Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Many Contradicitons of 'Glamour' Magazine

As I lay in bed sick last night, I turned to a few old issues of Glamour to help lull me to sleep. Every time I page through one of these magazines, my reading is burdened by the knowledge that Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, etc. are superficial and formulaic. Yet, I still find interest in the 100,000th article I read with titles like the "The Best Cheap Makeup" or "What You Don't Understand About Guys."

In fact, last night I found some articles of great use: one about women who are struggling with huge debts called "How will she ever get out from under?" and another about the importance of sleep, "The surprising news about sleep and your health."

I'm going to focus on the debt article in particular, as it represents a huge contradiction in the purpose of this woman's magazine. The article points out how college, credit card companies, and a consumerist culture contribute to debt for young women. It makes a point that is rarely made by the many economists and politicians who only want people to spend, spend, spend to keep the economy growing:

"The explosion of debt is the national crisis you haven't heard about...this economy has been propped up by people speding more than they earn, and many people in the government, the media and corporate America don't want to face the hard reality that this cannot go on forever" (Elizabeth Warren).

The article also points out how college campuses (my school Northwestern is guilty of this) facilitate credit card abundance by allowing those companies to set up booths on campus for money. In light of these good points, this article is one of the most useful that I've read in a long time and is long overdue in exposing all that we hear from those who would encourage Americans to keep on spending their debt to prop up the economy.

Turn a few pages in Glamour though, and you'll encounter articles about makeup, clothes, hair products, and so forth. Even though these magazines always make the claim that buying up the seasonal trends religiously is not a way to be truly fashionable, they consistently promote the new pieces of the season and give prices and locations for the items. And of course, the advertisements throughout the magazines are the most blatant encouragement of consumerism. The three pages of Glamour's warnings against buying one's way to debt are quickly forgotten amidst the hundreds of pages devoted to, well, buying.

Glamour is on the one hand a magazine that encourages female independence from men, healthy eating and exercising rather than dieting, and unique, non-trendy fashion; while on the other hand it prints articles that inherently provoke self-consciousness about relationships (can you imagine Maxim being as focused on how men can please women as Glamour is on how women can please men), preoccupation with one's weight through exercise and eating articles, and, yes, trends.

So do I expect Glamour to change: to disavow consumerism and superficiality and live up to its highest ideals, represented in this article about debt? Nah, because Glamour must profit and its model for making money is most reliant upon the hair, skin, makeup, and clothing compaines that advertise in its pages. Too bad.

Oh, and I'm not even going to get into Cosmo.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

A 'Rant'

I once read a magazine article that detailed different types of optimism and pessimism. According to the article, optimism's upbeat positiveness is only beneficial if it was practiced strategically; same for pessimism's uncharming blueness. So if one optimistically expects to go far in life and has plans as to how he can advance, he is a strategic optimist, if he's certain he won't meet goals without going back to school, he's a strategic pessimist. On the other hand, the unstrategic optimist is deluded; the pessimist depressive.

After reading this article, I gauged myself, as an optimist would, as someone who is pretty unfailingly strategic, whether optimistic or pessimistic. This is why I am anticipating, as the strategic pessimist would, my impending dissatisfaction with going back to Northwestern in north suburban Chicago rather than to Paris. Strangely, I think adjusting back to NU will be harder than it was adjusting "forward" to life in Paris. As someone told me, you expect it to be different when you go abroad but not when you come home.

Here are what I plan to be especially noteworthy and probably annoying adjustments upon returning to NU:
  • Unceasing devotion to one's extracurricular activities, be it sororities (rush is une grande malade de la tete for me!) to the crazy Christian clubs to theater crap (i guarantee you that of all of the "theater people" that you meet in your life, you will like no more than 10% of them and about that same percentage have any right to be pursuing that field). (Extracurrics are fine but are definitely a little too much at American unviersities. Not to sound like someone's grandpa, but we're first and foremost at school to learn).
  • Competitiveness. Grades. The old "I didn't do any reading and still got an A" talk. Isn't it kind of counter-intuitive to brag about not learning for a course that you're paying shitloads of money to take?
  • People who consider going to Evanston's Keg as a satisfying evening. Because watching freshman girls drunk from screwdrivers pole dance is my idea of a good time.
  • Lack of a city! at my disposal. People who don't set foot in Chicago, which is like 85% of the campus. Alumni David Schwimmer spoke at NU a couple years ago and confessed that he had rarely if ever gone to the city during his four years. He also said that he was a "self-absorbed asshole" back in college. He's not the only one.
  • Loud people. I'm now used to the cold, reserved French people, even if I'm not one.
  • Hell, I'll even miss living with adults over living in my estrogen central sorority house.

I write so brazenly because I'm confident that no one will read my rants. The advantages of being an unrecognized (underrecognized?? nah) blogger.