Thursday, 1 March 2007

Guest Slapper of the Month XIV

She recently won the Silver Award in the Best Perfume Blog category at the 7th Annual Basenotes Awards. Her perfume reviews are legendary. Her taste is immaculate. Her writing is lush and evocative. She is Victoria of Bois de Jasmin and this is her Slap.


Seduce Yourself!

When Helen Gurley Brown became chief editor of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1965 and changed its focus towards enpowering women to express their sexuality, the move was hardly uncontroversial. Yet, I cannot help thinking when I flip through Cosmo that there is nothing empowering in its features. “How to Seduce Him…” “How to Give Him the Greatest Pleasure He Has Ever Known…” “5 Things Men Love…” In fact, Cosmopolitan is only one of many magazines that suffer from the overwhelming emphasis on “how to please your man.” In one article we are given guidelines on how to understand what he wants before he utters the words and in another we are taught how to double guess him. We are encouraged to wear vanilla rich fragrances because they remind him of his mother and grapefruit perfumes because some unsubstantiated study suggests this will help men to perceive us as younger. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with thinking of others and offering a pleasant surprise to our loved ones, but I take issue with women’s magazines when they forget about the woman herself. What about discovering one’s own interests? What about pleasing oneself for a change?

There is a lot talk of feminism, egalitarian values and how far we have gone since the 50s, but at the same time, the rhetoric of guilt and sacrifice surrounding the issues of marriage, motherhood and relationships is strikingly palpable. When we assess the success and failure of the feminist movement in terms other than income, the story becomes even more complicated. As Madeleine Bunting notes in her article Let's talk about sex in The Guardian, “Female rates of depression continue to be twice those of men; rates of adolescent eating disorders and self-harm are on the rise. Women report high levels of stress in managing complicated double shifts - a day in the office sandwiched between the chores of running a home. Women account for a disproportionate number in the sharp increase in those claiming incapacity benefit.”

Although women’s magazines should not be blamed for all of the problems in our society, they seem to perpetuate the self-denial of one’s own desires. Ultimately, the need to assert our point of view seems to be lost, which goes beyond beauty and perfume and influences other facets of our lives and careers. We are bombarded with messages designed to influence what we want to such an extent that after a while it is impossible to separate our own wishes from those of others.

While I slap publications like Cosmo for their failure to truly empower their target audience, I acknowledge that they can provide amusing distraction. Perhaps, in the end, discovering your own pleasures is not a job that any columnist or pundit of the moment can ever do for you.

14 comments:

  1. Wow! Wow! the post is simply great for the way you have actually delved into the issue of the famous magazine Cosmo in courting the wrong kinda people and receiving the wrong kinda attitude, with the essential purpose of it being lost. Good work! Do drop by my blog too for surely you'd love your visit there.

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  2. I absolutely agree. I stopped reading Cosmopolitan years ago just because of the abundance of the nonsensical, please-him, self-help articles, tests and columns. This stuff belongs on Dr. Phil and, quite often, on Jerry Springer, not in Cosmo. I'd rather read the fluffy snob-fest that is Town & Country than Cosmo these days. Sad.

    Loved the slap! :-)

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  3. Thank you Bela for presenting this slapper!

    Victoria, I totally agree with you. Young women and young girls think only of how to please men and boys these days. What happened???!!!? When I was a girl, and we didn't show everything and give everything so fast, men and boys chased us.

    Women are now free to say "yes" to sex, but not free to say "no."

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  4. Yes, and TLP's depiction is what happens in so many other species too, LOL. Ever watched a female bird sit critically on a branch while the male displays and dances and jumps and begs?

    But seriously, we shouldn't do things to please anyone, not just men, or for any other reason than to attempt to be good, kind, reliable, thoughtful human beings with integrity. Why isn't there a magazine teaching us that - how to resist all the dross in the world and strive for the best we can achieve, be and do? *That* I would read.

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  5. Gerry, thank you! I will be sure to stop by your blog.

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  6. M, it seems as if Cosmo and other publications are really going more into the Jerry Springer category than anything else. I roll my eyes reading their "real life" stories. The sad thing is that those columns seem to take up more and more space in the publications.

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  7. TLP, you put it so well! I also have no idea what happened. While I was not the one to sit around and wait for the prince charming, I always felt as if I were in control. It does not seem that a lot of what I am reading in Cosmo promoted this sense. It is all about playing games, tricking into something and such. In the end, the ability to say no with integrity is lost.

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  8. Lulu, ah, I agree, I would read that too!

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  9. If magazines weren't supremely influential, then advertising space within them would be worthless. Even if they only reinforce existing thinking, it's still a slap down that no one needs.

    I don't read magazines. I'm glad.

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  10. I never buy women's magazines these days: they're too expensive, too silly, and I can find everything I need or wish to know on the Net. I still believe that reading them is better than reading crappy romantic fiction novelettes: among the articles might lurk a nugget of info.

    For what seems a millisecond, women's magazines were OK, back in the '70s. I still have interesting cuttings from some of them. The current situation is a consequence of the general backlash against feminism. :-(

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  11. You make an interesting point I don't read magazines so I can't say I'd noticed this phenomenum....I stopped because they were all preaching the me, me, me philosophy and I don't like that either.
    Do men's magazines give tips on how to please women, I wonder?
    Angela

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  12. A, my guest has now left the building, LOL!, so she can't answer you herself. I call it 'the L'Oréal syndrome' (and the women afflicted by it 'the L'Oréal generation'): everyone thinks they're 'worth it'.

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  13. When I was in my early 20s I would read this crap. I even had a subscription for a couple of years! Then I saw that the stuff in it as not really fostering women's awareness. Yet years later I read a few issues. Guess what? I actually saw that some articles were reprints of earlier ones. No attempt was made to rewrite or even say it was a repeat. I had the old issues still around and found that they could not even come up with new stuff in just a few years.

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  14. This is what's called getting older and wiser, LOL!. Not bothering with rubbish any longer. I'm not surprised magazines recycle old articles. It's tough writing new stuff about old crap.

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