Dear Ms Long,
Whilst waiting for my tea to brew in the kitchen at work yesterday, I came across an abandoned issue of the Sunday Times Style magazine (dated 13 January 2013). I often turn to publications such as your own in order to learn how to be a proper woman. As such, conflicting messages about how women should behave are very distressing to me. It is with a recent highly confusing experience in mind, in which one article contradicted the messages given by the rest of the magazine, that I write to you.
Let us first analyse the article that jars with the rest of your publication’s content, Freedom to Choose. This piece intelligently highlights the damage the mainstream media causes to young girls. It argues that the media teaches young girls that they are sexual objects, causes insecurity amongst girls by making “how they look, and their “hotness”… an obsession”, and that they are “products” whose worth is determined by how others evaluate theirs looks.
The piece describes how very young girls are constantly: “hammered by the media by the need to be sexy” and taught, above all else, that “(their) looks are the most important things about (them).”
The article helpfully highlights for the reader how to avoid the sexualisation of their young daughters, and how to help girls to have their own space and security to become women at their own pace. To jog your mind, here are three top strategies and tips that your article recommends:
1) “Because (the sexualisation) starts very young … we can choose which magazines and other media to buy”;
2) “Girls’ magazines generally do more harm than good”; and
3) “shared meals at fixed times, where everyone is at the table” can help.
My confusion lies in the juxtaposition of these sensible messages with the general philosophy offered by your publication. Pray, why does the rest of your magazine blatantly contradict all three of these messages?
For the benefit of my blog readers who may not have a copy of your magazine to hand (I will post this letter on my blog), let me now give a brief overview of the contents of your publication:
- Cover: Photo of a skinny woman who is posing as if she is expecting to be penetrated from behind, penetrated orally and penetrated in her visible cleavage, and who, implicitly, is presently on “the fasting diet”
- Inner cover: advert for make-up that gives a “face lift” effect
- p.1: contents
- p.2: advert for low-fat ready meal
- p.3: editor’s update featuring JLO’s dressing habits
- p.4: perfume advert with skinny model posing as if she is about to perform fellatio
- p.5: photos of expensive clothes and jewellery to buy (prices range from £70 to £775)
- p.6: advert for low-fat ready meal
- p.7: photos of kids clothes, furniture and cooking utensils to buy
- pp. 8-9: car advert
- pp. 10-14: article and photos entitled, West End Girl: She’s Bisexual, Boho and Brilliant
- p. 15-18: article about a model and her naked photo shoot, featuring photo in which the female model appears to be being raped (note distressed facial expression) by the male model
- p. 19: competition featuring ticket to catwalk show as prize
- p. 20: tips on what you should wear
- pp. 21-25: photos of skinny models who appear to be about to perform fellatio
- pp. 26-27: 4 tips on how to make your face look better
- pp.28-36: your cover story: the fasting diet and why it is brilliant
- p. 37: advert for a car whose seats mimic the curves of an attractive woman
- p. 38: dilemmas page
- pp.39 -43: article on what furniture one should buy
- pp. 44-45: article on restaurants that sell low fat food
- p. 46: advertisement for the Sunday Times
- p. 47: star signs
- p. 48: problem page
- Inside cover: competition to win a makeover
- Back cover: advert for anti-ageing cream
Your eight-page-long cover story, entitled The Fasting Diet deserves special attention, I believe. It advocates the new intermittent fasting diet, in which participants should starve themselves for two 24-hour periods per week. The piece disperses text with photos of the skinny, scantily clad cover model in various sexually suggestive poses. Without boring you further with the content of an article of which you are already, no doubt, familiar, let me enlighten my blog readers with a few choice quotes from the piece:
- “Fasting teaches you what it means to be hungry”
- on “feed days”, “be very careful about measuring exactly what you eat. Don’t guess.”
- “you must learn not to be afraid of hunger”
- “what you need to do is set up a system of immediate rewards. For example, if I get through the next two fast days, I can buy a new lipstick… obviously do not use food as a reward. (Buy) a pack of gold stars and put a …reward chart up on the wall”
- “I know nutritionists bang on about the importance of breakfast… but why wake up Annie Appetite before you need to?”
- “If you’re feeling faint, 70 calories of low-fat yoghurt takes the edge off”
- “There is something addictive about waking up feeling hungry”
- “Last Sunday… I had a slice of chocolate and walnut cake. But it was fine, because I knew I was fasting the next day”
- “(when fasting), people tend… to raise their intake of tea and coffee, though obviously if you add milk, you’ll have to keep a close eye on that.”
I think my blog readers will get the idea.
Let me summarise the problem for you. If I pay attention to the three tips from the Freedom to Choose article, I would NEVER, EVER GO ANYWHERE NEAR STYLE MAGAZINE, given its use of highly sexualised images of women, tips on how to look better and younger, and strategies on how to cope with daily life when you are starving yourself for aesthetic reasons (as, you imply, all proper women should).
I therefore ask, Ms Long, was the anomaly of an article on how to empower young girls by promoting healthy eating habits and encouraging them to realise that their looks are not their only source of self-worth published in your magazine by mistake? Am I right to judge the rest of your magazine as a pile of worthless, sexist hypocrisy that makes women feel insecure and inadequate, and which I should probably shove up my objectified, fasting, and perpetually-ready-for-sex bottom?