Glamour was recently named magazine of the year.
I'm not quite sure why.
I've subscribed to Glamour for the last year. I only did so because of their 75th anniversary promotion, where I could get a year's worth for 75 cents. Yep, 12 issues for less than a dollar. What the hell? As far as women's magazines go, I actually like Glamour, detesting their nearest rival, Cosmopolitan. Glamour was more real, and I liked that they incorporated recipes and real advice, at least in the back. They had the obligatory "serious story", addiction or do-gooders, now with Katie Couric interviewing some notable female. All well and good.
But after a few months, it was wearying. The topics were the same, of course: men, relationships, food, eating, exercise, fashion, beauty. I wondered how those working at the magazine didn't get bored of the repetition. The advice was usually sound, but repetitive, and occasionally contradictory. I waded through the "girl with the belly bulge" and the Crystal Renn spreads; meh. Crystal Renn is beautiful and not plus sized in the least, as I've noted before. I no longer felt that the magazine was the exception to others in its category; maybe I just got used to it, maybe the novelty wore off. But I also wasn't looking at other young-women magazines, either, so it became just another Glamour. I knew I wasn't going to renew my subscription when I subscribed, but now I didn't care.
But besides the sameness, I was saddened to see that women's magazines "cleaned up" certain celebrities:
Lady Gaga and Rihanna are known for dressing explicitly, in wild getups, but they are stripped of their individuality; whitewashed, you could say. There's no crazy makeup, no funky fashion choices, nothing that should be exposed covered up and nothing covered up that should be exposed. They're not even in fun colors: Lady Gaga is uncharacteristically in all white, or off-white, as if to appear pure, but she looks out of place and strangely bland, since she blends in with the background. It's the text that speaks, not her. Rihanna at least looks happy, if girlish, a woman full of spunk and personality. This might be to offset the serious interview inside, promoting her album Rated R, both which explore her dark and volatile year. But her hair is gelled back; we are not to notice her funky, unconventional style choices, just like we aren't meant to view Lady Gaga as she wants to be seen. Maybe that explains her detached look.
I see this as suppressing both women's natural personalities and style to favor a more acceptable form of female expression, both in beauty and personality. I can understand why a cover picture of Lady Gaga wouldn't have her face covered, but I don't see why she has to appear in such an awful getup, one she would never wear anywhere else. I don't see how prettifying Rihanna makes her ordeal any better, except take away her right to express herself as she chooses.
So Glamour, magazine of the year? You might talk the talk of inclusion of expression, proudly showing off your Crystal Renn glamour shots, but until you really show how real women are, capturing their life as they live it (not as you wish them to see it), you don't deserve this title.
Cross-posted on Notes on Popular Culture.