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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

excellent points! keep up the great blogging! have greatly enjoyed recent entries. sorry you were sick.