Women's magazines: Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman ...

Vagenda is a thought provoking book about the women’s magazine industry that left Emer Sexton wondering if woman are under siege, yet too busy trying to imitate Kylie Jenner’s lips to notice. 

Women's magazines: Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman ...

SISTERS, are we under siege? Assaulted from all sides by those weapons of the fashion/beauty industry (magazines) which tell us who is beautiful, and what is fashionable, and offer to help fix our unappealing ordinariness? An ordinariness that is usually defined by fat, or blotchy skin, or disorderly body hair that stops women from finding and satisfying “Mr Right”, and a fix involving new “must have” products which promise longer glossy hair and perfect skin? When realise that your “glossy mag” leaves you strangely dissatisfied, read The Vagenda, a book born from a blog, and an “indispensable guide to the madness of women’s media”.

Magazines, like mood disorders or income can be placed on a spectrum, ranging from Vogue, Elle, Red, Cosmo, to Gratzia, Company, and VIP before fading into Now! Chat, Closer and Take a Break. Some focus on actresses and singers and some on reality TV stars, but the confusing messages are the same. These fashionable, glamorous women are not safe from being insulted by the same magazines that tell us we must aspire to look and be like them to be happy.

Sister Khloe and Kim Kardashian are seen as role models

Except we know that is not true because even the most physically envied women are often photographed looking tired, sad and ordinary. Imagine what being constantly hungry can do to your mood? Cheryl Cole is a favourite cover girl across the spectrum, glossy and shiny but we now know she wore hair extensions for the L’Oreal shampoo advertisements. Her hair often isn’t even her own; it is someone else’s hair stuck to her head. Perhaps it is a man’s hair. So why persist with the lie that a shampoo will turn our hair into her amazing fake hair? That is the power of the industry, exploiting our susceptibility to advertising.

Cheryl Cole


Welcome to the madness. Now things really start to get confusing. Women are expected to shrink themselves by not eating, by exercising more, by wearing Spanx or having plastic surgery to suck out fat — think Victoria Beckham. But research shows obesity is a problem so everyone is getting bigger… but women’s clothes are shrinking, dresses have no sleeves and are too short, jeans are too skinny and tops are too cropped. Yet research shows we are getting bigger and dieting and “healthy” diets are a big industry but so is cooking and now there are reality TV shows where people engage in competitive cooking, baking and dining and also reality TV shows for competitive weight loss… show me the food! Put it away! I am so confused, and that is just the food and diet bit; we haven’t even started on the sex bit!

Victoria Beckham

The Vagenda sums that up nicely, “While magazines such as Cosmopolitan once sought to liberate and empower women… they now seem to envisage their readers as a troop of performing sex monkeys”. Hence features in magazines on lingerie and advice on sexual positions and where to go for that pole dancing class, when really if you have had a long day at work you might just want to enjoy a Cup-a-soup.

Girls learn what is fashionable and beautiful from what they see and read, and this is perfectly acceptable to society. If a girl dresses in what she is told is fashionable she is asking for “it” but the magazines we buy tell us we must have everything ready from the skin out in case he asks for “it”.

If you deliver “it” then you must “do it like a pornstar” to ensure you keep him, because nothing is sadder than a single girl, except perhaps a single woman. And now we have phones to record the doing of “it” so everyone will know she gave “it” to him and she is so bad but he is still just a guy. This book will give you the insight you never wanted into the growth of teenage porn, now the “most searched pornography term in the US and Canada”. Look at your teenagers and say that word aloud. You might as well say it in front of them because the boys are probably watching it and the girls are learning that this is what is expected.

This is so depressing it makes me feel relieved that I am over 40 and on the slippery slope towards arthritis and death. I direct the following comment at men in suits everywhere, young and old; “when you take off your suit jacket and put your hands in your pockets, you are asking for it. That is why you stretch your trousers over your buttocks in such a provocative way”. So next time a man leaves his office on a hot day and suffers sexual harassment from women (or men) as they stop window shopping to leer at him, don’t feel sorry for him. He was obviously asking for it.


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