I have a question. When was it decided that the single most pressing issue concerning women was our appearance? It seems that weight loss has become the headlining issue in the world of women’s magazines, and frankly, there are far more interesting things to talk about.
I’m not about to discount the issue of body image – and I realise that for a lot of women the weight loss mission rages on in their day to day lives. But right there, fuelling those insecurities, are our beloved magazines; singing about diet tips, playing dress-ups with models and reassuring us that we too can attain physical perfection with the right personal trainer. It’s like the chicken and egg syndrome: magazines may claim they write about body insecurity because it plagues so many women; but so many women are plagued by body insecurity because magazines are constantly preaching about attaining an ideal.
Not that I entirely blame media for this ongoing quest for perfection; of course I think there is more to it than magazines. Yet media has such a big part to play. With publication comes responsibility, and if you are feeding information and ideas to thousands of women, there needs to be some forethought into the message that is being put out there. The idea that weight loss is the holy grail ought to be knocked on its head once and for all. Surely we are motivated by more than appearance?
Case in point: does anyone really need to know how much so-and-so ate during their interview, or how petite they look in real life? Can’t we just hear what they have to say? I keep looking for better, bolder, more intelligent magazines for women, and I have found a few, but from time to time I will still find weight-related headlines slapped on their covers.
Even when the subject is wrapped up in the angle of overcoming poor body image – a subject which can be so powerful when approached well – it often comes out like a patronising pat on the back of the average woman: as if to say, “Your shape is lovely too, even though you don’t look like the pictures in our magazine”. The message needs to go beyond the article.
Certainly information on health and fitness is valuable, yet I do not see enough features on health and fitness written for the sake of just that. Too often the focus is on getting that “bikini body”, and fitting into those skinny jeans, and so the fitness-for-the-sake-of-fitness concept is denied a place on the pedestal. Even interviews with female athletes are dumbed down and turned into discussions about body shape and fitness fashion, and suddenly we’re comparing ourselves to an ideal again. It seems that when it comes to women, it always has to be about how we look.
Of course it’s not all bad. Sometimes magazines get it very right, and I hang on to those magazines that “get” it. But why are there so few? I know so many intelligent, empathic writers and editors, and I wonder why it is that mags are still doing this. I would love to see more publications step away from body image altogether, drive the focus to what is going on in our brains, and frankly, stop making a big deal about the way we look. All women deserve a better source of motivation.
OK, as women we may take an interest in our appearance, but what would happen if we just stopped focusing on appearance altogether? My god, imagine the interesting things we would read about! If I were to describe my ideal magazine content I would like to use the words “motivate”, “inspire” and “challenge” but your average magazine seems to attach these to the diet and weight-loss regime. I would love to see these words reinstated in the minds – rather than bodies – of women because that’s where the most interesting and incredible ideas are to be found.
It’s all very well to talk about women being different shapes and sizes, but more importantly, we all have brains! We all have something brilliant to offer! Ladies, don’t we all have other things on our minds? I for one think it’s about time we started reading more about those.
This post was written by a RWL Guest Blogger – Claire Nelson is a tea-obsessed writer and harmonica player. She recently moved from London back to her native New Zealand, but we all still stalk her on Twitter.
Great post, all I saw was Iceland party food ads all December then bam weight watchers and slimming world splashed across the papers, mags and TV x
You're right, Claire. Magazines never suggest exercising or eating better simply to be healthy, it's always so that “us girls” can fit into a bikini or snare ourselves the perfect man. No wonder we all battle body image demons in our 20s!