Vogue Magazine January 2013

I don’t read fitness or health magazines, but I have, for the past few years, been reading fashion magazines. I fell in love with fashion by accident, when I discovered Max Studio on a trip to DC. The fashion industry is far from feminist–indeed, the industry is often downright misogynistic–but I enjoy fine clothing, even if I can’t afford it. I like to be stylish, and I love to shop for clothing and shoes. Reviewing Vogue is, therefore, not much of a chore for me.

I’ll start with the cover. Vogue promises to deliver cold-weather workouts, a discussion of President Obama’s second term, breaking news on beauty products, and a new attitude and look for 2013. One of my favorite celebrities, Scarlett Johansson, is also mentioned on the cover. The picture is of Gwen Stefani, who is perched on a piano.

The advertisements in the magazine are for expensive fashion designers, fine jewelry, make-up, and hair care products. It’s nothing I didn’t expect. Like Self, many of the editors and directors are women, but there are more men than there were in Self.

There is much more content in Vogue to discuss than there was in Self.

The magazine contains some smaller content features on rising musicians, trends in shoes, trends in beauty, working out in the cold weather. It also has short features on art, travel, and design, which I think are important to note. Vogue is a fashion magazine, but it has content that goes beyond women’s fashion.

The first article in Vogue is about one woman’s experience of surfing and Hurricane Sandy. It’s a piece that’s relevant and timely, but it’s not one that blows me away.

It’s the other articles that really pique my interest. The first is about President Obama. The author of the article, Jacob Weisberg, expresses his hope that President Obama will be more liberated and bolder in his second term. It’s a short piece, and honestly, I find it disappointing. There’s a lot to be said about what could happen in President Obama’s second term, and Weisberg doesn’t say much at all.

The article on Gwen Stefani is much longer, with photographs by Annie Lebovitz. I’m not a fan of No Doubt or Gwen Stefani, but there are parts of the article that I zero in on. All the band members of No Doubt are married with children, so touring is a very different experience for them now. Adrian Young says in the article, “Gwen is the only mom in the band, so it poses a different kind of challenge for her than it does for us.” Both of Stefani’s children are beyond breastfeeding age–it’s noted later on in the article that Stefani did nurse her sons–so I do have to wonder how it’s different for her, as a mom. I imagine Young is referring to the perception that a mother should be far more involved in her children’s development and care than the father.

The article also notes that there are very few women involved in rock bands, and that there are few women represented in the music industry. But from that, the writer, Jonathan Van Meter, jumps to the gentlemanly behavior of the other band members toward Stefani. It’s a frustrating moment when something important could have been said, but it just doesn’t happen.

Another article tells about a couple remodeling their house, with some nice pictures. I’m not really into design, so I can’t say the article appeals to me. There’s a piece on Scarlett Johansson’s Broadway play. There’s also an article on Iwan and Manuela Wirth, a Swiss couple who are working on a new art gallery. There’s an article on hairstyles, and there’s a piece on Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and his truly admirable efforts during Hurricane Sandy. I recommend reading the article on Booker.

The last article I want to discuss, however, is not the piece on Booker. It’s the article on diet pills. Like the article on cyberstalking I discussed before, I think this article is very important for the women who are reading Vogue. The author of  the article, Elizabeth Weil, says that “We’re a fat country obsessed with skinny–and a quick fix.” I don’t agree with that statement. Is there an issue with obesity in this country? Certainly. However, I think that the obsession with skinny is far more often an obsession with women’s bodies.

That’s not what I want to discuss, though. The article talks about doctors who prescribe pills to suppress appetite and lift mood. Pills prescribed include SSRIs (anti-depressants), Adderall, and phentermine. I’m not shocked that there are doctors who write these unnecessary prescriptions, but I am disgusted at these doctors.

A dietitian in the article says that “Most of my clients are women who looked pretty good to begin with,” but who succumbed to “lazy-mind syndrome.” I find that statement really suspicious, perhaps because I’ve dealt with body dysmorphia myself. Yes, maintaining exercise and a healthy diet can be challenging. It’s not fun or easy to put in that kind of work. But I have to wonder: are these women taking pills because they’re lazy, or because they feel an extraordinary pressure to not just be thin, but be perfect?

The article ends on a weak note. If you’re obese, you might want to take the risk of diet pills for better health. If you’re not, don’t take the risk. Just commit to do the work of getting fit. That’s fine advice, but this article wasted an opportunity to discuss a trend that can really endanger a woman’s health.

I think that Vogue has a lot of potential as a magazine, but it falls short of its potential. I don’t expect a fashion magazine to be feminist or academic, but if the writers in Vogue are going to tackle a topic like the presidency or diet pills, I’d like to see them put in a better effort.

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