When I was younger I read Glamour® magazine (which, according to Wikipedia had a total U.S. circulation of 2,300,854 in 2013). I aged out of it and the occasional times I took a look at the magazine in more recent years the tone didn’t quite work for me. In large part I felt swamped by all the emphasis on buying crap.
I recently got the February issue as someone’s giveaway. It was an issue specifically written and produced solely by women as a nod to recent events. If you don’t know the magazine, not only are there ads but the articles themselves routinely list things to buy, usually with their prices. In fact a standard feature is a small-type page in the back of each issue listing all the products mentioned by page number and where they can be bought. There was something I wanted to do: count all the items – most of it beauty/fashion related – advertised in the magazine.
On my count I found 47 “regular” ads, that is pages or partial pages bought and paid for by advertisers. However, within the actual articles I found 183 specific products mentioned, most with prices. These included a $2600 necklace, $725 shoes, $161 earrings, a $180 top, a $425 purse, and a $13,300 skirt. Mind you, I didn’t go hunting to find pricey stuff; these were typical costs, and not cited as being splurges or luxury buys either.
It happens that I saved old issues one year and have the February 1994 issue – 23 years older – for a comparison. That issue had 88 “regular” ads in contrast to 2017’s 47, that is advertisements that were clearly advertisements, bought and paid for by companies. However, there were a mere 88 (as opposed to 2017’s 183) specific items mentioned/advertised for sale in the articles themselves. I knew, simply from general observation that they were hawking a lot more products but that’s quite a jump on inserting products into articles and features.
Clearly the magazine is not meant for a middle-aged, thrift store-shopping bargain hunter like me. I get that, I do. What’s bothersome though, is the message being sent – even in an issue dedicated specifically to women – one which focuses heavily on spending money on fashion and beauty products, even to those who surely can’t afford it. It normalizes extravagant buying, to an impressionable market.
Further, it makes clear there are many things wrong or minimally in need of improvement in women which can be remedied IF they buy these products. Even a reasonably confident, accomplished, attractive person could fall victim to doubt in the face of such an onslaught. And this is just one issue! This isn’t groundbreaking information I’m giving you but what’s significant to me is how much this has become, as I already said, normalized. Even I, who am aware of things like marketing ploys and a culture which on whole routinely undermines women, in ways small and behemoth, was surprised by my ad count. I will not look at the magazine again.
The 1994 issue was more interesting to me even today over the 2017 copy and seemed to be more rounded, covering a broader range of topics affecting (young) women’s lives. It was kind of more fun too. If that magazine was still available, I might be interested.
I understand that print journalism is in trouble and magazines and newspapers need to fight to stay relevant and afloat. (Side note: if you have an interest the 2011 documentary Page One: inside the New York Times is a worthy look into what newspapers are facing and how a leading one in particular fought to remain viable.) But if selling their souls to special interests and marketing is what’s required to stay in business,, I’m not sure I see the point. At least don’t pretend you’re other than some corporation’s sales people and mouthpieces trying to part women from their money.