The Five Great Lies Of Women's Magazines

If you're reading this, you're probably wondering who this "Jezebel" is, and if she is, like, bipolar or something. (Answer: Probably!)

To put it simply, Jezebel is a blog for women that will attempt to take all the essentially meaningless but sweet stuff directed our way and give it a little more meaning, while taking more the serious stuff and making it more fun, or more personal, or at the very least the subject of our highly sophisticated brand of sex joke. Basically, we wanted to make the sort of women's magazine we'd want to read, a magazine that would never actually see glossy paper because big-name advertisers and the publishers who kowtow to them don't much like it when you point out the vulgarity of a $2000 handbag. Women deserve some of the blame here: if men ever bought $2000 handbags, Esquire and GQ might be as bad — and profitable — as Glamour and Vogue.


But in order to reverse the cycle it's important to recognize that there are a few big lies — we're going with five — perpetuated by the women's media.

Like most truly damaging lies, they're not earth-shatterers. You've heard of them; like tales of intelligence-manipulation by the Bush administration or insider trading on Wall Street they aren't going shock you. You've learned to live with them; we all have. We just finally got sick of it.

1) THE COVER LIE You can, it turns out, judge a book by its cover, if it has the name Vogue, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, or any number of other print-media brands slapped across its face. In addition to their virtually all-white casts (editors tend to quarantine the minorities on their low-selling January issues) women's magazine covers display what are essentially female forgeries, smothered in makeup, lit and fanned and shot with equipment that could be eBayed to finance an Ivy League education, and computer-aided-artistry involving heavy airbrushing, contouring and rearranging to make hips look leaner and eyes that extra-special, inhuman hue of aquamarine. And then there is the text! So many editors, writers and publishing-side execs weigh in on these tasty tidbits — "The 6- Step Bikini Makeover", "Sex: The New Trend That Everyone's Trying" — that what's promised often bears little resemblance to what's actually inside. Not that what's inside is any meatier or less predictable. But it's all about getting you to leap before you look. Sort of like shopping!

2) THE CELEBRITY-PROFILE LIE In the olden days, you could read a piece about a successful actress or public figure without a sidebar on her favorite grooming products, yoga practice, or "wholly original" sense of style. If she was a bitch, or pathetically ditzy and/or nine hours late, you might hear about that, too. As pretty much every other medium of journalism becomes more transparent and less beholden to its subjects, and as stars use MySpace and Blogger to expose the doting public to their innermost thoughts and crap spelling, the celebrity profiles found in women's magazines have actually managed to get flatter, more nakedly consumerist and less imaginative than the movies and TV shows they're shilling for, and we include Georgia Rule in that group. But don't blame the writers for this sad reality: They're just doing their jobs, which, according to the mandate put forth by editors and publicists, is to ask lots of questions about things like, you know, clothes, décor, and relaxation techniques. It has gotten so that women's magazines are actually doing you a disservice when they try to profile of women outside the celebrity-sartorial complex, because their worldviews are simply no longer equipped to account for people with priorities other than the achievement of that ineffable quality Kimora Lee Simmons calls "fabulosity." Take their bestowal of "It Girl" status on such wildly inappropriate subjects as Lara Logan (see June Vogue, page 204), or their focus on only the most photogenic cancer survivors/assault victims/environmental activists. It almost makes us wish for the return of the supermodel. At least in the 80s and 90s, beauty was a job left to the beautiful people.

3) THE MUST-HAVE LIE When a magazine editor highlights a must-have new creme eyeshadow, pore clarifying serum or sporty little capelet, she not only probably got it for free, she also probably got a meal out of it, and a celeb-studded party, and possibly a trip to Miami to learn of its merits from a carefully cultivated crop of experts, and oh yeah maybe a video iPod from the grateful publicist (with whom she is BFF!) Magazine editors are so buried in free shit that they don't even realize how much they get, that when the time comes for them to exhort you to invest in the new important color that isn't black they actually believe their own hype. The truth: black goes with everything, and you probably don't need any more assistance going broke.

4) THE AFFIRMATION CRAP LIE If women's magazines have done their job, if they have kept your attention and your subscriptions and you have devoted precious hours to consuming it, you are probably unlovable. You wonder whether Mischa Barton is skinny-fat, and whether you, too, might be skinny-fat (or simply fat!) You are insecure about things you probably didn't know it was possible to be insecure about. (Are you an effective cuddler? Find out in June's Cosmo, page 132!) (No, actually really! It's a real story!) You fret that your lipstick is bleeding and your fine lines are deepening and that during oral sex you might not be handling his balls correctly, and most of all, that you aren't projecting enough confidence, probably because your posture is bad. Is it any wonder that you now need affirmation that you are worth loving at all? Incessant reminders of what a goddess you really are? And that he is never going to love you if you don't love yourself. But wait, why should you love yourself? These magazines have made you boring as fuck!

5) AND FINALLY, THE BIG META LIE. is that this is one big postmodern joke on which we are all in. The big lie is that we even know what the fuck postmodern means, and we've all read all the Beckett plays and seen Zizek speak, that we know how to pronounce Zizek, not to mention Nicholas Ghesquiere, that Everything Bad Is Good For You (and that you actually read that book, too). And that all the surreality and celebphemera and retail therapy is harmless escapism, that it has always been this way, that it is not symptomatic of some sort of larger societal cancer. The big lie is that we haven't let the norms of the celebrity-sartorial complex seep into the way we see everything in the world, perpetuating the notion that all of life is high school, and the pretty people are the only ones worth your attention, and that alpha girls are entitled to act cruel and inhuman towards their subordinates, and that all the world would be that way anyway. Because it wouldn't. And though we've found women's magazines to be a fairly trusty engine of hilarious tidbits, it is not all one big joke.