Why are Women’s Magazines All the Same?

Women’s magazines are generally obsessed with the things they think most women are interested in; fashion, diets, men and sex.

Of course many women are interested in these things, but are they really the only things they want to read about?  Especially when most of the content isn’t even that original.

It seems every month readers of magazine such as Glamour [the biggest selling magazine in the UK] and Cosmopolitan are given the same menu of sex tips and beauty shortcuts.

It seems there is no market for women’s magazines which are not full of shiny, beautiful [and airbrushed] people who we can aspire to be like.

The French market is very similar, but in 2009 Grégory Lassus-Debat launched Causette [or “chat”],  a magazine where the women are not airbrushed, have cellulite and are interested in things such as politics.

Lassus-Debut was denied a loan because the bank thought such a magazine had no market and no future.

However, sales last month had reached 25,000 for this year, about the same as She or Easy Living in the UK.  Not a huge market, but a sustainable one.

Lassus-Debat told The Times

“I didn’t do any market studies, but I instinctively felt that there would be a demand for a magazine without Kate Moss and diets in it,”

According to Lassus-Debat the magaizine is not feminist per se , but

“A magazine that is interested in women’s lives, in their struggles and in the defence of their rights,”

The last issue included stories about the women’s lobby in the European Union, non-violent resistance on the West Bank and the decline of the  le Mouvement de Libération des Femmes [The women’s liberation movement].

Not your typical women’s magazine fodder.

I argued last week that women’s magazines in the UK reinforce stereotypes rather than challenge them.  Chausette does the opposite.

And if there is a market in France, why not in the UK as well?

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About Rachel Conner

Rachel Conner is currently a postgraduate newspaper journalism student at Cardiff University. She graduated in 2010 from the University of Durham with an LLB. View all posts by Rachel Conner

9 responses to “Why are Women’s Magazines All the Same?

  • Marc Thomas

    Your idea of womens magazines is fairly stereotypical, not the magazines themselves.

    To name a few which are completely different: Oh Comely and The Lady

    • Rachel Conner

      I was really talking about the lack of variety in mainstream magazines. Very few shops sell other sorts of magazines, and they are therefore difficult to access for people who aren’t specifically looking for them.

      • Marc Thomas

        All of the above are available in WH Smiths and, mostly, Tesco.

        It’s a moot point. Newspapers are the same too… Wikileaks, corrupt politician, boring paywall, stupid footballer sex scandal, repeat, repeat.

        There’s little new under the sun. Magazines are hegemenous because people aren’t interested in that wide a variety of stuff and so a magazine has to cater for the median.

  • Lucy

    I agree that there is a massive range (in WH Smiths particularly, of which there are about 3 in Cardiff centre)of women’s mags, and I tend to read everything from Vogue to Cosmo to Company to Glamour. There are some incredibly funny, intelligent features, and while I agree that some sections will find it hard to generate original content (health and beauty, for example), pretty much every month I see a women’s magazine who have gone out on a limb and published something different.

    Of the ‘mainstream’ (read: popular) monthlies, Company is constantly challenging political/local issues with their campaigns, like the recent ‘get home safely’ one, and Glamour recently ran a brilliant article about losing your friends when they have children before you, basically a big moan about baby-obsessed women which will definitely have offended a few readers.

    I am not stupid person, I spend all day considering fairly big issues and reading hard news. Magazines in many ways are meant to be a winding-down experience as well as food for thought.

    • Rachel Conner

      I don’t think women’s magazines are entirely devoid of original comment, but I don think a lot is quite repetitive. I quite enjoy reading magazines, but personally I get frustrated when buy one for about £3 and there is only about two stories I haven’t read before [or read very similar stories] I think the content of the big sellers could be a bit more varied

  • Nicola

    I regret I am not familiar with Oh Comely but nobody reads The Lady, not even it’s editor. Even more depressing than the sameness of mainstream women’s magazines with their diet and sex obsessions, is the youth of their readership. I would like to think that an intelligent 13 year old would prefer to read about the decline of the women’s movement, but I’m not hopeful.
    I suppose we have the magazines we deserve. The magazines of my youth had more substance in them – in the seventies, Cosmo regarded itself as a crusading, women’s lib publication, Spare Rib with glamour. Hard to believe now.

  • Lucy

    Well there you have your answer – if ‘no one reads’ women’s mags that dare to be different, they are not in demand. Give me a nice glossy escapist mag any day. You can find more challenging/thoughtful content online, and in weekend papers’ supplements.

  • Nicola Hebden

    I’m surprised that no one has brought Grazia into the mix – susposedly the “thinking woman’s” magazine. This tried to be ‘different’ and is hugely popular, yet when I read it now (which, granted, is not that often) I see very little difference between its pages and those of Cosmo, Glamour etc.

    There are a few deeper articles, but most of the content is sex, boys, make-up and fashion. Unorginal, patronising and frankly, boring.

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