It’s almost time to say goodbye to the latest Women’s History Month—that annual celebration of all things ladies and their contributions to history, science, arts, culture, etc.
You’ve come a long way, baby.
Or not—at least not judging by the current crop of women’s magazines.
I’ll admit that I’m something of a magazine junkie. But if there’s anything that bugs me more than smelly perfume inserts, it’s the lies that women’s magazine tell. Or, to be more specific, the falsehoods women’s magazine cover headlines tell.
It’s something of an art form, really.
Indeed, it takes a lot of creativity to tease to an inside story using little more than five words that have almost nothing to do with the article in question.
The point, of course, is to sell the magazine on a newsstand—to entice a shopper to pick this particular glossy compendium of ads, self-help articles and overpriced fashion spreads—to convince us that when it comes to life, love and health, all we ever really need to know can be gleaned from the cover of a magazine.
It’s a promise that, at best, is amusing and enticing and, at worst, idiotic, insulting and dangerous.
Take, for example, a recent Health magazine headline that lures readers with advice on how to “Stop cancer with this simple move.”
Amazing—what move can possibly help prevent breast, ovarian or any other type of cancer?
No the “move” in question is a little bit more, well, complex.
The best defense against preventing cancer, it seems, is getting pregnant:
“If you had a crystal ball that could reveal your future health, would you peek inside? … How your body behaved during those nine months can provide valuable information about the illnesses you might face years—even decades—down the line.”
So get knocked up and then get tested for cancer?
What part of getting pregnant, carrying a fetus for nine months, going through labor and raising a child for 18 years is simple?
(And if you can’t or don’t want to have kids? So sad, too bad.)
Health’s cover tease is a horrible example of magazine bait-and-switch, but it’s hardly the lone offender.
There’s Women’s Health, for example, which promises readers tips on how to “sculpt gorgeous muscle” and achieve “lean, sexy legs”—not with squats, leg lifts or running, but via makeup and $500-a-pop infrared treatments.
Flabby thighs? Nothing a little heavy-duty concealer and plastic surgery can’t fix.
Likewise, this month’s Self magazine, for example, promises to show you how to get healthy, “glowing skin”—with Botox, laser resurfacing and the ominous-sounding “sublative rejuvenation” (yours for just $350-$1,500 a session!)
Thankfully, most magazine cover copy isn’t always so dangerously oversimplified—but it is often confusing and misleading.
That same issue of Self, for example, promises readers tips on how to “burn 120 calories without even trying.”
But, alas, searching high and low through the cover tease’s corresponding article only yields tidbits on calorie-control options and how to properly execute a push-up.
Push-ups are great, but they don’t exactly fall into the “not even trying” category.
Perhaps we shouldn’t expect women’s magazines to serve as a bastion of feminism—but we shouldn’t be forced to sift through and decode all of their secrets and lies, either.