What’s good for the goose …

By some odd happenstance, I have been gifted a subscription to Details magazine as a thank you for some purchase I made.  I’ve never bought or read Details in my life before flipping through the one I found in my mailbox today.  I don’t imagine I’d ever have chosen to subscribe to it.  It is, after all, a ‘boy’ magazine.  More than that, it is so absolutely similar to all the ‘girl’ magazines.  Tips on getting in shape before the end of the summer, a photo spread on celebrity man-breasts (no, I’m not kidding), fashion features with expressionless, empty-eyed, stick-figured models who are 14 if they’re a day.  The one clear difference?  The fluff piece on Hayden Panettiere (who, apparently, needs to walk around with a “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” sign) stretched across the page like a Vargas girl.  Yes, there are good articles and an interview with the ever-adorable Jason Bateman, but the rest just gives me a stomach ache, reminds me why I stopped subscribing to the other mags years ago.

I used to get so many: Self, Shape, Elle, Glamour, Vogue, Heart and Soul.  Really, such a lot of money spent over such a lot of years to be told over and over just how much I’m not ‘the norm.’  I kept a few subscriptions going because I wanted them ‘for the articles.’  I did want them for the articles, but after a while I realized that the articles weren’t worth the self esteem smack-down I got from the rest of the package.  I actually wrote a letter to Vogue explaining why I’d cancelled my subscription.  They’d been sending me letter after letter, certain I’d forgotten to renew, assuring me of how much they missed me and wanted me back, so finally I wrote to explain that I hadn’t forgotten, that I had made a conscious choice to stop giving my money to a publication that was so little interested in any part of who I was that I could find not one thing about me reflected in its pages.  They stopped sending me notices.

Self, Shape and Heart and Soul I hung onto because they were about health and fitness, and surely that made them ok.  But they got on my nerves, too.  Self and Shape seemed certain that my health and fitness ideal was to be a 20-year-old white woman, while Heart and Soul seemed to think a size 18 was as ‘plus’ as any ‘plus size’ could ever be and that I might have natural hair, but I would appreciate seeing all the ways I could make it look like ‘good’ hair and hide its troubling nappiness.  Again, no ‘me’ in the pages of any of these magazines.

Did I instantly go from Woefully Low Self-Esteem Girl to Arrogant Diva as soon as I let my subscriptions lapse?  Of course not.  Did I, over time, notice a difference in my self-perception after I stopped consciously or unconsciously comparing myself to what I saw and read in those pages?  Yes.  Maybe the shift also had to do with the fact that, a few years after saying goodbye to the magazines for good, I also lost broadcast TV and stopped being bombarded with those images every day.

Flipping the pages of Details today made me sad.  What I saw was a level playing field of a kind I would have been much happier without.  It’s ten years later and, instead of finding ways to be more inclusive, more ways to focus on intellect, humanity and compassion, the ‘you aren’t good enough’ meter has simply been recalibrated so that now everyone’s worth is called into question.  Oh happy day.

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13 thoughts on “What’s good for the goose …

  1. elliottzetta

    Couldn’t agree more…it IS liberating to let that junk go, and after a while you realize just how truly inessential it really is. I felt *very* guilty giving up on Essence, but it felt like one super-long commercial, with everyone wearing makeup on every page…I’m done with GLOSS. Ms. Magazine is the only one coming to my home these days (well, some idiot did start sending me promotional copies of BRIDE–groan)

  2. Oh yes, I left Essence off my list. I hung onto that subscription for a long time, but it just got maddening after a while.

    Bride, eh? And me with the surprise subscription to Details? Maybe there’s some cosmic connection?

  3. I actually experienced irrational rage when that stupid wedding magazine arrived…called their subscription office and went OFF only to find out the promotion was set up by Vistaprint, where I buy my business cards. I had to jump thru five hoops too many to cancel it out, so now I just chuck it in the recycling bin as soon as it arrives…

  4. It’s really interesting to me that anyone would assume they’d know what kind of magazine I want to read. Vistaprint chooses Bride? Why not The Atlantic or Writer’s Digest … or anything else? And why any purchase I might make land me with a subscription to Details? So illogical, but also a little rude.

  5. I got Jane magazine for a while, but then they closed down and started sending me Glamour. Really? Glamour? I’m waiting for the continued subscription to run out on that one. If I read one more article on how I might find the perfect man to complete me across the heads of lettuce in my local Whole Foods (which we don’t even have here) I may go postal.

    1. The Glamour Do and Don’t page used to drive me crazy!

      I remember reading an article in Seventeen (when I was about 14) that was all about the perfect guy. It was ridiculous enough to talk about how the perfect guy has to be a certain minimum number of inches taller than you. Um, what? By that measure, none of the men I’ve dated were right for me … oh … wait a minute …

  6. I was a die hard fan of People magazine for decades. Since I don’t watch TV, it was the only way I had any idea what was going on in certain sectors of society; I called it The Journal of Popular Culture, and I loved looking at the movie star pictures and all the pretty women in their gorgeous dresses, but I developed a nagging feeling that it was warping my ideas about how women are supposed to look, and when they started featuring a weight-loss story on about every fourth cover, that was it.

    1. When I look at those magazines now, I’m always so surprised by how focused on women’s bodies they are. When I get my pedicures (ok, you can tease me about being a diva later!) there are about 10,000 old copies of Star magazine in the shop, and practically every page is prasing or damning some woman’s body. It’s really distressing.

  7. Pingback: Cold Spaghetti » Blog Archive » Just Posts: August 2009

  8. Pingback: Cold Spaghetti :: The Best of the Just Posts for 2009: Semi-finalists!

  9. Pingback: Best of the 2009 Just Posts: The Semifinalists « collecting tokens

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