Elle Magazine February 2013

Elle is one of the magazines I buy every month, and I was particularly interested in the content this month. I have January’s issue as well, but I think February is a much richer issue to discuss.

The cover of Elle promises 300+ bags, shoes, dresses, and jackets, as well as pros’ makeup secrets. There’s the lazy girl’s diet (“half the work, all the benefits”), how to get gorgeous hair and skin, and how to take control of your life. Claire Danes is the cover girl; she faces forward, and her expression is powerful.

As with Vogue, the advertisements are for high end designers, make-up, jewelry, and hair products. Again, there are a lot of women in editorial and production positions.

There is a feature on one woman’s style inspiration, a section on Instagram, features on fashion trends, reviews of movies, television shows, and books, beauty tips, an article on cursing (evidently, cursing gives you an adrenaline rush and also has an effect on your ability to bear pain), and a reader’s essay on her experience of an affair. But what I find most interesting about Elle is its focus on women.

The big focus of this issue is women in television. This is, as is noted in a line in one of the articles and nowhere else, an annual event. First, there is a feature on the most influential women in television, a list that includes Geena Davis, Gale Anne Hurd (a producer for The Walking Dead), and Callie Khouri (who wrote Thelma & Louise). Geena Davis is particularly interesting because of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which does research on the presence and portrayal of women in media. It’s an important effort, and one that I hope helps contribute to change in media.

There’s also an article on The Carrie Diaries, the new spin on the classic television show, Sex and the City. Writer Emma Rosenblum notes that SATC had a “groundbreaking and incisive portrayal of female friendships,” as well as a “treatment of fashion as more than just a frivolity.” I’ve never been a fan of SATC, but this bit made me rethink the significance of the show.

Casey Wilson, Elisha Cuthbert, and Eliza Coupe–actresses in the show Happy Endings–share a feature on fashion and humor. There’s a section on The Good WifeSaturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon, and the single woman in television. Kelly Ripa gets an article on her experiences on All My Children and Live. The article on Claire Danes is worth a read, but not particularly worth analyzing.

What I find really puzzling about this issue of Elle is how little the cover reflects the content. The lazy girl’s diet takes up one page, and I’m at a loss to figure out where the feature is that tells the reader how to “make him fall for you, have better sex, stop holding yourself back.” I checked the section that matches the cover blurbs to the corresponding articles, but I didn’t find anything. And while Elle very much is about fashion, there’s so much more to it that doesn’t get highlighted. I looked at the cover several times to see if it noted anywhere that this was the women in television issue, but it’s not there.

So I have to wonder: is Elle trying to hide what it is, trying to make it seem like it’s something else? I feel that the magazine is worth reading, as it has a lot of interesting content. It’s really a shame that though Elle talks a lot about women and women’s work, the people behind the magazine seem reluctant to say that’s what they’re doing.

Is it a fear of being associated with feminism? Possibly, and that’s a shame too. Still, I’m pleased to find a women’s magazine that has good content, since that’s what I was hoping to find when I started this project.

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