Should We Start Taking Ladymags More Seriously?
Jezebel and Buzzfeed recently posted articles about the ongoing discussion low percentages of female magazine writers. Female writers wrote just 26.44 percent of the stories in the New Yorker last year and only 16 percent of the stories written in Harper’s were by women. On May 1st, at the Hillman awards, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor in chief of the Nation, brought up some interesting ideas (according to Jezebel and Buzzfeed) on how to change those statistics. According to vanden Heuvel, ” …we need to think hard about how we nurture a generation of women writers working across a range of issues.”
Jezebel summarizes, “Vanden Heuvel also argued that women’s magazines should play a role, since they do, after all, publish some serious journalism in between telling you how to please your man and do your nails…”When it comes to lady magazines, vanden Heuvel said, “I would not dismiss them. I think one wants to subvert them,” but, she continued, it’s possible to take issue with the messages they send and still pay attention to the useful points they’re making. She compared them, interestingly enough, to HBO’s Girls, saying that even though they lacked diversity they are “connecting with all kinds of women.”
But these points seem ridiculously obvious, for nestled amongst articles on high fashion, makeup, and accessories, there are written pieces of substance. Elle often focuses on politics, women working behind the scenes in a variety of industries, on abortion, adoption, etc. and all of these articles are well written, thought out pieces of journalism. Vogue, aside from featuring that horrible personal essay about a mother browbeating and shaming her daughter into dieting, often features illuminating personal essays from a woman who survived 9/11 to a journalist who wrote about war and visited war torn countries when she was pregnant.
While Harper’s and the New Yorker are in a different category (I refuse to say league), there seems to be a lot of prejudice facing magazines that carter directly to women. As if anything with the word female must only feature fluffy, fun, and not serious at all material. Similar to how every movie or book directed towards a female audience bears the condescending term “chick lit,” so too do magazines geared towards women bear the name “lady mags.” vanden Heuvel has a point, these magazines draw in broad audiences and with that, articles that focus on serious issues can reach a larger, mainly female audience.
Women’s magazines are mainly written by women for women. Perhaps it’s time to start demanding more serious articles within these magazines. Or better yet, acknowledge those articles when they appear and applaud them. Marie Claire featured an awarding winning article on fraud within breast cancer fundraising. Fashion magazines can and do posses a depth to them, and those magazines, female centric magazines, can only garner more depth if we insist and demand for it. To wholly discount female centric fashion magazines (well, let’s discount Cosmo, because that’s a blight on humanity) is to ignore a large chunk of publishing that is made for women. While female centric magazines are far from perfect, they are not completely hopeless or imperfect. It seems that a lot of the prejudice that faces female centric fashion magazines come from the idea that women can only care about few things and those things are unimportant. As an audience, we can demand more, and we can applaud the efforts of female writers that exist, particularly with lady magazines.