Published on February 19, 2014 | by Hannah Lockley


Women’s magazines: A purveyor of oppression?

Hannah Lockley.

Hannah says she always taken the content of women’s magazines with a pinch of salt. [Aylin Elci]

I’ve always taken women’s magazines with a pinch of salt. Sometimes more than a pinch, and that’s being generous. I’d like to think anyone who’s ever read or skimmed through a glossy knows not to take a single advert seriously, but of course they do. I do, and it’s all nicely rounded up into one vicious cycle of self-hate disguised as feminine modesty.

Magazines have shaped us readers into their ‘perfect’ woman. Totally antithetical to what they shamelessly portray as the ideal in every issue.

However, women are the original captive market; the result of a deranged social construct which demands certain behaviours from a group of people deemed of little worth – to then prescribe a range of products to make us less so.

What then adds insult to injury is the way in which these supposedly life-altering-but-not-actually-for-the-better products are advertised. How exactly do those stereotypical images of women entice other women to spend so much money?

By sampling campaigns from designers such as Hedi Slimane and Steven Klein, we find composition after composition enforcing and reinforcing the classically unavoidable voyeuristic male gaze onto female figures, who are styled in traditional roles. Might as well take it all in girls, as we’re paying for the privilege of an industry, founded on the economic exploitation of women, every time we buy a copy. Seems fair, right?


Last year the Evening Standard treated us to some thought–provoking images of women bent over to form stands for accessories. Accessories are no longer used as a form of fashionable expression, according to the ES. These particular shoes and bags only look good on an unrecognizable part of a naked body, but whatever, don’t get touchy. It’s all about the bags, not the underlying issue of sexual objectification that’s slowly rotting away impressionable minds.

There may not be much point in me harping on about nudity in magazines. It’s everywhere; we get it, sex sells. But this spread in the paper’s supplement magazine was different. It wasn’t sexualised in a way that Tom Ford adverts are, with all it’s oiled up models straddling a bottle of perfume.

It showed a disturbing side of advertisements, a way in which the bodies are faceless – dehumanised. Bodies used as props, resembling pieces of fleshy furniture.


Of course, this isn’t the first time that women’s bodies have been used this way in magazines; I haven’t been living under a rock.

I get that these types of adverts might seem ‘edgy’, but why the hell are magazines and brands constantly targeting women in this way? Perhaps because they know that women will buy into their own objectification.

When I see a Dolce & Gabbana advert of four men aggressively towering over a woman, I don’t see a sexy pair of heels. I see a nation accepting the subordination and exploitation of women, giving feminism the biggest middle finger and saying ‘yes please’ to violence.

If you want to see a compilation of everything that is wrong with advertising in women’s magazines, Buzzfeed have naturally encapsulated some of the finest cases of the fashion and beauty industries at their most oppressive.



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