Wednesday, 26 August 2009

More than a pretty face?

I have a bone to pick with Marie Claire.

About ten years ago I bought an issue of UK Marie Claire, which had a multi-page survey about women's body images. In this (and also that) day and age, I thought that they were tackling important issues: that women had the right to feel better about themselves and their bodies, that they would not use only stick-thin models etc. The survey, however, was targeted at women who did feel bad about their own bodies. The options they had for discussing one's weight ranged from something like "I wish I was thinner" to "I guess I am okay". The entire survey was tilted in a way that said "yeah yeah, I like being me - but boy do I wish I was thin!". At the time I was struggling to put on weight, and the survey gave me no option to say so. I wrote a polite letter while submitting my questionnaire, telling them that I wished that they had given more thought and range to their Q&As.

A couple of weeks later, a cheerful lady called me and wanted to ask me a few questions, because they were really interested in someone (ie. me) who wanted to gain weight, not lose it. Great, I thought. "So, you are recovering from an eating disorder or something?" she asked me. "Sheesh, no, where did you get that idea?", I replied, and it all went downhill from there. She refused to understand that I was not sick, or that I was only asking for a more balanced view when it came to way women were seeing their bodies. "Yes, it is possible that someone else than just me feels that they are too skinny instead of too fat, and you know, there are women out there who are happy exactly the way they are", I tried to persuade her, but it was of no use. I boycotted Marie Claire for about 10 years after that, because I knew for a fact that there were plenty of perfectly normal skinny girls out there who a) were just as womanly as anyone else, and b) who should have the right to have body issues too. Or who knows, perhaps I really was the only one who thought that.

So why am I raving about this incident now? Well, because I just got a free subscription of the US Marie Claire. I quite like their fashion pages, but oh deary me, I must stay away from the articles! The September issue features a story of two women who found out at the early stages of their pregnancies that their babies would not live for more than a couple of days at most. As you might guess, one chose to carry the child regardless, and the other chose to have an abortion (or as she puts it: to terminate the pregnancy, because she does not use the word abortion). The way Marie Claire portrays these women gives me the creeps. Guess which one decided to give birth to the baby?

Yup, you guessed it, the lady on the left, portrayed sitting in the sunlight with her two children and roses and balloons, visiting the dead baby's grave. The one who aborted sits in a dim room with her two dogs, looking away from the camera despite the fact that she, too, has children now, but hey, that doesn't count because in her words, she "will never be forgiven for making the choice" she made. Perhaps I am awfully cynical, but I do not believe for a second that Marie Claire wanted to create a balanced story here. And don't even get me started about the article featuring The New Trophy Wife.

They actually have the nerve to label women like actress Ziyi Zhang, violinist Jennifer Chun and strategist for MySpace China Wendi Deng as examples of a phenomenon where "sleeping with a guy old enough to be your grandfather is just creepy" and asking if these women are "glorified opportunists" looking for "stand-ins for emotionally repressed Asian dads". Talking about non-PC, but hey, I guess it is okay because the article was written by an Asian woman who has had her share of white men with a fetish.

For a magazine that advertises itself as "More than a pretty face", that face is looking really really ugly to me right about now.


Eyeliah SS said...

That is awful. So much media is completely biased these days, what happened to being neutral and sticking to the facts?

tigerteacher said...

I couldn't agree more! Marie-Claire seems to me to have a definite conservative agenda. I never pick it up, even when the fashion spreads are interesting.

Haidi said...

Great post!

Peps said...

I've never really had the opportunity to read Marie Claire (other than one time, and I got really upset with an article; a journalist put on the 10 extra lbs that she claimed most women want to loose and her conclusion was that all women should lose weight), but you've definitely convinced me not to read it...but out of curiosity, do you know of any magazine that isn't biased in one way or another?

The Waves said...

Peps: thank you for your comment, you raised a good point; I guess neutral reporting doesn't exist. A lot of women's magazines tend to have subtle messages that are not as obvious as the ones Marie Claire writes about. Take US Vogue for example, and their take on cosmetic surgery and botox... they are nothing but for it. I guess I wouldn't mind so much if the magazines were even more open with the stand they are taking. I love The Economist exactly because they don't mess around; their articles very clearly indicate what their take is, so at least you know what you are getting even if you don't always agree. The problem with magazines like Marie Claire is that they pretend to do neutral reporting, they pretend to talk about universal values, and clearly don't. I think I would appreciate their articles on some level if they wrote more clearly, more subjectively.

jesse.anne.o said...

Oh boy, I wish I'd been reading you blog back in August because I ended up with that same issue and it filled me with rage.