A Hidden Stash Last week I had the great opportunity to visit my summer house in the Northern parts of Finland. It’s a small, isolated island in the middle of the Finnish archipelago, without electricity or things like TV or computers. So, how to entertain myself for a week without the Internet, friends or TV? The answer for me is spelled: books! Books and magazines. In many ways it feels like time has stood still since the small house in this island was built almost 50 years ago. And in a way it has. There’s tons of old news papers and comic magazines laying around in that cabin. If you dig deep enough you find things that are were printed before my grandma was born. It’s amazing!
I found this huge collection of girly magazines me and my sisters have collected for years. It goes like this: every year we buy some glossy magazines, bring them to this summer house, read them and forget them in the drawers. It was a very interesting experience to find these stashes of women’s magazines and compare them to what is published today. Many of the papers where from 2005 (with Paris Hilton & Jessica Simpson on almost ALL the covers lol), 2006 and 2008. Mostly it was issues of Swedish magazines like “Solo” or Swedish editions on more international mags like “Cosmopolitan”. So here I was, with a small library of Swedish women’s magazines, and so much time on my hands. I started to analyze what kind of articles are there really in these mags, and is there some kind of pattern? What’s the difference between the topics discussed in 2005 and today in 2012?
Sweden’s Eco System Of “Young-Female” Targeted Magazines: There seems to be different kinds of fem mags (magazines specifically aimed for girls or women) out there. Depending on how old you are, the content or the main focus for the issues varies a bit. Frankly, what differs them is how much the topic of “sex” is discussed. Here’s a quick and dirty guide into the magazines available for young females in Sweden:
Julia is for girls aged 8-14. Is about pop music, bakery, love and friends.
In Sweden we have the magazine “Julia“, that talks about fashion, school, bakery, gossip (like about Twillight) and free time activities. On their home page it says this mag is for girls 9-14.
Frida is for for teen girls aged 12-15. It’s about relationships, your first kiss, celebrities and gossip.
After this there’s “Frida“. Frida writes about falling in love, cute celebrity boys, basic sex questions, make-up, fashion and “real life documents”. I haven’t found any age recomendation on Frida’s home page, but I think it’s for girls 12-15.
“Vecko Revyn” is about sex, fashion, real life documents, diets and celebrities.
When you are too old for Julia or Frida you move on to “Vecko Revyn“. I know that’s a Swedish name, but I’m sure most countries have their own version of the magazines I’m listing here. I can’t find any age recommendations on their home page, but I think this is aimed for women 15-18. In reality I know many girls aged 14 reads it.
Solo is for women 18-35. It’s something of a naughty sister to “Vecko Revyn”!
Then we have “Solo“. This mag is much like “Vecko Revyn”, but it has far more sex in it. I would say that’s the only thing that sets them apart. And sometimes they try plastic surgery and write about it.
The Swedish version of Cosmopolitan. According to it’s web page it’s for “young women”. My guess would be 15-25 year olds.
“Cosmopolitan” is one of the biggest mags for “young females” in the world. It exists in almost every country in one form or another. It’s about beauty, fashion, sex and love. I think most of it’s target audience is somewhere between 15-25. It’s not as gossip focused as the other mags in Sweden, and one thing that sets it apart completely from the fem mag pack, is that it has very few photos of “real girls” and the fact that it’s aimed completely against a heterosexual audience. All the other papers above often talk about what’s its like to be gay, they even give bedroom tips for gay couple, and they feature a lot of content about real girls, not only celebrities. What Cosmo offers is a lot more like a squeakily clean dream world, where you are looking for Mr.Right or embracing your singledom (when you are not busy buying expensive designer shoes).
Rihanna when she is not on the front cover of a gossip magazine (she is not drunk, topless or making out with a mysterious boy/girl).
This is not a complete guide, and I’m sure some of the readers or writers at these mags would beg to differ with some of the things I listed above, but I write this post based on my own experience and what I have witnessed my friends and sisters read. I don’t intend to offend any particular mag, just tell you my story. In addition to this list there’s plenty of mags dedicated almost entirely to beauty or gossip (and they always, for some reason seem to have one of the following on their front page: Tom/Katie, Brad/Angelina, David/Victoria or a wasted Rihanna).
The Pattern Of Topics So, back to that stash of Solo, Cosmo and other mags I found on my summer house last week. I realized not much has happened in the world of these mags since I started reading them, when I was just any other teen. I think I’ve made out some kind of pattern. It seems that no matter if it’s about “Cosmo” or “Frida”, there’s some trends re-appearing each year. I narrowed it down to:
- Springtime: Start training for beach, how to lose weigh, travel to big cities, what’s this spring’s fashion hotties.
- Summer: Find the perfect bikini, figure friendly clothing, the beach bodies of celebs, how to use self tan, summer love, how to take care of your skin/hair during summer, surf camps and fall’s fashion.
- Fall: Tons of fashion reports, work related boosts, how to get promoted.
- Winter: How to take care of winter gloomy skin, travel to warm places, schools you need to apply for in the spring.
It’s like the seasons of the year. Every year. If you cut out all the gossip, the sex tips and the “real life documents”, many of the mags out there follows a certain pattern. My conclusion when comparing mags from 2005 with 2012? Basically nothing had changed, except the fashion and the names of the celebrities. These glossy magazines I found in the drawers of my time-frozen summer house, seemed to have been frozen in time themselves.
Madonna in two versions: regular and photoshopped. 99,9% of the celeb photos are photoshopped in one way or another.
So What Does These Mags Really Teach Us?
About the same time as when I started thinking I don’t want to waste more time on stuff like cute kittens on the Internet, or videos of stupid people getting hurt, I started to think about what do young women learn from reading magazines like this? If you start at the age of 9 and then slowly clime the ladder of magazines until you are 20 something? What do they teach the girls (including myself)? I think it’s:
- Look pretty, cute or sexy. Looks matter a lot. (How to loose weight/Tons of photoshopped young women).
- Hunt down Mr.Right. He is out there somewhere (“We got the best tips to find him!”).
- Consume insane amounts of products! (Best-In-Tests of mascaras, lip-glosses etc).
- There’s weird people out there (“Real Life Stories” about sickness, crime or passion).
Another problem (because I think there’s a problem in all of this), is that these mags teach young women few valuable real life skills. They teach us we are imperfect, that we need to consume tons of products we don’t really need, and they teach us very few things we can use to our advantage when we grow up and start working. Knowing what mascara creates the best false lash effect will not help me getting that job, or teaching me how to change a tire on a car.
It’s in our genes as social animals to be interested in gossip. Some more than others (or why do you think Facebook is this big today?).
If I look at the other mags out there that have a male target audience, the picture is a bit different. Some of them are complete rubbish, yes, but a lot of them teaches you how to repair your own car, how to improve your computer or how to make awesome food.
Why Do We Read Them?
I think the answer is quite simple: to escape from our own world. To get life down to handy small lists like what eyeliners to buy, what to wear to fit in, to laugh at celebrities without make-up. Humans are made this way, every now and then we need to get away from our own lifes. We need to be entertained, to be told stories and to let the brain relax. We can’t always read deep, complex novels about life & death.
My Own Secret List
To end this long blog post I made my own little list of things (secrets) I want to share with the young women out there, who maybe just started reading these kinds of mags:
- All photos are manipulated. Celebrities does not look like that in real life. They got wrinkles, scars and bad hair days. The photos you see are the result of good lightning, Photoshop, and a stab of 10 people who are hired to make this celeb look it’s best (personal trainers, chiefs etc).
- The inside matters. Yes it does. Many of the magazines talk about the handsome, sexy, beautiful Mr.Right. In real life it’s most often that ordinary guy/gal “with the friendly eyes” who will be your guy/girl. Sometimes you will meet someone very ugly, but for some reason all you want to do is to jump in bed with them or spend the rest of your life together. The body is just a container for the brain.
- Guys don’t get thought there’s a Miss Right. All this talk about a Mr.Right. I asked a bunch of my male friends if they ever get thought to hunt for a “Miss.Right”? They all answered “No”. Let me tell you a story: a guy friend of mine was about to do it for the first time with a girly friend of mine. He believed it would be awesome, raw, sexy and just like in the adult movies. She expected him to be her gentle, loving, prince in bed (according to the magazines that’s how it should be). Do I need to say they both got very confused and hurt when these two separate worlds clashed? It took them more than one year before they dared to talk to each other again.
I’m not calling people who buy “Cosmo” or “Seventeen” bad people. I just wanted to share my toughs on something that’s very important to many young girls and women out there. Sorry for the long post, here’s a potato!