Today I had people over to my apartment for a thesis-research exploration session (Mind Meld). It was a bit of a first for me, having people in my apartment – I tend to be strangely nervous about how people will percieve the space I live in and usually it’s just me and my boyfriend. As the conversation progressed I glanced up from my note taking to see one of my friends flicking through a Vogue which had been sitting on my coffee table. At first I didn’t think much of it, but then was suddenly very aware of the pile of Vogue’s on my coffee table, the two in my bathroom, the years of back issues on the bookshelf in my hallway.
Being in a graduate program and so often discussing issues of gender, sexuality and the issues of modern media and male priveledge I have become more aware of the latent, institutionalized misogyny swirling around the world of consumer films, books, TV and indeed, magazines. I’ve definately looked at women’s magazines over the course of my life and really wondered about the kind of messages they send and the sort of the images they promote. I’ve deinately found Cosmopolitan to be less than savoury when it comes to messages directed at young women. However, I suppose I’ve always found something to be different about Vogue.
My mother read Vogue through most of my childhood, there would be copies in her office, next to her bed. She’d flip through even old issues to look for ideas for dresses to make or creative ideas. As a little girl, I remember sitting on the floor of guest bedrooms at relatives houses and hotels flipping through the pages of a glossy Vogue. The first thing I did when I graduated from undergrad was purchase a subscription. Even though there isn’t an outfit in the magazine I could fit in to, or anything much I could realistically buy apart from Dior mascara and Chanel lipstick. Despite this, the magazines glamorous, highly polished finish speaks to my desire for grandeur.
It might be silly of me to assume that there’s anything different about my favourite magazine compared to dozens of other magazines on the rack at CVS or Barnes and Noble, but to me, Vogue has always been different, it’s always been about fashion. When it’s not about fashion is about more valid and pertinent issues than magazines like Cosmo. While Vogue might be fairly candid about sexuality, it’s not going to tell any 20-something exactly how to conduct herself in the bedroom. While many fashion magazines pimp trends to women, Vogue decides those trends. Often the outfits ensconced in it’s pages are too much, too cumbersome, or simply haute to be wearable, sexy or even have marginal saleability. This is where trends are born.
There seems to be something different about the women in Vogue, they aren’t usually wet, and are invariably dressed. Very very dressed. The value in the magazine is heavily placed on clothing, accessories, beautiful expensive things. While I’m not saying it’s right to assume the alternative to blatant, sexualization for young women is Cartier and Botox, it does seem more pertinent.
It seems when it comes down to it in a fashion magazine, a little bit of sunscreen and a lot of book reviews go a long way.