• Fri, May 4 2012

Why Journalists Keep Writing The Same Dumb Articles For Women

dumb articles for women

There’s an article in The Atlantic right now bemoaning the fact that journalists keep writing the same dumb articles for women. The author lists some of them including:

How to be great i.e. keep your man happy in bed. Cosmo is probably the most obvious big-name perpetrator here, but others exist as well. Beyond the fact that there are so many versions of this article that we could live ’till eternity and never finish reading them all (even though, oddly, they all say much the same thing), shouldn’t we have moved on from expectations of women “serving” men and men as the passive recipients of such service?

How to look 10 pounds thinner instantly… Come on. This is just marketing. Must we fulfill the trope that all women want to look 10 pounds thinner, without really doing much to actually make that happen, in order to maybe sell some pants and shirts and dresses and shoes?

How to change yourself to date the person you think you want to date… Can we stop insisting on manipulations like these to attract someone? It’s confusing for men and also women. Be yourself. Be yourself. Be yourself.

How to “make him” do something. Whether it’s marry you, pick up his socks, or just be a completely different person, the definitive fact is you’re not going to change anyone, not substantially and perhaps not even minimally, nor do you particularly want another person to change you. This is an exercise in futility, and not worth the paper it’s printed on, even if it’s nonpaper on the Internet.

 

I suppose I should be slapping the author on the back and saying “Yes! Foolishness!” because we do make fun of articles like this all the time. We are so smart! We have figured out that the ideas detailed in them are not largely successful! Also–we’re a weird little ladysite for weirdos. We mostly sit around making fun of everything. Each other. Clothing worn by strangers. Potatoes on our desks. Whatever.

Still, here’s the thing–I read the articles the author is describing. I do not read them ironically, because it is very hard to be ironic when you’re alone, weeping. I read them seriously.

Terrible confession: I have been in relationships where I’ve thought “Yes, I will make lemon chicken! Then this man will marry me! Glamour says so!” Spoiler: This does not work, or, at least, did not work for me. But it feels good for a second, following these magazines’ advice. Following their advice feels good because it gives you the illusion of control over a universe that cannot be controlled.

And the universe cannot be controlled. These articles are the equivalent of standing on a runaway train and having someone (some odd horse rider alongside, who happens to be clutching an Olivetti typewriter, I think) shout “I’ve heard it will slow down if you jump up and down!” Dude. You’d jump up and down.

Perhaps one of the reason we’re so indignant about articles about “how to make a man do something” existing in the world is because we do not want to admit how out of control of everything we are, or how hopeful we are that we can change that unchangeable fact. We’re brought up on a certain fairy tale culture that dictates that good things will happen to good people (and however outsiders regard them, everyone still sees themselves as the hero of their own story) and that if good things do not happen, well, then you will cast a fucking magic spell. You will bake a chicken with lemon and someone will love you.That’s how it works.

It doesn’t work that way, of course, but I can’t help but feel that false hope is still better than no hope at all, because it is the difference between doing something and doing nothing.

We were made to bargain. Not just when we’re undergoing the stages of grief, but all the time. If there is something we want that we can’t get, we still believe in magic spells. We need to believe that if we are clever, and hardworking and resourceful, we can take control of our world and bend it to our own desires. Anything else would be too heartbreaking. And these articles let us believe that for about ten minutes.

Basically, I’m saying that Cosmopolitan magazine exists because it appeals to the most primal instinct in all of us.

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  • Ashley Cardiff

    This got dark.

    • Jennifer Wright

      You’ve been talking about death nonstop all week. This is your fault, whoreface.

  • Alle C

    Young Schopenhauer: TOTALLY HOT.

    • Jennifer Wright

      TOTES.

  • Ellen W.

    I hate the weird belief that not only do good things happen to good people, bad things DON’T happen to people who are nice* which is more about appearing good than being an active agent of goodness and justice and such in the world.

    And wedding chicken is a really good recipie, it just isn’t some kind of poultry-based love potion.

    *(whichever commenter mentioned the Sondheim “you’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice” is amazing and I love them)

    • Eagle Eye

      I concur on the chicken, a good lemon chicken recipe will always save you when you suddenly have people over.

      Also, I sometimes add garlic cloves.

      Oh and by suddenly have people over I mean the engagement has been on the books for weeks but you figured that if you just ignored it it would just go away…

    • Jennifer Wright

      “I’m not good, I’m not nice, I’m just right.” Sondheim FTW.

      But isn’t someone who is nice kind of aligned with the side of good? Niceness is mostly abou doing helpful things for other people.

    • Ellen W.

      Nice people also care about people’s feelings and “right” people often don’t which makes niceness important. It just isn’t the same as good and sometimes people (society) gets them mixed up.

      I just really hate the sort of idea of conformity for protection and therefore injuries sustained while being out-of-norm were “asked for.” Not that I’m taking a teeny, tiny part of this post and making it all about my own insecurities and problems with the world.

      I use garlic in everything it could go in so I need the lemon chicken reminder that I don’t actually have to put it in everything every day. Drat, now I’m hungry.

  • MM

    Holy shit! Young Schopenhauer WAS hot. I’d still rather do Kierkegaard though

    • Emily

      really? i was just about to comment that kierkegaard is the #1 dude i would avoid.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Montaigne. I know he’s bald, but he has that twinkle in his eyes. Also, he loves food and mistresses.

    • MM

      Emily: I feel that all of Kierkegaard’s flaws are made up for by that pencil drawing of him that shows up everywhere (http://www.adogabouttown.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/kierkegaard.jpg)

      Admittedly, reading ‘The Sickness Unto Death’ was a bit of a painful experience for me, but love is supposed to hurt.

  • Tania

    While I love most of the Gloss writers and don’t want to pick favourites, your articles lately are making that difficult.

    • Tania

      I wrote that as if I was worried my comment would ignite a frenzy of competition in the staff. “People are choosing favourites now? I shall sabotage them by inserting typos into their articles. Everyone hates typos on the Internet.”

    • Jennifer Wright

      Shh! Now that I know favorites are being chosen I’m ripping all the keys off Amanda’s keyboard.

  • LoveyDovey

    “I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?’ So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

    -Marcus Cole, Babylon 5

    I felt so much better when I found this quote.

    • Somnilee

      I was going to link this article on my facebook because I thought it had a good message, but I like your quote more and needed it this afternoon :)

  • Lauren

    “I think, as a general rule, at TheGloss, we assume you’re an unhinged neurotic who has long ago sacrificed any semblance of normalcy in dealing with anything.”

    I have been trying to describe myself to gentlemen callers for years without any luck. This is perfection. I’m going to put it on business cards and just pass them out so I don’t actually need to communicate until absolutely necessary.

  • Jamie Peck

    I dunno, I kind of disagree with some of this. The problem I have with these articles is not that they try to give people some false sense that everything’s going to be okay, but that they perpetuate the notion that women can only be happy if they lose weight and find a man. 1.) Those are not the only things women care about, and 2.) Stop trying to make me feel like my life is inadequate, women’s magazines. I am sexy already in my current slightly chubby form, and I don’t need a man to be happy. (I mean, it certainly helps but it’s not required.)

  • G

    I am definitely using “Zany mishap” in a sentence this week.

  • Jay

    Maybe if I read women’s magazines (I don’t, because I’m not a woman) and had examples of these articles I’d consider them absurd. But just from the descriptions above, they all sound quite reasonable to me.

    1. Saying that a woman can do X, Y, and Z to improve her marriage or relationship doesn’t necessarily imply that the man has no responsibility. If you’re giving advice to a man, you tell him what a man can do to improve the relationship. If you’re giving advice to a woman, tell her what a woman can do. There’s no point telling someone with a problem, “If only SOMEONE ELSE did thus-and-so, your problem would be solved.” How does that help? Tell me what *I* can do. Telling me what someone else can do only encourages me to sit around waiting for them to do it and complaining when they don’t.

    2. If the dieting advice doesn’t actually work, then yes it’s stupid and a waste of time. But if it does work, then that seems like a positive good to me. There are lots of Americans who are overweight and would like to find a way to lose the pounds. Sure, if someone thinks that losing ten pounds will instantly solve all their problems, they have unrealistic fantasies. But demanding that any advice given must be guaranteed to instantly solve every problem a person has is the most absurd fantasy I can think of.

    3. I think “just be yourself” is the worst advice I’ve ever heard. What if you’re a jerk? Don’t be yourself: be someone better. What’s wrong with adapting to the wants and needs of another person in order to improve both your lives?

    4. So with #1 and #3 the writer says that a woman shouldn’t change her behavior to please a man. With #4 he says that it’s absurd to expect a man to change his behavior to please a woman. So if your marriage is unhappy, you’re just doomed. There’s nothing that can be done about it, and the only choices are divorce or murder.

  • ashley

    thanks for the article. bye. ashley

  • akash

    i like reading women related articles.

  • akash

    as a man i think women need to be pampered and helped by all. women need love and care. we should assist women whom we love. bye.