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The Truth About Women's Magazines

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Like many girls, I grew up on a diet of fashion magazines. And it wasn't until college that I realized how my favorite, not-so-guilty pleasures had insidiously passed on certain negative messages. Like, for instance, my life would be a lot better if I just slimmed down a bit or mastered a blowout or bought that thing or got him to like me. Brainwashing might be an extreme term, but it probably explains why I couldn't resist a night as a "Cosmo Girl" or still feel compelled to pick up Glamour in the grocery check-out line, even if I end up tossing it aside in favor of a feminist soap box. 

The problem is that I still love the glossies, or the chick-slicks, as Jennifer Nelson calls them in her book Airbrushed Nation: The Lure and Loathing of Women's MagazinesThere's something about the pretty pictures and snappy headlines that make me a glutton for their subtle, and sometimes blatant, assault on women's self-esteem. Of course, women's magazines aren't all bad, especially if you're armed with knowledge and the ability to take them with a grain of salt.

The antidote lies in Jennifer's exploration of the world of women's glossies, in which this industry-insider rips the curtain off everything from the use of Photoshop to the subtle ways the articles imply that everything in a woman's life could be just a little bit better. Airbrushed Nation should be required reading for every woman, whether you're a lifetime subscriber or merely thumb through Cosmopolitan in the doctor's waiting room.

I had the chance to ask Jennifer, who has written for just about every women's mag on newsstands, about the effects the chick-slicks can have on our self-esteem, where the genre is headed, and why we have such complicated relationships with our favorite fashion rags. Her responses act as the cliff-note version, but her book is worth the read.  If fashion rags are your dessert, than this book is the balanced meal you should have grown up on. Think of it as finally looking at  the nutrition facts on that box of Oreos.




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