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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 28/02/2008 | 2 Comments

I’m flying off for a few days tomorrow and one thing I know for certain: I won’t be buying a women’s magazine for the journey. I was never a particular fan of women’s magazines when I was young but I would buy them from time to time. However, during the period in my life when I used to do lots of training sessions with women I took a real scunner to them. One of the exercises I used to do was put ‘new woman’ on one side of a flip chart, and ‘traditional woman’ on the other and then write up the various contributions from the women present.

What was always apparent was that ‘the new woman’ bit was largely the images of women from glossy women’s magazine: the new woman was therefore glamorous, well-dressed, a great cook, the mother of lovely children, the owner of a beautiful house and was effortlessly talented at everything she tried to do. She also held down a responsible, well-paid job. Oh, and I meant to say she was very sexy and great in bed as well.

The traditional woman was a mother, a nurturer, the wiper of fevered brows, a carer who always put others’ needs before her own.

As soon as these two lists were compiled the women present could always see that there were huge problems associated with these stereotypes. The first one was undoable – how could anyone be that perfect woman? Any woman holding down a serious job just couldn’t manage all that other stuff as well. What’s more, the new woman hadn’t replaced the traditional woman – women were now expected to be that nice, compliant woman and the successful new woman as well.

It was common for women in discussion to say that while they thought there was some intrinsic dissatisfaction for women in traditional roles – at least it was achievable. The new woman role was impossible, and trying to be that person meant that many women felt inadequate, guilty and downright exhausted.

These magazines make out that they are helping women – to lose weight, have a make over, learn how to cook, feel more energetic. But in reality the emphasis on personal transformation is really saying that you are not ok the way you are. Paradoxically women's magazines encourage women to feel insecure and inadequate. Hence my decision not to make them part of my life. In fact if I’m ever pressed to give advice on how an individual can improve their happiness or well-being one of the top things on my list is to stop reading magazines and watching TV but that’s another story.
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Joined: 25/08/2006

Comment Posted: 06/03/2008 11:24
I totally agree with the sentiment and sound advice about avoiding magazines and TV however I've always been uncomfortable with total ban's on anything, it's probably a Scot's thing!

As a relatively young man who is ever younger at heart I have to say that I find some womens magazines helpful in understanding why some women behave and think in certain ways like you describe above. I agree totally with how they underpin thoughts by priming and demand that women should be good at everything. Being honest this notion applies to men too nowadays. Have you seen the top shelf at Tesco's newsagent section recently? Its a plethora of six packed handsome hunks looking sexy carrying babies and earning enough to park a porsche in the drive! It's all a load of capitalist propoganda designed to appeal to our 'fear of being abandoned' if we don't strive towards such 'ideals'....(Deep breath)

However I do like the Psychologies magazine that seems to me to be aimed more at the sacred feminine of our species althoug I enjoy it myself and have recommended it to a few people who have said they benefited from reading it. At first glance it looks and even feels like a womens magazine. But dig a little deeper and you can find some interesting articles on transformational psychology and positive psychology.

I would be interested to read your opinion on this magazine.

Enjoy your trip....

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