The weekly freebie magazines Shortlist and Stylist have consistently bothered me. I used to read Shortlist before its sister mag – Stylist launched in 2009. All of a sudden, both became unbearably sexist. A frustrating fact, because on the surface they are perfectly contructed and include some very thoughtful areas of comment, which is sadly destroyed by reading many of the views expressed.
What used to be a general consumer mag, with some stylish design and snappy editorial in Shortlist – became a complete MAN STUFF mag. Before all men stop reading and accuse me of being an angry feminist (I am, but if you’re annoyed by that, chances are, you’ve missed the point when it comes to feminism… see end). I make this point because I’m sure most men appreciate a colour range outside of black, steely grey and navy blue. Some might even be offended that Shortlist presumes that you all FUCKING LOVE CARS and GADGETS and the FAST AND THE FURIOUS – and of course you all enjoy hearing about inane waffler Danny Wallace’s life because he, and I quote, “is a man”.
I hope that for most men – this resonates as sexism and insults your intelligence. I hope more sincerely that it does this, as opposed to inducing insecurities about not being as much of a MAN as Danny Wallace or the Hugo Boss Boy. Personally, if it came to it, despite being a heterosexual gal, I think I’d rather ‘do’ a woman than Wallace, and so we may share an opinion here lads – maybe we could read the same weekly freebie?
But no, Stylist ponced its way onto our street corners, posing as an Observer Insert but falling short in the very same way that the revamped Shortlist did.
I swept through the magazine this month and was pleasantly surprised in some ways. It was better than I remembered in those early days, before I began to refuse to pick it up. I like some of the content – I wear make-up and would like to know how to create that smoky eye look, and I like a bit of fashion, and a few stories from around the world… nice. And I just LOVE endless pages of bags and shoes, and Sex and the City, and I REALLY want to read an unbalanced argument about working vs staying at home as a mother. It’s so great, because I’m not a mother and I work (like most people, reading the stylist on the way to work). Most importantly, if I did have a child, I would not be in the luxurious position to be able to choose to stay at home. But these women are great.
There’s a “Staying in” and “Going Out” page, which offer a few random mentions of recommended reading or watching, very likely to be stuff that’s been sent into the publicist’s lap. In terms of a cultural review, not so much. In fact not actually reviews at all – patronising recommends verging on advertorial. There IS a four page interview with Emma Stone though. She’s in the film adaptation of “The Help” this month – a book that we’ve surely all read and loved since Richard & Judy made it an instant bestseller. Haven’t we?
Then my attention turns to: Tanya Gold: OutSpoken. She is a woman, but at least unlike Wallace, feels not the need to say it. I’m glad that that in her photograph she looks smug, smug as they come. She stands proudly, a tad larger in size than we’re used to seing in the glossys. Therefore she is clearly a real woman. She begins her full page spread on “Why Wealth Doesn’t Make you Happy”. Despite the promise, she does little to construct an argument. Gold declares that she has moved out of “the kitchen with four poster bed in Hampstead”. She fails to realise that the vast majority people who are reading this are NOT from London. Therefore she might well have said La La Land – which oddly enough gives some insight into Hampstead. A kitchen with four poster would almost certainly be unaffordable to the vast majority, a very upper class and unattainable dream.
She goes on to point her fortunate finger towards other excessively rich people. Her gripe? Well, it mostly seems to be that they drive 4x4s and beep their horns. This is SO far removed from the validity of her initial question, I found myself considering whether it occurred to Tanya Gold, what one of her readers who has picked up a free magazine might wonder, as they are possibly struggling to pay rent, childcare and heck, even eat. I’m sure that even a sniff at Gold’s affluence would improve their quality of life, and you know what – there is a chance that their living quality and happiness might well be improved. This magazine’s endorsement of this woman’s narrow viewpoint, is in itself an insult. I found myself disgusted. How very awful that she has to endure these other rich people in her new desirable area, which she neglects to mention by name, interestingly.
To be fair to Stylist, its remit does state that its market is the affluent woman, however I’m not sure that the sort of affluence that they are imagining, is in anyway realistic to the people who actually ride the tube or the bus and pick up a FREE magazine. Its obvious that Stylist and Shortlist are not the only editorial teams that are guilty of these issues, they are simply unfortunate examples of some of the ideals of consumer mags, that promote a world so separate for men and women.
Recently it’s become increasingly apparent to me, how much confusion, anger, embarrassment and complete misunderstanding of feminism and feminist agenda there really is. If you agree with many or even some of the above points, you’re a feminist. If you like to bake, arrange flowers and wear skirts and make-up and are straight… you can be one – it is not a contradiction. Most importantly, if you are a man – guess what? You can be a feminist too! We can all live in this world where people just believe that it’s ok for us to share opinions and live a balanced life. And the term ‘feminist’ isn’t associated exclusively with raging bra burning ceremonies and hatred of men. These things do us a disservice. We could maybe do with a new word for it, but we could all do with being aware of it.
The ‘glossy’ magazines so often portray a world where gender is utterly stereotyped – where men will champion other men and women will be the first to knock another woman off her pedastal. This contradicts my view of society, but maybe I’m naive, and this is just an uncomfortable truth. Please feel free to disagree.