Maggie Jankuloska
July 28, 2013 1:00 pm

Writing is undoubtedly a powerful tool. It has allowed me to be empowered, to learn and to reflect. It has given me the power to be the voice for the voiceless and it has saved me hundreds in therapy.

Naturally, my love for writing has stemmed from reading. Women’s magazines have been my secret vice since I was a teenager. Glossy, shinny magazines aimed at females aged between 18-32 – you know which ones.

As a teenager I found them undoubtedly entertaining with their racy stories, sexual diagrams and unaffordable fashion. They were a glimpse of adulthood and a guide of how a woman should be and appear. However, after receiving a subscription to a popular Australian women’s magazine last year, I noticed something was amiss in mainstream print media. Aged 25, I found little value in them and instantly felt a strong disenchantment.

I asked myself: Do we buy such magazines to escape for a few hours? If such magazines help us escape our lives, surely we must realise that we are escaping into an illusion, albeit a well-marketed illusion.

Celebration of womanhood was hard to be found; instead, pages were spent decoding men on a monthly basis, as if they were aliens from Jupiter and with the same voracity as discovering the meaning of life. In one issue, I discovered 42 synonyms for breasts as well as the essential “How Sexy Is Your sex Life?” quiz question. Are we really that shallow? Are women’s problems this vacuous?

Amongst the countless advertisements and nonsensical sex polls, I found little reality in this shiny nightmare. Even feature stories were of a sordid sensual nature, focusing on affairs and secret trysts.

Magazines like these claim to empower women, yet they mainly focus on our relationships with men, especially sex. They claim to appeal to the everywoman but provide exclusivity by advertising $90 candles. The mantra that we are all beautiful is repeated, yet Photoshop suggests otherwise.Women’s Weekly editor Helen McGabe defended retouching by stating that “while women might ask for honest photographs, they buy beautiful ones.”

Is the media responsible or are we as women truly that extrinsic? Pages promise us Kim Kardashian’s butt, Gwyneth Paltrow’s abs or Heidi Klum’s legs; is this our culture demands or is it thrust upon us?

It appears to me that we pay $8 just to be subtly told we are never sufficient. You can always look like Heidi, your sex life can always be spicier or you can gain more Twitter followers and your wardrobe can always be more glamorous. What about the real problems we face and need conversation?

In many circles, feminism is still a dirty word that women choose to disassociate with. There is little mentioned on emotional problems we face: post-partum depression, body image struggles, the search for true happiness or verbal abuse. There is little reported on global women’s issues such as: reproductive rights, human trafficking and ‘gendercide.’ Certainly such topics would engage women in a real and honest conversation, rather than decoding men’s faces during orgasm (sadly a real article). Once women are empowered with knowledge, action usually follows.

Women who have changed our culture and the world are forgotten as we celebrate the ‘stars’ of reality TV or hear about the painless childbirth experiences of models. Would a piece on Gloria Steinem or Barbara Walters, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi or Yoko Ono damage sales or the magazine’s image? Surely not; they would provide a deeper examination of womanhood today and historically.

With this being said, not all women’s magazines are at fault. Many are trying to create a cultural shift and I applaud the numerous online magazines that offer an alternative. I respect magazines for starting to feature curvier models and informing young girls on sexual health, but more is needed to address female issues. This can only happen if we as readers and consumers demand for it.

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