, hairstyling and make up (see “Why I’m Rubbish at Being a Girl”). I’m genuinely not passing judgment on anyone who is interested in those topics. I have blithely used the phrase “brain pollution” to describe my feelings on this type of publication but I know it’s really rather unfair of me and I should without a doubt stop judging people for liking things that I don’t.
The issue that worries me here is celebrity magazines, with page upon page devoted to captioned photographs telling us how we should “see” these people. Their primary focus seems to be to highlight, comment on and generally criticise the shape, size, weight and looks of high profile men and women. Most of the comments tend towards consolidating widespread social beliefs about the perfect figure and what we are apparently supposed to aspire to look like. I’m not stating anything new here, but this has a potentially massive impact on social and psychological issues like body image, eating disorders and bullying. ‘Lads mags’ (which I do think are a genuine waste of paper) are often vilified for objectifying and demeaning women. Unfortunately I think a lot of the content in the magazines mainly marketed to young women effectively serves the same purpose in that it places so much emphasis and attention on appearances and superficial characteristics which ultimately have very little, if any, bearing on our value as people. I’m oversimplifying things, but if you’re prepared to look at a picture of a celebrity on a beach and pass comment about his or her weight or appearance, is this any better than buying a copy of “Nuts” magazine and staring at half-naked women?
In sport, it is a well-known fact that there is a huge gender bias in terms of media coverage. It is estimated that women’s sport receives only about 5% of total sports media coverage. Even in the last few months, highly successful sportswomen such as Olympic gold medalist Becky Addlington and Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli have been the victims of highly publicised instances of what is essentially sexist abuse in the media. Very recently, there was a disturbing incident involving Beth Tweddle, the multi-Olympian British gymnast. Sky Sports ran a well-intentioned Twitter Q&A session with Tweddle, which descended into a disgusting farce… a large number of the questions sent in were simple vulgar inferences about her appearance and personality. Essentially this is a high profile example of the same thing as I’ve been talking about. Tweddle was being judged on factors that had absolutely no bearing on or relevance to her brilliant achievements as an athlete or as a person. The social media aspect is similar in a way to reading a magazine and passing comment. You can hide behind the fact that you’re not saying these things to somebody’s face. This particular instance was probably worse because, well, put yourself in Beth Tweddle’s shoes in this scenario. But if we say it about someone famous in a magazine, we aren’t really doing something a world away from it.
There are also undoubtedly many other very significant factors that contribute to the psychosocial issues I referred to earlier. There are many other areas of the media and society at large that contribute to imbalanced and biased perspectives on other people, whether or not we know them. I realise it’s human nature to analyse, to judge, to communicate these feelings to others. I know that an awful lot of the things we analyse, judge and talk about are ultimately irrelevant. I also know that to some degree I’m being hypocritical here; I myself undoubtedly pass judgments and comment on people, when watching TV or even sometimes in real life. Ultimately though, I believe in the little changes that we can make. In my opinion, this issue being reinforced in magazines genuinely contributes to some big problems in society and this really is something we can try to stop. By not buying these magazines, by doing my best to avoid discussing whether so-and-so has lost/gained weight or looks ugly/terrible/worse than ever, I feel like it’s a tiny little bit less of a problem in the world. I have similar feelings about recycling and not leaving the tap running when I brush my teeth. It all helps a tiny bit, and if we all help a tiny bit…
I know I’ve gone into some contentious areas here. You may disagree with me or have a monthly subscription to one of these magazines. You may think I need to stop taking it so seriously and that we will probably never meet celebrities X, Y and Z anyway, so it doesn’t really matter whether we spend two minutes slagging off their ‘awful choice of swimwear’, or whatever it is. It’s probably bad that I’ve written this without actually reading (ha, loose term I would imagine) one of these magazines as part of my research. Essentially I am judging a magazine by what I am 99.9% sure is under the cover (based on what I can actually see on the cover). However, in case you haven’t guessed by now, I have no desire to waste my time or money on these publications. Hopefully, you may feel strongly enough not to either.
Thanks for sticking with me. I’m off to make a cup of tea, calm myself down and think of something trivial and fun to write about next time.