T O P I C R E V I E W
Member # 34980
posted 04-16-2009 08:54 PM
My roommate and I are both history majors, and we are both very interested in women's history and the feminist movements. She is currently in a class called Women in Modern America, and today she was telling me how next week each student has to bring in an article, TV show clip, movie clip, etc. and discuss it from a feminist perspective. That got us talking about magazines and their representation of women/feminism.
One of her ideas is to bring in a section from Glamour magazine called "Hey, it's okay!" I don't know if any of you are familiar with this, but it's basically a list of quirky things that women "should" be okay with doing or saying. My housemates and I usually put this page up on the fridge, not because we necessarily subscribe to what it is saying, but because it's kind of funny and is an interesting conversation piece. So, my roommate and I got talking about magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan and if they truly send a positive message to women. Over the past several years, I occasionally buy both magazines just to flip through for fun. When I was younger, it was more about being curious about sex, but now I look at them for the occasional positive "real-life" story about women involved in politics, or abused women/rape victims who have overcome their oppressors, etc. As I flip through magazines like this, I wonder if other women question what these magazines are saying, and I was wondering what people think about this. Do you think that magazines like Cosmo or Glamour send positive messages to women and show them how to be confident individuals? Do magazines like this show realities of relationships? Or are they trying to conform women? Are they confusing feminism and strong confident women with sexual prowess? Sorry for the long post, but my roommate and I had a very interesting conversation about this today, and I was interested to see what other people's perspectives are. Thanks!
Member # 37835
posted 04-16-2009 09:08 PM
One of my biggest beefs with cosmo (though, having not actually read one cover to cover, this may be a false impression) is that they always seem to have cover stories that are along the lines of "!0 new ways to please your man" or "The sex he craves." If I ever walk by one that has a cover story "Hot review of new vibrators just for you!" I'll change my tune.
Basically, my problem is that they often promote women's sexuality as something that's really designed for men. I don't see them giving the messages that women's sexuality is valuable purely for the way that it affects women themselves or their female partners. It's just too focused on men... and helps to create a culture in which women don't feel like their sexuality and their bodies don't really belong to them. I just have a big problem with the messages that sends. But, like I said, if I ever see them give advice on how to touch either ones own or one's partner's clitoris for "maximum pleasure" , I'll change my mind.
Member # 39124
posted 04-16-2009 10:51 PM
Weeeeeelll, my problem is with the idea of empowerment through sexuality, like taking pole-dancing lessons or what have you. Being sexy is NOT being powerful, because then society uses your openness about sex as an excuse to label you a "whore" and then further oppress a person. I think these messages set women up for failure; we're told being sexually desirable is the only way we can be accepted as a member of society. If you succeed, you then age and are hated for either trying too hard to cover up your age or not trying enough. Fail, and everyone can hate you for not being sexy enough. And if you choose not to care? Well, you're a bitch.
It's like this article I read in one of those magazines a while back on Jessica Simpson. In one breath they commended her on not caring about her weight and condemned her for not dressing to look thinner. A list of outfits to make a person look thin then followed. My problem with this is that it should be okay to look big in things. If they really supported her being heavier, they wouldn't care about which outfit made her look "ten pounds thinner".
Member # 41657
posted 04-17-2009 07:46 AM
Short Version: Being sexy is not the same thing as being sexually liberated.
Longer Version: I do not consider a pole dancing class taken by women to be an expression of women's sexuality, it's a display for men. I don't think anyone should have to meet with any aesthetic standard in order to be regarded as sexually liberated and I do not appreciate the equation of things women do to please men that give them no enjoyment (not that no women enjoy wearing lingerie or dancing for their partner/s, but a lot of women who do these things do them because they think they have to) with women expressing their sexuality, saying that sexual things like masturbating and using vibrators and women and their partners knowing about clitoral stimulation are the same thing as the societal expectation that women look sexy is wrong. Some consider that women who want an education are shirking their natural role and I'm sure they have some choice insults for those women, that doesn't mean that education is not of value and a part of women's liberation. Being sexy is not being powerful because you shouldn't have to spend loads of time and effort trying to look more like a male fantasy than other women so that men will pay attention to you, said attention usually being in the form of drooling over how hot you are instead of say, appreciating your sexuality as for you, or valuing your intellect, not because if you wear that lipstick and thong men will label you a whore, because they shouldn't label you a whore ever.
Member # 38998
posted 04-17-2009 11:19 AM
I don't think that being sexy means that you aren't sexually liberated or that you are too focused on pleasing men, but at the same time I entirely agree that being sexy does't automatically mean that you are empowered. If a woman wants to take a pole dancing class, she should certainly have the opportunity and right to do so, but it's best if she's doing it for her own reasons other than "Because it'll make guys like me!" Also, such activities are certainly not for all women, and to say that a woman is more or less empowered because she'd like to take a pole dancing class is nonsense. True sexual and societal empowerment means that a woman can develop her own sexual identity however she likes and is comfortable with, not just act sexy by the standards of mainstream society.
If you haven't read it, "Female Chauvanist Pigs" is a very good book on the matter.
Member # 3
posted 04-17-2009 01:55 PM
Might it be helpful to address the difference between culture/society or a partner's (potential or current) view or definition of what "sexy" is and what a given woman's personal definition and experience is? In other words, "sexy," for me, rarely looks like the way it tends to be defined by the mainstream media, both in terms of my own feelings and experiences with my own sexuality and in terms of how I view partners. quote: If I ever walk by one that has a cover story "Hot review of new vibrators just for you!" I'll change my tune. That is the stuff of awesome.
Member # 41657
posted 04-17-2009 04:39 PM
I've just never really had any experience of what sexy is, the closest I've ever come (ha) is getting turned on listening to someone espousing feminist views, I guess I might say that's "sexy", but I'd be more likely to use a word that doesn't have so much baggage attached to it, the main issue I have with the word sexy is it acts like what you find to be a turn on is in no way under your control or has anything to do with someone's treatment of you or political views, to take a somewhat outdated example, it would be like being expected to think Jonathan Taylor Thomas was cute when I was younger even though they are strongly anti-abortion (or at any rate were at the time, I don't know about now), I don't care about looks, I don't care about the sound of someone's voice, I don't really get what sexy is other than that. I do get turned on by some stuff (the aforementioned feminism, somebody who cares about my sexual enjoyment as well as theirs, my own body's sensations, food, music), but I can't imagine using the word sexy, maybe this is an issue of semantics?
Member # 34980
posted 04-18-2009 10:07 AM
quote: In other words, "sexy," for me, rarely looks like the way it tends to be defined by the mainstream media, both in terms of my own feelings and experiences with my own sexuality and in terms of how I view partners. I definitely agree, Heather...and with what everyone else has said, for that matter. The problem I've come to have with these magazines is, just as atm1 said, that they are all about pleasuring a man and doing particular things for him. There has also never been a mention of lesbian or bisexual women. The closest Cosmo came was a couple of years ago when they ran an article about why young women are increasingly interested in experimenting with the same sex...but clearly that's not quite the same. While I'm sure they concentrate on targeting just heterosexual females, they are certainly leaving out a great number of people. As a heterosexual female, however, I just have a problem with these magazines telling me that I am sexy
if I do these things to a man, etc., rather than being sexy for my confidence, my intelligence, etc. My roommate and I were also just reading an article..I forget which news source it ran in..but it talked about how male actors are becoming heavier and people are more accepting of it because society at large is becoming heavier...however, if these were female actresses, the media would be ALL OVER them, running pictures of them eating unhealthy food or analyzing their bodies to see if there is a "baby bump," etc. How have females come to be so misrepresented in the media? [ 04-18-2009, 10:09 AM: Message edited by: dancrgrl ]
Member # 29737
posted 04-18-2009 12:07 PM
I find cosmo sometimes has articles that are more oriented to females sexuality...a few months ago I remember one of their titles was "how to orgasm every time" or something along those lines, which despite being more geared towards women is probably not very helpful.
I remember flipping through those magazines in high school and thinking some of the "advice" they gave was useful, some was just common sense, and some was just way off. A couple years ago I was flipping through my friends cosmo and found an article that really bothered me. it was called something along the lines of "it's okay to masturbate" the article told women it was perfectly okay to masturbate either in front of your partner or alone, and then proceeded to give a list of "do's" and don'ts" for masturbating. I found this kind of disturbing. If someone is gonna masturbate they can do what they want. The one thing I remember was "do: fantasize don't: talk dirty to yourself" and just remember being especially surprised that they thought talking dirty to yourself, when by yourself, doing something solely for your pleasure was somehow "wrong". I think those magazines can be dangerous because they preach a feminist perspective, but end up miscontruing it into specific guidelines instead of emphasizing the freedom to do what you want sexually. And about the pole-dancing thing, I see nothing wrong with it. Some women can feel very sexy or empowered by being able to dance suggestively, or just have fun pulling out the moves anytime! I have found there are 2 differing view points about stuff like this. One is, women can do what they want sexually and as long as they are safe and not hurting anyone good for them. The other is that in order to have sexual freedom they must act or dress in a certain way to get interest from sexual partners, and thus the power lies with the partner as opposed to the pursuer.
Member # 41657
posted 04-18-2009 12:47 PM
I don't think that the pole dancing is per se wrong, I just don't think it's good if women are doing it because they think it's necessary to get men to like them and not because it actually makes them feel aroused and to express their own sexuality.
Member # 29737
posted 04-18-2009 09:16 PM
I agree with that...but that's the same for anything sexual. For example, a girl that wears revealing clothing because she likes how it looks, or because she wants to give the impression she is after sex is perfectly fine. But a girl that wears revealing clothing because she needs sexual attention from men in order to feel validated is not okay. Same goes for having sex. I think things like pole dancing get singled out a lot because people associate it with strippers and prostitution and such
Member # 42678
posted 04-28-2009 09:36 PM
Of the many things that I find concerning about magazines like cosmo is something I've noticed only recently (last 12mnths or so)- the 'real story' type of article dealing with issues of truama or abuse (often sexual/ised) have little focus on awarenss and more focus on titillation/entertainment. Just my two cents.
Oh, and in terms of pop magazines with a, more healthy feminist and global perspective (but by no means perfect) I can highly recommend Marie Claire.
Member # 36720
posted 07-01-2009 07:39 PM
Oh man, I am SO glad someone posted this! I was checking my email not that long ago, and they always have little articles...and recently there was one involving giving presents to your guy or something along those lines...and it was completely ridiculous. Occasionally, Cosmo will bring up an article that is useful/helpful/not demeaning to women...
But this article discussed like...how you should show affection to your partner, or what kind of presents you should buy him. And one of the things they had was: Do: Wear matching lacy panties to show him a hint of what's to come. Don't: Wear corsets or stuff with too many clips, buckles, etc. It'll take too long for him to get them off! It was OUTRAGEOUS! It's such a pretentious idea..."don't dress like this because HE may not find it sexy". Isn't that part of a relationship? Experimenting? Talking to one another? Discussing and sharing likes and dislikes? It's so one-sided, and yet it masquerades as "advice", like they're saving your from pitfalls because you are incompetent. Wearing a corset when engaging in sexual activity? DON'T BE SILLY! YOU'LL FRIGHTEN HIM OFF! Because it doesn't matter what YOU wanted...it's all about him? What kind of relationship is that? Honestly, if a partner leaves because he didn't like the lingerie you bought, that relationship wasn't going anywhere good. Second: Why should you have to wear sexy lingerie? It was treated as a command, rather than a suggestion. Some women may not feel comfortable with that. Some men may not care. And vice versa. I guess I agree. At times, I find Cosmo and other such magazines as entertaining. But mostly I just find them vile...because they are subtly forcing women into these guidelines of what is "good" and what is "bad". I hope I'm not being repetitive. And I apologize if I am.
Member # 42795
posted 08-12-2009 04:40 AM
I do dislike the fact that these magazines are held up as representing the archetype of what it is to be a modern woman and that they are so heterosexist. I can remember flipping through one once and seeing in the letters section something about an article they had printed the previous issue about being a lesbian which the person who'd written in said implied that being a lesbian was only OK if you were young and glamourous. As I didn't read the article itself, I can't really comment on it, though it struck me that it was a one off article with some sort of novelty aspect to it ('Hey we never write about gay women - let's try that for a little while.'). For my Media project I got to satirise that genre of magazine though, and that was fun; hell hath no fury like a woman patronised by the media
. On the whole subject of 'sexy', I think it can be anything, really. It is so down to personal prefence that it is ridiculous to say it is just being whatever is in a magazine. Sometimes someone's voice, or personality, or charisma, or personal philosophy, or the way they dress, or the way they write, or a million other things can be sexy and it would have to be a *long* issue of Cosmo that could get all of everyone's different ideas of sexy into it. Being sexy probably does mean some people have power, due to control, but that is a socialised manipulation thing rather than a necessary coupling, in my opinion (nor does it mean they are empowered). And re. the pole dancing/ provocative dancing thing - I did find it interesting that it was what was used as an example of women doing something to make themselves seem attractive: I had some serious self-esteem issues a coupla years ago and only once I'd kinda got on top of them did I dance when out. I now do dance in what would probably be perceived to be a provocative manner, but it is simply because I'm so glad I feel I am now able to revel in my body. To me, it's more of a display of my self-confidence than of my body, and a personal celebration of my sexuality (that doesn't quite say what I want to, but I hope it makes sense).
Member # 43609
posted 08-12-2009 10:25 AM
I pretty much agree with all the comments everyone has made.
quote: The problem I've come to have with these magazines is, just as atm1 said, that they are all about pleasuring a man and doing particular things for him. There has also never been a mention of lesbian or bisexual women. I deffinately agree strongly with this! These days it seems like its all about what the guy wants. I think sex should be about trying to please the partner as best as you can and they will automatically want to do the same in return. I also they do leave out bisexual or lesbian women. When ever I read cosmo I always think why would I care about what a guy wants or how to please him as if the magazine just assumes that all readers are heterosexual. Many of my friends also find this annoying really. I would like magazines like that to start writing colomns that aply to everyone. I thouroughly agree with everyone else though I think that magazine is kinda fun to read if your bored or something but I think it trys to come off as a liberating magazine for girls and women but is really actually degrading.
Member # 44126
posted 09-21-2009 05:20 AM
I really don't like it when I hear feminists say things like "stripping is only for men!" or "pornstars are just preforming for men!" or "prostitutes are just doing stuff for men!" or "Cosmo's articles are really just to please men!"
I have friends who are female strippers, females in porn, and I read Cosmo (don't know any prostitutes though), and I think that it's entirely possible to do all that AND be "liberated" AND be happy AND be fulfilled, AND be empowered AND do them for yourself. I have to say that the strongest, most opinionated and most confident woman I know is one who worked for a porn company (including doing shoots) when I met her. At least one of the strippers I know I'd say the same about, and Cosmo has just as many articles about "how to please your man" as "how to beat up a rapist" and "how to have more orgasms than you can handle". Sexy can be empowering because it gives you a certain power over the opposite sex, just in a different venue, and using sexiness to be empowering can work to an advantage. It's not demeaning to use sexuality, it's just a weapon that women have in their arsenal more than men do. And being sexy CAN be all about you. I like buying sexy bras and panties. I think my boyfriend could care less if I'm wearing a lacy $50 bra or a $10 one from WalMart so long as my boobs are still attached, however I feel happy in the sexy bra. In fact, I believe that Susan B. Anthony had on her agenda legalizing prostitution because it was a profession primarily dominated by women (not to mention, keeping it illegal makes it more dangerous).
Member # 3
posted 09-21-2009 12:07 PM
I feel like you're suggesting all of this as very black and white, Smellycheesebot, when it often just isn't that way. Feminists certainly have a range of responses to all of this, and women who do sex work also have a range of experiences and responses as well (especially over time, and also when you include women whose options in life are incredibly limited, making sex work something which may be chosen when other work would be strongly preferred but isn't available, which are both really important to bear in mind). But you did make one statement I feel like I need to call you out on, and that's this: quote: Sexy can be empowering because it gives you a certain power over the opposite sex, just in a different venue, and using sexiness to be empowering can work to an advantage. It's not demeaning to use sexuality, it's just a weapon that women have in their arsenal more than men do. I think that statement is, in fact, sexist, and also yet another thing you're saying that REALLY simplifies something that is simply not that simplistic.
Whether or not "using" sexuality is demeaning depends so much on the situation, the context, and everyone involved. But stating that sexuality, or sexual power, is something women somehow all have more of than men, and that sex or "sexiness" is a tool to USE sets up a dichotomy and dnamic that basically makes everything else you have said called into doubt. In other words, if there is a power imbalance in sex right from the start (I disagree with you that there is, by the way), then saying the equality in it is easy and simplistic isn't a credible statement. If sex is a tool, a weapon, something to use to get power from someone else, then you can't very well say it's just about the person using it: that's a logistic falsehood. I also have BIG issues with calling sex a weapon, for too many reasons to list. Lastly, I think it's important to recognize that from a feminist viewpoint, per what feminism is really about at its core, the term "empowering" isn't about power OVER others. The core feminist issue with patriarchy isn't that men have more power than women, and the goal is that women should have more, but is about working towards an egalitarian model, towards a model of equity, in which power is shared, rather than over/under like that. [ 09-21-2009, 12:24 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]
Member # 43325
posted 09-21-2009 06:52 PM
I'd just like to say that I really dislike when Cosmo has articles like "How To Beat Up A Rapist". First, because it puts the onus squarely on women to prevent rape. I think everyone should use common sense when drinking and the like, but I just get the feeling like those articles make women more scared to go out than make them feel empowered. Women shouldn't feel like they need an arsenal just to go out for drinks or go to a party. And I also feel like those articles have the capacity to make victims feel like they could have done something to prevent their rape, if only they had read the Cosmo article on how to beat up their rapist. It comes across very victim-blaming to me. Responsibility for preventing sexual violence lies with *everyone*. One never sees articles about preventing rape in men's magazines (or, at least I never have.).