Women need a voice of a different kind


So, More Magazine has closed, after a readership of less than 10,000 was recorded by the Audience Bureau of Circulations.

With these figures in mind, what can I see?  Women are changing, and for the better.

The success or failure of any type of media, whether in radio or online is based on audience uptake. If no one watches a television show, the likelihood is it will not be re-commissioned for a second series. If no one is listening when a certain radio presenter is on air, chances are they will be dropped due to poor figures and so on and so forth. This isbrutal. But the media has to make money too.

When I was growing up, I used to read Fast Forward. I always skipped straight to the problem pages. I remember too being particularly thrilled when my letter got published. The letter was asking for an address to write to Rebekah Elmaloglou, who played Sophie Simpson in Home and Away. Tangentially, she is soon to return to Channel 5’s Neighbours as a married mum with children. How times change!

But that is just the point isn’t it? Times do change. When Rebekah was my crush, the reason why seeing my letter published was so thrilling is precisely because it gave me access to the information I wanted, and access to the realm of celebrity.

In present times I suspect the impact of such a letter being published would be underwhelming. The teen magazine industry used to be the privileged custodians of such information. It is not so anymore.

The time when More magazine and others of the same ilk were popular was when they were the only source of such information. This harks back to a time when Facebook was not even a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye, and when iPhone could have been a plausible descriptor for a children’s toy.

But now More has been usurped by others custodians, mainly  the Internet.

It caters for the “now” generation. People who don’t want to wait a week to see a letter published. Everything is faster now. Women are now the custodians of their own information. Therefore, the power of young women’s journalism has been taken out of the industry’s hands and placed into the hands of the consumer. They can choose what they want to consume, how and when.

To this end, the blogosphere has nurtured a plethora of young female talent, which has spilled over into online and print.

One example of this is the Vagenda Magazine, with the beautiful strapline, “like King Lear but for girls.”

That probably goes some way to rectifying Yorkie bar inequality then.

However, they caused a bit of a bitchfest yesterday on their Twitter feed, when they dared to suggest that they were really not that unhappy about More’s demise.

Many points were made in disagreement with Vagenda, with the journalist Suzanne Moore accusing them of “crowing over job losses.”

I do not share Suzanne’s analysis that they were crowing over job losses, which would always be emotive and polarising in the economic circumstances the country finds itself in.

I think this represented for Vagenda a cultural shift, and a challenge to look for new ways of doing young journalism.

I doubt the closure of More sounds the death knell of women’s publications and women’s writing. It could challenge many more women to take up writing.

“Come on sisters, let’s show em!” Maybe it could.

But, as Vagenda said quite rightly yesterday;

It is possible to be happy that the mag has gone and not be happy about job losses.”

It is not as though Vagenda sounded a klaxon horn and turned into a More mafia, demanding its closure.

No, it was the target market that voted with its feet.

I would be callous if I was to sit here and lay blame for the problems of women solely at the door of More. Such magazines though have a narrow focus. They are quite strident about who women are, and who they are not. In many ways, they are also unashamedly ableist, and heteronormative in the vision of life they promote. That vision is often a million miles from everyday lived experience women have.

As my counsellor once remarked wryly to me:

There are no disabled pin ups are there, Hannah?”

How true indeed! Many also blame the media for the rise in eating disorders like anorexia, and bulimia. However the Something Fishy website, an invaluable resource for sufferers of eating disorders pragmatically suggests;

While all of these images, advertisements, and messages may be counterproductive to a good self-image, and society’s overall acceptance of each person’s different size and shape, they are NOT the reason so many men and women develop an Eating Disorder. These images may not help, and for those already open to the possibility of negative coping mechanisms and/or mental illness, the media may play a small contributing role — but ultimately, if environment, and/or genetics leave them open to an Eating Disorder (or alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, OCD, etc.), they will still end up in the same place regardless of television or magazines.”

I feel though than the onus on us in the media though must be to ensure we do not play any contributing role.

For the same article states;

Super models in all the popular magazines have continued to get thinner and thinner. Modelling agencies have been reported to actively pursue Anorexic models. The average woman model weighs up to 25% less than the typical woman and maintains a weight at about 15 to 20 percent below what is considered healthy for her age and height.”

So for me the crux is this. I don’t want to be part of an industry that shows airbrushed and taped up women. I do want to be part of an industry that shows them as they really are, and credits their intelligence on many issues. For example, Vagenda today had a discussion regarding mixed gym sessions, and whether they were a good thing.

An admirable Twitter campaign by many women saw ITV cancel a scheduled interview with the girlfriend of convicted rapist Ched Evans, fearing the messages it would send out. Women have thoughts, opinions and voices. Let’s use them.

In the end, I don’t think women wanted More. They wanted better.




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