If there’s something my ‘I’m Loving’ category was made for, it’s new ‘blog’ magazine (would we say ‘blogazine’? Pushing it slightly, perhaps? Hmm), Vagendamag.blogspot.com.
A hilarious and pithy array of comments, features, rants, letters, satire and spoofs, it sends up the stupidest, most nonsensical, hypocritical elements of the women’s magazine industry and all its friends, with special emphasis on the surreptitious ways in which it sets back the cause of feminism by several decades every single month.
Don’t get me wrong, I myself want to work in magazines, and I don’t want to tar them all with the same brush, or say that absolutely everything held within their covers is complete rubbish. While I am a deeply committed follower of the gloriousness that is Psychologies Magazine, I will happily admit that an evening in with Glamour (which, despite its title, in this country delivers a less-shallow or aggravating read than competitor Marie Claire, which has gone seriously downhill into shameless fashion-adoration in recent years) can be a light, if intellectually unchallenging, way to unwind.
As has been said at length already by many others more skilled with a keyboard than me, being a feminist doesn’t mean rejecting all the trappings of womanhood, and never appreciating the relevance of stories on PMS, dating, which mascara will help you look less shattered of a morning, methods of contraception, whether to have kids now or later, and bemoaning the shit boys do while looking heart-meltingly hot in jeans*.
But a passing appreciation for all that jazz doesn’t mean that I don’t share the Vagenda writers’ deep disdain for the ridiculously patronising way certain publications talk to their readers: the shameless advertising that goes against all the ‘love yourself’ messages that the editorials ostensibly proclaim; the sycophantic celebrity interviews or the constant ‘diet’ advice. The often-demeaning and simplistic suggestions dished out as a response to ‘women’s problems’; the token ‘politics and investigative journalism’ features that get a grand total of one-to-two pages sandwiched between the never-ending fashion ‘must-haves’ ‒ and above all, the slightly unhinged obsession with beauty, makeup and clothes that cost more than the average person’s living wage, which for some ridiculous reason have been deemed as only looking worthwhile on a size 6, five foot eleven model (or, worse, some ‘curvy’ woman held up for all as having the new ‘perfect body’ ideal, each time as unattainable for millions of women than the last).
And don’t even get me started on the slow inexorable slide from initially-ironic usage of words such as ‘OMG!!!!’, to the full-blown daily shitstorm of utterly vacuous, ‘so totes amaze’ bollocks and other linguistic gems designed to reduce the female reader to little more than a well-dressed, simpering creature of consumption with nought but a passing interest in anything remotely meaningful or even mildly grammatical. It started the day Glamour put ‘OMG’ on its front cover, and it’s been on a downward spiral ever since.
Because, whatevs! Everyone knows that the route to happiness lies in having Manolos on your feet, a Mulberry on your arm, a cupcake in your hand, a highly-paid career that allows you to ‘invest’ in designer workwear to take you effortlessly from office floor to evening cocktail bar, and an equally successful boyfriend who, if you’re stoic and non-needy enough, will one day soon produce the ring, right? Er…
And let’s not even attempt to resuscitate the flat-lining old trope that always emerges at this point, which says that if I were richer, prettier or more coupled-up, my views on this would change. We all know that this isn’t true – feminists stopped throwing away their razors, equating fish with bicycles and burning their bras, ooh let’s see, forty years ago?
No, I’m certainly no supermodel, yes, I am single – which I won’t pretend doesn’t have its shit elements among the moments of clarity when I realise it’s infinitely better to be alone than poorly accompanied ‒ and I have actively turned down avenues into jobs that would pay me more than the pathetic amount I currently receive (and can reasonably hope to receive for a good few years) because I knew I’d prefer to earn less while trying to stay focused on what really makes me tick, rather than find myself two years later, slumped over a buzzing BlackBerry surrounded by high-value purchases I’ve been led to feel I need to keep up with my colleagues, contemplating my own suicide deep into the night.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve made a rod for my own back (wouldn’t it be easier, after all, to just give in to the mindless drivel?) but actually I’ve just decided, for many, many reasons too long and involved to go into here, that the meaning of life may actually be happiness and personal fulfilment, not shoes or handbags. I had thought the recession had meant I was in the majority with this decision; but as the conveyor belt of bullshit rolls rapidly on during the current parade of sycophancy that is the media coverage of London Fashion Week, to name but one example, it seems I’m sadly mistaken.
Which is where Vagenda comes in, writing down everything that I have ever wanted to say about magazines; deftly, regularly, and with feminist bite.
With frequent features such as ‘Retro Feminist Cartoon Of The Week’, ‘American Apparel Advert or Porn?’, pisstakes along the lines of a darkly satirical if not a little depressing ‘Day in the Life of an Unpaid Fashion Intern’, the obligatory Daily Mail bullshit-calling-o-meter, sarcastic imaginings of the witty emails that must *surely* pass between fashion magazine editors’ inboxes, analyses of Cosmopolitan’s most recent array of sex advice, and weekly roundups of the hidden gems contained within such illuminating tracts as the latest issue of Grazia (a favourite), Vagenda makes for fantastic, fast-moving, thought-provoking, tongue-in-cheek reading, pointing a much-needed finger at all the things still wrong and unhelpful about magazines, advertising, and women’s views on their own gender decades after we got degrees, the right to vote, legal abortions, the Equal Pay Act, and prescriptions for the Pill.
If their insight into the journalism industry, coupled with their choice of features, is anything to go by, I’d wager that the site’s contributors are all women fairly similar to me in age and/or ambition, interested in a career in magazines but baffled by the sheer scale of the bullshit that they still see passing for ‘women’s journalism’ and all the retrogressive mind-fuckery that that entails.
Frankly, the only thing that I can’t abide about Vagenda is the fact that I didn’t have the bloody wherewithal to set it up for myself.
As is doubtless apparent, I’m hooked on the blog, and its promising squares of cutting social commentary. But as someone whose ultimate career aim would be to change the apparently dead-on-its-feet women’s magazine industry from within, it also brings me no little amount of hope that if today’s Vagenda writers are tomorrow’s magazine editors, then hell, women’s magazines ‒ so often sadly packaged as little more than glossy, celebrity-endorsed fashion catalogues ‒ may actually have a future as the influential, witty, informative and intellectually stimulating publications that they so clearly have the potential to be.
Vagenda creators, if you’re reading (ha!) – I salute you and everything you’ve done so damn well in such a short space of time. And if you ever find yourselves short of a writer ‒ well, you know where I am.
(*Disclaimer: I am in no way condoning the objectification of the male sex any more than I would the far-more-prevalent and arguably more pernicious objectification of my own – but you can’t argue with a fit man in good jeans. Well, actually, er, you very much can and very-often should, but I feel THAT particular discussion may be best kept for a whole other blogpost…).