Filed Under: Fashion, Uncategorized

Are Women’s Fashion/Lifestyle Mags Anti-Feminist?


Listen up ladies! I want to ask you a question. Can feminism thrive within the pages of women’s fashion/lifestyle magazines. Lets first examine the first thing you see when you pick up a women’s magazine – the cover. What do you see? A super slim, tanned model/celebrity. She gazes out with flawless looking makeup, unblemished skin, impossibly glossy hair dressed immaculately in designer couture. Do you know any woman in real life who looks like this? These images are often airbrushed and photo shopped beyond recognition to portray an abnormally perfect (by society’s standards, certainly not mine) image. One most girls/women will never be able to attain without having surgery or becoming anorexic. This is just the cover though the content inside isn’t any better.



Once inside you see adverts that portray the message that you aren’t okay as you are and that you must buy their products and look like their model does. A model who is usually super slim and super tall. Then you get to the actual articles.

Articles that are full of ways to slim down and lose weight rather than teaching us to love ourselves and that all body shapes are beautiful.

Articles full of body baring dresses and articles on how to ‘rock his world’ rather than teaching young women to respect themselves and their bodies and realise that it is fine to not be sexually active. No wonder teen pregnancy is on the rise with the kinds of messages that are portrayed to young women and teen girls.

One article that I read recently that really got my back up was one by Cosmopolitan magazine. Apparently their dating tips consist of putting ourselves down, swishing our hair and licking our lips so in other words dumbing ourselves down and acting provocatively. Never mind the fact that if the guy is the right one he’ll love us just how we are and that none of this tricking and foolery is actually necessary.

Women’s magazines seem to me to perpetuate common stereotypes and teach young women the wrong lessons.  That to succeed in life, looks are more important than a brain.  They set unreachable and in my opinion unrealistic ideals and place their focus on things that in the grand scheme of things aren’t that important. I’m all for fashion and beauty articles but why can’t there be more emphasis on other areas too like career, happiness, loving and respecting yourselves and realising that you don’t have to be a size 0 to attain love and happiness. Am I totally missing the point here? Or are women’s magazines actually anti-feminist?

This post is for the Feminist Fashion Bloggers group. To learn more about the group, click here. To join in the discussion, feel free to join the Google Group.

The full list of participants and their posts can be found here, on the Feminist Fashion Blog!

Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestGoogle+Share on Facebook


  1. Cosmo is particularly bad with the oversexualization of women for the pleasure of men. It’s quite ridiculous. You make a very good point about the flawless models in the magazines. The whole idea is to sell products like cosmetics so making women feel they are inadequate without them helps sell the product. They call it marketing but its so harmful. They’ve done studies that show women only need to hear about cosmetics to start feeling bad about themselves; they don’t even need the image! My personal way to fight against all this is to begin dressing in a way that does not draw undue attention to my body (modesty) and encourage my daughter who is 11 to do the same going forward. I also try to highlight in a postive way those in the fashion industry who are working to expand the standard of beauty and raise awareness about the ways women are kept trapped by feelings of low self-worth due to these images from the fashion industry.

  2. Such an interesting conversation, Faye! I think it’s hard. *Personally* I take women’s magazines with a grain of salt. I look at photos and think, “Oh this was photoshopped here, there and there.” I look at magazines more for the fun of it than to take it seriously.

    However, when I was younger, I relied on magazines for a lot. I remember reading one article in Seventeen that scared me about the OB/GYN. I was terrified and then once I went, I remembered thinking, “That’s IT?!” Magazines often do more harm than good by misleading women on what is normal.

  3. I agree that a lot of magazines present a really bad image of women – usually its not only that they make it all about being pretty, they make it all about being pretty *for men* (like – what hairstyles guys go for – really?). That’s why I don’t buy them. But I do recognise that a lot of them try to do positive things like body positivity campaigns, but then that is just so completely drowned out by all the other stuff in the magazine, including the advertising! I am hopeful though that women’s mags *can* be feminist, if there is enough pressure on them, and people demand good writing by not buying the worst offenders and supporting the better ones.

  4. I have yet to see a women’s/fashion magazine that truly encourages a positive body image and is in line with feminist goals. The US Cosmo is particularly evil in that respect, the German Cosmo is slightly better or just slightly less obviously evil (hey, they have career tips – but these mostly come in the “act less like a woman and more like a man” flavor), and even the most body-positive and well-rounded German women’s magazine I know, Brigitte (I don’t think it exists elsewhere), which started an initiative to present their fashion without models, and which presents a broad range of topics and views – still has dieting tips every spring, and still is stuffed with airbrushed advertisements that completely contradict the rest of their message… It’s definitely a trend that’s been getting worse, especially with respect to the advertisements. I read somewhere that 1950s women’s magazines were more feminist and body-positive than today’s.

  5. Ugh yes magazines like Cosmo are so gross. But I would call them lifestyle mags rather than fashion. Not to nitpick, but I’m actually doing my painting thesis this year on the representation of women in vogue, so I’m really interested in how women are presented in this fashion magazines. It is certainly a grey area- there are positive things to get out of them but also a lot of crap too. I do think that some lifestyle mags like cosmo are more explicity sexist and show really stereotyped images of women compared to some fashion magazines. What I like about vogue is that it doesn’t focus on attracting and pleasing men the way cosmo does. Of course there are many anti-feminist things in there too.

    • I actually don’t think vogue is any better. It too has the same kind of articles as cosmo and its advertising in particular is mostly about attracting men.

      • Really? I’ve never seen any sex articles in Vogue. You’re right that many of the ads just use sex to sell products. And sometimes the ads are really sick, like that awful Dolce and Gabbana gang rape ad.

  6. Very interesting discussion! I don’t really know where I stand on this. I think it’s nice to flick through a glossy mag full of pretty pictures, but it does perpetuate an ideal that’s difficult to live up to!

  7. How interesting… Your post is insightful but what’s intriguing me even more are the myriad connections in the world.

    I found your blog through poet, who lead me to Feminist Fashion Bloggers (which I just joined), and now I see a banner on your site for LimeCrime. I’m a close personal friend of its owners (Xenia [Doe Deere] and Mark).

    I loved the comment you just left on poet’s post. It resonates with me.

  8. This is definitely something I’ve struggled with in the past. I love fashion magazines (Cosmo is a really leave it on the stacks kind of magazine for me). I adore the photography in most of them and I really never read the articles, especially in Vogue US. It’s kind of hard to maintain a sense of reality when reading those kinds of magazines. I’ve always been of the mind that fashion magazines can be extremely anti-feminist even when they’re paying lip service. Vogue’s ‘body’ issues always smell of bs, for example. What I guess I’m trying to say is that these magazines always feel as if they’re trying to show us who the “haves” are (however fictional they actually are) and who the “have nots” are (namely anyone who doesn’t fit into the images in the magazine). Definitely something to keep thinking about!

    Also, I just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog. I was so incredibly happy when I found it as I’d been looking for ethical fashion bloggers that posted more than photos. Your blog is a real gem.

  9. I used to get Vogue on subscription for about 4 years, and I don’t think I read a single article (except maybe the one about reclaiming the word ‘c**t’) However I refuse to buy or read ‘women’s’ magazine (by the way, who are these ‘women’ they’re appealing to anyway??), even when I’m in the doctors or anywhere they have them lying around. I bought Red recently which I think is for slightly older women than myself (30 or so) and it was ok – until I got to the rubbish ‘make your reader feel shit’ bit.

    What aggravates me the most about these magazines is not the women-bashing, terrible sex advice, ridiculous clothing features and all that, but the complete and utter hypocrisy that informs every single page. An issue supposedly dedicated to a ‘celebration of the curvy’ (don’t get me started) will inevitably include one article on the new fad diet, a clothing feature on how to hide your ‘wobbly bits’ and something on eating disorders. The blatant, transparent hypocrisy and continual perpetuation of mixed, negative messages is just too much to bear. Burn the lot of them.

  10. Your absolutely right – they skew all sense of reality, and much as I love looking at fashion magazines I hate how they encourage readers to focus on the issues you mention instead of focusing on ‘living’ (if that isn’t too grand a statement). Cosmo, Heat and all that ilk are the worst. Even Look magazine has gone over to the dark side with its talk of dieting. A while back I stopped buying Vogue for its blatant ‘sizism’, and started buying Psychologies, but after a while I found that too introspective. We need a happy balance. The U.S. has Bust, which tackles all sorts of issues while celebrating women, and I’d love there to be a UK equivalent. Let’s be honest, it’s partly fashion magazines which compound the fallacy that fashion and feminism are incompatible.

  11. They are all “comic” books to my older eye. I raised three daughters and finally BANNED all Cosmo’s from the household. I tried to substitute women’s fitness magazines…but I think they too may have an agenda that promotes “tightness” and “fitness” of body type. The way to escape it is to have REAL interests in things besides body image. I buy one fashion magazine a year, the September Vogue, and try to treat it historically, like an artifact of where the market is in terms of women as customers.

  12. well in germany we have a lifestyle magazine names “brigitte” that’s completely different than the “common” lifestyle mags..they have no profi models, only ordinairy women model for their clothes and there’s always an no-model on their cover. this magazine is one of the most popular mags in germany.


  1. [...] here to read the rest: Are Women's Fashion Mags Anti-Feminist? • Posted by admin • Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 at 11:25 pm • (0) Comment [...]

  2. [...] post: Are Women's Fashion Mags Anti-Feminist? • Posted by admin • Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 at 11:25 pm • (0) Comment [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>