An Open Letter to the Editor of the Sunday Times’ Style Magazine: to encourage one’s child daughter to become a sexual, fasting object, or not?

18 Jan

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?

Please advise.

In anticipation,

Joanna Allan

20 Responses to “An Open Letter to the Editor of the Sunday Times’ Style Magazine: to encourage one’s child daughter to become a sexual, fasting object, or not?”

  1. Claire Arthur January 18, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Jo your Style Mag post came up in my newsfeed and it’s fucking awesome! How have I not discovered your blog sooner? I will be back. Please share more posts on facebook to remind me 🙂 Claire x

    • NaturalWoman January 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

      Thank you so much Claire! I find it is a therapeutic way of venting my anger at the sexist rubbish we are subjected to on a daily basis 🙂

      xxx

  2. Liz Terry January 18, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Good God! Thanks for highlighting this. My sister suffered from anorexia and bulimia for many years, and still describes herself as “in recovery”. Many of the so-called “tips” in this magazine article are strategies she would use. I myself will be writing to the magazine to express my horror.

    • NaturalWoman January 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      Thanks very much for your comment Liz. I had the same feeling whilst reading the article: it seemed to be promoting strategies used by people suffering from anorexia. The article in the magazine was 8 pages long, and the few quotes I’ve used above can’t do justice to the horror of the full version.

  3. Liz Terry January 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Reblogged this on Liz Terry and commented:
    I am totally horrified by the fasting “tips” highlighted here. I will be writing to Style Magazine, and I hope as many people as possible who read this with do likewise.

  4. Richie Dunk (@Richie_Dunk) January 23, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    No reply yet? I am most disappointed…

    • NaturalWoman January 23, 2013 at 9:00 am #

      No reply. No replies to any of my letters. Outrageous.

  5. Kate January 30, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I love this and therefore I love YOU! What a breath of fresh air – THANK YOU!

    • NaturalWoman January 30, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      Thanks so much to you Kate for your kind comment!

      • Kate January 30, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

        I’ve added a link to your page on my blog – hope that’s ok!

      • NaturalWoman January 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

        Of course

  6. supafeckinmingster February 3, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    “I often turn to publications such as your own in order to learn how to be a proper woman”………….

    I hope the above statement is tongue in cheek, however if that is so, it kind of invalidates the point of the argument. Anyone who turns to any publication in order to learn how to be a proper anything is lacking something significant in their lives.

    ” It is with a recent highly confusing experience in mind”…………….

    Whilst I’d prefer that my two daughters steered clear of glossy magazines, be it freebies with a Sunday paper, or Vogue or the like, luckily for them if they do peek into one and end up confused by some contradictory “message”, they have me, their father to guide them. If I’m of no assistance, they have their mother. And I put it to you that “daughters” that don’t have those two family bulwarks as back-up will be at a disadvantage, regardless of whether it’s a magazine that confused them or whether it’s a boyfriend that’s used them etc etc.

    “p. 37: advert for a car whose seats mimic the curves of an attractive woman”…………..

    What a daft statement. Your next article should be aimed at car designers and engineers for sexually exploiting vulnerable girls by mimicking their curves in the design of automobiles. How dare Ford make their Fiesta C-Max look like a tit on wheels. Next, we could go for those perverts in industrial manufacture and design, as I once worked in a factory, and there was this conveyor belt that really turned me on………..If you associate car parts with parts of the female anatomy, then I suggest you are an auto-eroticist, and that’s no fault of any magazine. Embrace who you are….

    http://deadspin.com/5620033/your-moment-of-auto+erotica-oh-how-he-tempted-her

    • NaturalWoman February 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

      Thank you for reading the letter and taking the time to comment. By way of response to your three points:

      1) Yes, this comment, along with the entire blog, is tongue-in-cheek. I don’t suppose many people consciously turn to magazines to learn how to be “a proper woman”, but I do believe that mainstream culture, to which magazines like Style contribute, constructs a hegemonic and narrow view of what a “proper” woman should look and behave like. And I believe this (sub)consciously and negatively affects many girls and women to varying degrees, myself included.

      2) This comment too is tongue-in-cheek. That is to say, I did not really find the magazine’s contradictory message confusing, merely hypocritical. The point of this letter to Style’s editor was to highlight this hypocrisy.

      I do not dispute that supportive parents are vital in helping adolescents to navigate a confusing world, but I do not see why this is relevant to my letter.

      3) There is a difference between subjectively thinking that an object looks like something that it isn’t, and an object being intentionally made to look like something that it isn’t for marketing purposes. The car seat in the advertisement mentioned in my letter fell into the latter category. We are (sadly) used to seeing parts or all of women’s sexualised bodies being used to market cars, but intentionally sexualizing a car chair for the same purpose takes sexual objectification to whole new level.

      If I subjectively perceived a car exhaust pipe to look like a vagina and complained about it on feminist grounds, I would, as you say be “daft”. However, this is not what I have done. I object to your accusation that I am an “auto-eroticist.”

      • supafeckinmingster February 3, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

        So you would be “daft” if you “subjectively perceived a car exhaust pipe to look like a vagina and complained about it on feminist grounds”, yet …….

        “The car seat in the advertisement mentioned in my letter fell into the latter category( an object being intentionally made to look like something that it isn’t for marketing purposes). intentionally sexualizing a car chair for the same purpose takes sexual objectification to whole new level.”

        What’s good for the exhaust pipe is good for the seat in my book.

  7. Joe Public February 3, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    You forgot to complain about all those images of the rear of cars. The ones displaying an inviting-looking orifice (the exhaust pipe) that could be imagined as a vagina by any car-loving pervert.

    • supafeckinmingster February 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      Them there exhaust pipes can be mighty pirrrrty alright!

  8. Dominique Hayes July 23, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    Oh, THIS. *leaves love all over your post* Please don’t stop writing.

  9. Roberta December 26, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    I have nothing to add. You nailed it! We must show these truths to our daughters. I really pity women (models or whatever) that lower themselves on these magazines.

    • NaturalWoman December 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      Thank you. I expect the models make lots of money. It’s the effect (on how all women are treated) of the way women are constantly portrayed as sexual objects that most concerns me.

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