Why Do Women's Magazines Pick Cover Girls Who "Don't Work?"

Aymar Jean Christian of SpliceToday has a bone to pick with tabloids and women's magazines: their covers are plastered with "Lauren Conrad, Jessica Simpson, and the Kardashian sisters," and "these women don't work!"

Christian complains that, "every time I go to CVS or a bookstore and look at the magazines, I wonder what makes the cover girls so special," and that "even stars who work only occasionally like Jessica Biel and Halle Berry make it onto the covers of prestige magazines like Bazaar, Elle, and Cosmopolitan and, the worst offenders, gossip zines like US Weekly, People, and Star." He continues,

On the rare occasion I do see a working actress featured on a magazine cover, I ask myself: does she have a movie or TV show coming out? Is she producing or directing anything of note? I check IMDB. Sometimes I find a project here or there, many times I don't. Instead, they are reality stars leading dull lives and somehow getting recognized for it. Or they are actresses who haven't made a decent movie or TV show in a long time and get covers because women simply like them.

Of course, it's a little strange to fault magazines for choosing their cover subjects "because women simply like them," or because they are "relateable" — they are, after all, trying to appeal to readers. But are celebs like Jessica Simpson — who does, let's be honest, seem to be on every cover ever without doing much of anything — actually more relateable than, say, Julianna Margulies? Or do they just have better publicists?

Christian writes, "exceptional people who get glamorous coverage from a widely-circulated magazine should be models for how women can be, not models who don't really do anything at all, and are only skilled at doing just that: nothing special." Which seems like some Candide-level media naïveté, until you consider the rapidly dropping revenues of women's magazines. Presumably magazine editors choose their covers at least in part with regard to what women will buy, but women may be getting tired of the endless parade of relatively idle stars. Still, magazines seem pretty much locked into a system of giving free advertising to celebrities' neverending clothing and accessory lines (cf. Gwen Stefani's products prominently positioned in this month's Glamour), and offering them coverage for doing very little. Publicists and magazines seem to think they are in a mutually beneficial relationship, but the magazines (at least the mainstream women's titles — this is perhaps less applicable to tabloids) seem to be getting the short end of the stick.

Of course, the real losers are readers. Christian may offend some stay-at-home moms with his generalizations about women who "don't work" (and he does apologize for this), but most moms, employed or not, probably work harder than Kim Kardashian. And most readers are probably more interesting than Jessica Simpson, at least as she comes across in her heavily-circumscribed magazine interviews. There's probably a market for a magazine that would print real, personal observations by celebrities about work and life, rather than sanitized promotions of their latest products. Unfortunately, such a magazine would threaten the current tried-and-false formula of celebrity cover + softball questions = easy publicity, so we probably won't be seeing it anytime soon.

The Death Of The Working Woman? [SpliceToday]