Exploring being female (for that's what we are) in a world of media myths, publishing incompetence, and marketing madness -- as well as the female submission and subscription to those messages.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"It is very little to me to have the right to vote, to own property, etcetera, if I may not keep my body, and its uses, in my absolute right."

A fascinating article by Kate titled, Fashion's Revolution since the late 18th Century: Beauty's Evolution in Female Fashion. Here's the intro, and I do hope you all read it:

How true it is that the general style of the dress is a sign of the times, and an indication of the morals of society. In the last century or two, female fashion has taken a dramatic turn. Beauty in the 20th century consists of reference to an outward appearance and one's sexual attractiveness to the opposite sex and society in general. Nancy Baker once described beauty as "intangible personal qualities" about a person and not based upon one's looks. Although this is quite true to those who appreciate a person for who they are and not what the appearance is, most of the world since the late-1800s refers to beauty of a person by their looks and styles. As Arthur Marwick once said, "the beautiful are these who are immediately exciting to almost all of the opposite sex." As sad as this statement might be, it is still none the less true in today's society. A woman’s standards today are based on television and magazines. Women are compared to the unattainable air-brushed goddesses you see modeling the new fashion. Beauty has become a goal for most women in today's society rather than an attributed aspect of themselves.

Throughout history beauty has always been based on certain aspects of a person from wealth to age, but for the first time beauty is being based upon and associated with one's sexuality. No longer is beauty based on a person and their character but rather on a sense of [one's] 'sexual self worth' (Source 2, pg.11). The most recent generations of women have even resorted the deadly cosmetic surgeries to attain a sense of beauty based upon what society classifies it as at the time. Sometimes beauty is found in the narrowness of our waist or the body of our hair, never even glancing at the person themselves. Ever since the 1830’s each generation of women and men have had to struggle against their society's own beauty myth. Today women have accomplished almost near equality to men but with the equality they still bear the stress of appearances. Men never really had to fight to vote or be treated as an equal, they simply co-existed, but women had to fight for their equality all the time also maintaining their desirable aspect in society. As our society flourishes and cosmetics are mass produced along with new clothing and new revolutionary surgeries to take off the years of worry and struggle, women must face the inevitable challenge of meeting the goal of what our society believes a woman should look like. (Source 2)

"It is very little to me to have the right to vote, to own property, etcetera, if I may not keep my body, and its uses, in my absolute right." Lucy Stone stated this in 1855 and yet today women still struggle with the same idea as she did.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Who Reads Cosmo?

I'm pretty relentless in my mocking of Cosmo; I make no secret of stealing people's copies of the mag to protect them from the rag. I can't think of a single person, let alone a demographic, which should be reading it.

So just what are Cosmo magazine's supposed demographics anyway?

Historically, the magazine's readership has been described as:

Brown always focused her magazine's editorial slant on the reader she termed "the mouseburger." Clearly a self-referential term, Brown defined it for Glenn Collins of the New York Times in 1982: "A mouseburger is a young woman who is not very prepossessing," Brown said. "She is not beautiful. She is poor, has no family connections, and she is not a razzle-dazzle ball of charm and fire. She is a kind of waif." With a heavy editorial emphasis on sex and dating features, tell-all stories, and beauty and diet tips, Cosmopolitan had become an American institution by the 1970s, and the term "Cosmo Girl" seemed synonymous with the ultra-liberated woman in her twenties who had several "beaus," a well-paying job, and a hedonistic lifestyle. The magazine also introduced the male centerfold with a much-publicized spread of actor Burt Reynolds in its April 1972 issue.

Yet the reality was somewhat different: Cosmopolitan's demographics were rooted in the lower income brackets, attracting readers with little college education who held low-paying, usually clerical jobs. The "Cosmo Girl" on the cover and the few vampy fashion pages inside reflected this--the Cosmo style was far different from the more restrained, elegant, or avant-garde look of its journalistic sisters like Vogue or even Mademoiselle, which focused on a more middle class readership. Though often a top model or celebrity, the women on Cosmo's covers were usually shown in half-or three-quarter-length body shots, often by Francesco Scavullo for several years, to show off the low-cut evening wear. The hair was far more overdone--read "big"--than usual for women's magazines, and skimpy beaded gowns alternated with lame and halter tops, a distinctly downmarket style. The requisite "bedroom eyes" and pouty mouth completed the "Cosmo Girl" cover shot.
Currently, Cosmo pushes themselves via their media kit, which varies, as you can see, from the information gathered by Quantcast.

You can argue the comparison of Internet apples to paper magazine subscriber oranges (and the supposed fact that, according to a very small study, only 7% of magazine subscribers visit that magazine's website) and third party metrics all you'd like, but it's clear that Cosmo tweaks their numbers by regrouping them creatively.

Tweaking/regrouping numbers to make themselves more impressive -- I guess that's a common enough biz sin. But wouldn't they do better to actually deal with the realities of women -- and I'm guessing that might start with actually facing their own demographics.

And seriously questioning why readers seem to out-grow (become bored with, not just 'age out of') the magazine.

Also, while some joke that Cosmo is really a magazine for men (I think the magazine is far more dangerous than that), Cosmopolitan magazine numbers indicate that just 15.03% of subscribers are men; Quantcast shows 39% of site visitors are men.

Make of this what you will; I just wish Cosmo would clean-up their predatory act.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dress Codes (In Film & Project Form) Rock!

In August 2005, Renaissance East Midlands organized Dress Codes, a year-long multiple museum project which culminated in Youth Culture Day in August of 2006. One of the goals of the Dress Codes: Youth Culture Day project was, "To increase museum visits and participation from minority groups, including teenagers (13-19), social grades C2, D and E*, black and ethnic minority groups and young people with disabilities," so fashion was used as a talking point.

Described as a project in which, "Six museums and youth groups came together to explore the topic of ‘Dress Codes’ - examining heritage and identity by looking at traditional dress and making connections with modern fashion and popular culture today," the result was seven projects, 16 short films, and 1,500 visitors at Youth Culture Day.

Here's one of the films, featuring the Northampton Museum & Art Gallery and the shoe collection -- which I found working on this post about collecting shoes.

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