Self Magazine January 2013

To start my project on women’s magazines, I figured I’d tackle the magazine I was least looking forward to: the fitness magazine. Personally, I’m not into fitness. My idea of a workout is walking around the mall carrying bags loaded with clothing. Women’s health and fitness is a common theme in women’s magazines, however, so I picked up a copy of Self to study.

The cover of Self magazine boasts that you can get flatter abs and a tighter butt from the exercise moves contained within. The woman on the magazine, Kaley Cuoco, is shown in a midriff-bearing top and shorts, and she’s quoted about the “workout that changed my body.” Thirty-two foods that fight fat, secrets to clear skin, the miracle ingredient to get you healthy, pretty, thinner–the cover is everything I expected of a women’s health/fitness magazine. It’s all about making yourself thinner and more attractive.

Before I looked into the content, I had a look at the advertisements. Fitness clothing, diet food, hair and skin products. Again, it’s what I expected. One promotion I found interesting, though, is Self‘s ad for its Women Doing Good Awards. Self readers nominate women doing work to help others, and three winners receive donations to their charities, along with recognition for their work. The magazine has done three of these events so far, and I can only applaud their efforts.

One last thing before I get into the content of the magazine. There are a lot of women doing work on Self. The majority of editors and directors on the magazine are women. I was a little surprised to see this, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Finally, let’s get to content.

Kaley Cuoco is featured on the cover of the magazine, and inside, she gives a series of quotes on her eating habits, Spanx, and self-acceptance. One of the quotes I find most interesting is in reference to her female co-stars on the show The Big Bang Theory. She states that because of her experience with them, “I’m not so quick to judge other women.” I think this speaks a bit to internalized misogyny and some women’s preference for male friends over female friends. Unfortunately, Cuoco doesn’t elaborate on this experience, so I can only guess at what she means.

Much of the content of Self is blurbs about beauty, exercise, diet, sex, and style. It also has features on managing money and finding fulfillment at work, which I think is important. There are a few articles. The first is by Beth Jones, and it’s about how her life plans were derailed by falling in love. It’s not what I’d call compelling, but I imagine it’s something a lot of women can relate to.

There’s only one other article in the magazine, but it’s on a subject that I think is, sadly, relevant to many women’s lives. The article is about a young woman’s struggle against cyberstalking. The young woman, Alissa Blanton, was stalked and harassed in person and online by a man who eventually shot her dead. The article reports that cyberstalking is a phenomenon that mostly affects young women, who are usually harassed by men.

It’s not an article that will win awards, but it’s very important work. Women who are stalked and harassed online often feel alone and powerless, and this article reminds them that they are not alone and that they have the right to pursue action against those harassing them.

I didn’t expect much from Self, and there are things about it I do not like. The magazine definitely enforces the idea that being thin is the same as being healthy, and that it’s essential to be thin. I would much rather see a fitness magazine focus on healthy eating, not dieting, and exercising to be healthy, not to meet society’s beauty standards.

However, I must admit that I put down Self feeling that the magazine does something essential: it encourages self care. I don’t like the overall message of the magazine, but I do appreciate that it tries to get women to consider how they feel, physically and emotionally.

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