Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Women's Magazines... So Little Changes in 50 Years

Do you ever pick up an issue of Cosmo, Elle, Lucky, Allure or any other women's magazine and get the feeling that you've read the content before? The same tips, tricks, photo spreads and "serious" pieces feel like they're recycled month after month, just with a new celebrity tacked on the cover.

In doing research for a paper I'm writing on feminism and women's magazines, I came across this article from a 1950 issue of the Atlantic Monthly in which British journalist Marghanita Laski complains that women's magazines simply rehash the same information each month. It's hilarious to compare her summary of the mags to the content of popular titles today, proving that very little has changed in the last 58 years.

Since I can't re-post the whole article, but here's a little excerpt. Again, you can read the full text here thanks to Google Books.

It is as much a source of amazement as of income to me that readers of the women's magazines have such an insatiable thirst for reading the same information over and over again, despite the fact that any one year's reading must inevitably give enough information about the technique of being a woman to see one through a lifetime. I have, then, no fear of spoiling the market, either for myself or others. Every subject in this symposium, given a snappy title and an angle that appeals to the editor, will still be worth a substantial fee.


The simplest are in the best taste.

Men like women to be in the best taste.

Broken Hearts:

Find a new interest.

Time cures all.

Men don't like women to ring them up.

Care of Face:

Remove old make-up with cream (dry skins), lotion (oily skins), or superfatted soap (if you must).

Then dab face with an astringent lotion.

Then pat in nourishing ream.

Blackheads are frequently due to internal causes. Drink lots of water.

Men are repelled by pimples.


Charm is an indefinable quality.
Men like it.


Choose the clothes that suit you.

You can be perfectly dressed at every income level.

Little touches of white must be immaculate.
Diagonal stripes are slimming.

Invest your all in one good little black dress (or tweed suit).

Don't go for clutter but have lots of bits and pieces that will make one outfit do the work of ten.

Men like black satin, well-cut tweeds, floating tulle, utter simplicity, and don't notice what you wear anyway.


Read good books sometimes.

Men don't like cultured women much.


Cate said...

lol!! thanks for showing this, meg, too funny!

Stephanie said...

This is amazing, utterly accurate, and remarkably perceptive...wait, this was from 1950? Sounds like absolutely nothing has changed. Except for the fact that the universal tweed suit has been changed to one jersey wrap dress.

Meg from The Bargain Queens & All About Appearances said...

That is funny, and too true!

Yeah, not much changes, but in their defense, there are always going to be new readers who haven't read that stuff before. Granted, it is still ridiculous that it's so similar month to month.

Maybe we need reminders?

I actually thought about this a bit when it came to blogging. Sometimes things seem to obvious, too overdone to write about. But yet those posts tend to still be very popular and get good comments. Maybe it's not what you say, but how you say it.

Or maybe everyone is just preaching to the choir.

I must admit, it feels nice to read something and go, "Oh, I know that. Aren't I so smart!" Of course, that gets old quickly if there isn't something new to learn.

In the end, I just remember myself a few years back and hope that I can get even some of those 'obvious' tips to others who are where I was.

And fortunately, my husband loves that I'm 'cultured' and just generally smart.

Alison said...

I love that picture..and yes it is SO true! I get a subscription to Cosmo, Marie Claire, and Shape...and there's always a top 10 list of ways to turn your man on in there somewhere!

Alexandra said...

So true! And funny.
I think this month's Elle covered all of those bases.

Anonymous said...

Now I can just post this one article on the wall and remember how to be a good woman! You have just saved many, many trees :) Love it!

Anonymous said...

hilarious list. i actually learned a thing or two because i don't buy women's magazines because they're mostly stupid fluff. men like well-cut tweeds? wow, lemme get right on that. haha.

Anonymous said...

When I was 12 or so I started reading women's magazines, back in the early 70s. Glamour and Cosmo were all about cosmetics, fashions and attracting men (like today). But Mademoiselle celebrated learning, alternate lifestyles and was pretty literate. And it was in Vogue that I first learned of Chekhov (article on Broadway production of Uncle Vanya) and Jean-Luc Godard. Sadly, now every women's magazine features the same Lindsay/Britney/Angelina interchangeable cover girl and inane articles on that same level.

marge twain said...

so true...
I used to subscribe to Allure until I realized that each issue was almost exactly the same with a predictably rotating set of seasonal colors(pastels or brights for spring and summer, darks for fall and winter) Even the celebrity interviews were so on-message they were interchangable. Between that and the total lack of non-white models and the annual softcore nude starlet issue I was fed up. Bleh.

L said...

LOLin' that everything fits neatly in the context of the male gaze...

Anonymous said...

Amen! That's why you can save one years worth of magazines, and then just read them all again the next year. Nothing will have changed, except the ads, and the movie/music reviews. It's the same stuff, over and over and over I have issues of SELF magazine from a 2004 subscription that I still read if I'm in the mood for a women's magazine. Saves me money and space!

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I guess I really haven't missed much since I gave up my women's magazines for sewing and art magazines! I guess Solomon was right, there is nothing new under the sun! Has anyone else noticed that Prevention magazine ALWAYS has an article about how to lose weight on the cover?

Anonymous said...

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Bianca said...

Great post. Great blog. Would u like to link?

Meghan said...

this is a great piece!