Sunday, April 8, 2012

Reading Response for April 9th

The reading in Gill is quite disturbing in how accurate it seems to identify the problem with women’s magazines. Mainly, that there is a constant need for improvement underlined by contradictory messages about sex, beauty, liberty and so forth. Discussing a literary analysis, Gill suggests that, “It could be argued that the magazine as a whole is organized around interpreting boys to girls” (185). The idea that girls must learn about boys is problematic firstly because it suggests that boys must be learned about. It implies that girls need to be with, approach, and focus on boys and that it can only be accomplished by learning about them. It insinuates that a distinct part of who they should improve to be should set aside a pedestal for boys as objects of importance in their life. This is unfortunate. Secondly, it assumes that the information they provide accurately captures sound information while ignoring the whole realm of complexity that arises when considering relationships between boys and girls and that the best way to understand each other is to read a magazine rather than simply communicate. And that is just the beginning. For example, in one of the magazine Q and A sections that was discussed, a girl writes in asking what to do after walking in on her boyfriend masturbating, at which point immediately sends her away and seems to be the source of the communication breakdown. However, the editor responds with suggestions about everything the girl can do to mend the problem so that “Responsibility is placed upon the girl to first understand and then mend the relationship with her boyfriend” (191). I think a more feminist answer would go along the lines of “tell him to explain himself or dump his difficult arse”. But no; while the boy is the one creating the tension it is all on the girl to mend the issue. This is an unhealthy way to go about solving an intimate sexual topic, yet these tips are provided as periodically as the magazine itself is printed. Another topic of concern is telling girls and women that they have the freedom to say no to a sexual act while also telling them that committing to it can be a sign of love: “If you are really averse to one of these activities then ‘skip it’, but remember that doing this is an indicator of how much you care for your partner – with the implication that if you love him, you should do it, no matter how you feel about it” (195). This virtually leaves a girl in the same dilemma they were probably trying to solve. A dilemma maybe along the lines of wanting to show your partner your commitment while not letting that commitment be defined by doing sexually uncomfortable things. Another aspect I can specifically relate to is the amalgam of contradictory advice these magazines give on beauty, specifically skin care. Gill provides an example of how in the same magazine, “A complicated regime of cleansing, exfoliating, toning, moisturizing” with a “myriad of products” can be offered to solve the issue while another page will reveal that “drinking lots of water, staying out of the sun and getting plenty of sleep is ‘the only beauty treatment you need’” (192). As I can get quite caught up on appearances myself, I have always dealt with these contradictory remedies for skin care at it just leaves me feeling more depressed and confused before and after the fact of buying some product that may or likely may not work. In sum, while there is nothing wrong with self-improvement, there is something wrong with continually making girls and women feel like they must improve and providing advice to do so by lacing together contradictory and patriarchal-backed information.

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