Ms. Magazine & Miss Representation vs. Mainstream Media: A Battle for the Future of America

Whenever I think of magazines, I always think of the ones that are lying around my house. Vogue, Page Six, Lucky, and Sports Illustrated. I always thought that magazines were strictly about fashion (with the exception of Sports Illustrated) until I found out about Ms. Magazine. I find it inspirational and encouraging that there are magazines like Ms. that actually deliver vital and significant information to the public. I found myself to be very engaged reading articles about sex trafficking, the status of marriage equality, and reproductive rights.

One article that really caught my attention was “A Serious Crisis Indeed by Jake Blumgart in the 40th anniversary issue of Ms. It was an article about a new government rising in Hungary that is very pro-life when it comes to the issue of abortion and is making it increasingly hard to get an abortion.

I find this incredibly shocking that in such a progressive world, countries like Hungary are taking a step backward. Although I find it just as disturbing that many countries in poor parts of the world are anti-choice, I find it even more upsetting that a country in Europe is as well.

What I found especially interesting was that a lot of the anti-choice uprising in Hungary comes from Christian religious groups. Blumgart writes, “Another threat is the possibility that an anti-choice organization perhaps one of the religious groups affiliated with the Christian Democrats, could dispute the legitimacy of Hungary’s current abortion laws under the new constitution. That could result in a total ban. Gabor says that he wouldn’t be shocked if Fidesz simply banned abortion outright, despite popular preference.”

I can see this in the United States as well, because a lot of the anti-choice belief comes primarily from the Christian right in the country, particularly from those in the south who find abortions to be immoral.

Viktor Orbán, leader of the Fidesz political party in Hungary

I found that I am most interested in the international stories and articles in the magazines, like the global shorts that give small updates on feminist activity in different countries around the world. I think it is important to stay educated on not only the feminist issues within our own country but also in other areas the world as well.

I think it is important that Ms. publishes these kinds of stories because it is adds awareness to issues that many people don’t think are important or prevalent. Ms. provides an outlet for people to read about important feminist topics that are really not covered anywhere else in any other major media source.

However, Ms. Magazine is not the only source that I have seen bring light to feminist issues within America. I recently watched the film Miss Representation, which analyzes the role that mainstream media plays in the representation of women in this country.

I was completely blown away after watching this movie. It made me come to the realization that I was a completely brainwashed American male who really had no idea what the media was doing to the public. Honestly, it really hit me when the film said men and women will willingly watch any genre of movie that is about a male protagonist, however, when there is a movie centered around a female character, the movie is automatically a “chick flick” and will receive interest from only women.

This is so true!

My sister and I loved the new Batman movie that came out this past summer that stars Christian Bale as the hunk superhero protagonist, but when the trailer for No Strings Attached, a romantic comedy starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, came on, I instantly became disinterested and went to the kitchen to get away from the TV while my sister stayed glued to the screen.

Not only does it show a lack of appreciation for females by males, but it also shows what kinds of movies are centered on females. Even when women do have bigger roles in movies than just a single mom looking for a marriage, they are almost always some sort of hyper-sexualized edgy girl in spandex (i.e Black Widow, Cat-Woman).

Sandra Fluke on the cover of the Ms. Magazine Spring/Summer 2012 Issue

This says a lot about how limited women’s roles are in the future of our country. Why can’t the covers of popular magazines be like the cover of Summer/Spring 2012 issue of Ms. Magazine that features Sandra Fluke wearing a blazer and confident grin, and not the August 2010 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine that features Katy Perry wearing a bra and a seductive puckered-lips face?

Keep in mind that Rolling Stone is a music magazine that typically features a band wearing their normal clothes on the front cover, but when Katy Perry gets the front cover, forget the clothes. Let’s make her look as sexually appealing as possible, because that’s what is going to attract the readers. If the media  was dominated by magazines with the Sandra Fluke photo and not ones similar to that of Katy Perry, then we would see a lot more young girls wanting to appear like Fluke.

Katy Perry Featured as the front cover of Rolling Stone Magazine

If this country does not change the culture of mass media, then we will continue to learn about Paris Hilton’s pants not being zipped up and remain oblivious from hearing about much more important issues like Sandra Fluke advocating on behalf of women’s reproductive rights.

12 thoughts on “Ms. Magazine & Miss Representation vs. Mainstream Media: A Battle for the Future of America

  1. This was a really fascinating piece. It was interesting to hear how you have been affected by the media, particularly in the case when you were watching Batman with you sister, but then left the room when No Strings Attached came on.

    It just furthered to prove the point of your previous observation, regarding the film Miss Representation: “the film said men and women will willingly watch any genre of movie that is about a male protagonist, however, when there is a movie centered around a female character, the movie is automatically a ‘chick flick’ and will receive interest from only women.”

    Again, a little bit further down in your post you spoke about how, in the rare case women are in some sort of lead role in a film, they are always sexualised.

    “Even when women do have bigger roles in movies than just a single mom looking for a marriage, they are almost always some sort of hyper-sexualized edgy girl in spandex (i.e Black Widow, Cat-Woman).”

    Your point on the Katy Perry cover of Rolling Stone magazine was interesting as well. It’s true when you wrote: “Keep in mind that Rolling Stone is a music magazine that typically features a band wearing their normal clothes on the front cover, but when Katy Perry gets the front cover, forget the clothes.”
    Why is it, that if it was a boy musician on the cover, he would be fully dressed – most likely with a guitar – and will be in a pose that suggests he is a musician. Yet, when a female musician is on the cover, she is most always dressed seductively – (if dressed at all) and when you see the picture, you wouldn’t have any clue she was a musician.

    I agree, that if media can start recognising women, as not just “sex-symbols”, but as intellectual, and beneficial people to our society, and covers of magazines can have the women such as Sandra Fluke on the cover, then maybe then, we will be on the right track to women’s equality.

  2. You raised very interesting and through provoking points with the majority of representations in pop culture and how it affects our preferences. Like you, I was never interested in movies that were categorized as chick flicks but after reading your post I realized a majority of the movies with female characters fall into this category causing this unfair balance of everyone watching movies with male protagonists and some people, mainly women, watching these “chick flicks”. I believe these movies aren’t interesting to most males because the story line with one chick flick is identical or very similar to the next so it is boring and repetitive BUT this is because we are never given anything different, the female lead role hasn’t been about something other than finding love.

    The Magazine point was also interesting, because it highlights who the interests and targeted individuals in the media are. The same thing happens in the ads we see, racy, edgy, scarcely clothed young women because the male audience is the one being drawn in for the sake of selling products which in this case is magazines. Rolling Stone wants to show Katy Perry in her bra and panties to get guys to buy the magazines, though they aren’t targeting the female audience as intensely therefore clothing the all male bands.

  3. I found this post extremely engaging from the first paragraph. I like how you mentioned that you “always thought that magazines were strictly about fashion (with the exception of Sports Illustrated) until I found out about Ms. Magazine. [You] find it inspirational and encouraging that there are magazines like Ms. that actually deliver vital and significant information to the public.” I had the same thoughts previous to this class, of course with the exception of my mother’s SHAPE and other health magazines, that every magazine geared towards women focused on the way a woman looks. And even health magazines do it as well. I like that you mentioned how inspiring Ms. Magazine is because it focuses on things other than that.

  4. I could really relate to this post a whole lot. While reading an issue of Ms. Magazine I got sucked into this whole new world that I had no idea existed and the world is calling out for help. I think my favorite line of this post was when you admitted to being a “completely brainwashed American male” because I know its true about me too. I doubt anyone had any idea of what the media was actually doing to little kids. I am glad you bring up a strong women like Sandra Fluke to break people out of the media’s standards of women and show a true role model.

  5. I like how you discussed women’s roles in movies. I remember that Miss Representation discussed “chick flicks” and how movies directed towards woman are a separate genre. In chick flicks, women are usually the main characters but the women are generally vying for a man. Like you discussed, in other films where women have large roles such as Cat Woman, the leads are highly sexualized.

  6. You spoke the truth in this post. With your analysis on mainstream magazines vs magazines such as Ms.Magazine I came to ponder a few questions. One is related to Ms. Magazine and why it is not a more widely known and read. For instance, none of my family members have ever heard of Ms. Magazine before I showed it to them. And in addition, I have never read or have seen any Ms. Magazine articles prior to taking our feminism course.

  7. I liked how personal you made this piece. I thought you did a great job analyzing magazines in today’s society. I liked how you used the juxtaposition of two images to speak to the intensity of the problem in the media.

    I thought you really captured the essence of what all media should become when you stated, “Ms. provides an outlet for people to read about important feminist topics that are really not covered anywhere else in any other major media source.” A goal for our society should be to make it so that Ms. isn’t an outlet but instead a norm.

    Great job!

  8. Great job! I like your title, I find it very interesting. I have to be honest and say that I too, thought that magazines were a form of media to show our society’s fashion culture and not stories about women leaders fighting for reproductive rights or feminism in the world. However, reading Ms.Magazine helped me realize that a magazine is not what I thought it was. It is much more than just a publication that shows fashion styles; it is a powerful tool for the media that could have a big impact on people’s beliefs and ideas. Reading Ms. Magazine helped me become passionate about the worldwide feminist movement. The film Miss Representation further fueled my passions about feminism. I too felt like the “completely brainwashed American male who really had no idea what the media was doing to the public.” Now, I have the mind to think questions like “Why does Rolling Stone magazine want Katy Perry half naked on the cover?” Isn’t this magazine supposed to be one that is about famous bands, not about women celebrities exploited sexually? Why can’t these magazines have covers of great women like Sandra Fluke wearing her elegant blazer and a confident grin like Ms. Magazine does? I thought you ended your blog post very well with “If this country does not change the culture of mass media, then we will continue to learn about Paris Hilton’s pants not being zipped up and remain oblivious from hearing about much more important issues like Sandra Fluke advocating on behalf of women’s reproductive rights.” I do believe Sandra Fluke’s positive actions are more important to read about than about Paris Hilton’s pants. Good work!

  9. I find that this is a very important theme in the media that should always needs to be addressed. I agree that the media hyper-sexualizes their products and it really does make a huge impact on girls: “If the media was dominated by magazines with the Sandra Fluke photo and not the Katy Perry, then we would see a lot more young girls wanting to appear like Fluke.” There are millions of magazine covers with influential media figures without clothes. Every cover that comes out just ads to the cover. Then there’s also that line between when something is ‘normal’/too sexual/inappropriate/art. What’s the line? Sure, there are tons of images like this of Katy Perry and other pop sensations. But then there was the scandal involving Miley Cyrus of the cover of Vanity Fair a couple years ago. Some thought it was art and some thought that it was wildly inappropriate for her to be doing this kind of photo shoot at such a young age. Then there were those who thought that it was ‘slutty.’ There’s a great deal of promoting sex in the media but shaming the women who enjoy it. And then to still portray Katy Perry on the front page sexualizing every part of her, on a magazine about music sends a very confusing message to girls. So I definitely agree when you express that girls ought to have more role models like Sandra Fluke, who is on the cover for accomplishments and not for her body. Ms. Magazine should be the standard, not the exception.

  10. Great piece Adam, I really appreciated how you wrote how you yourself had those magazines in your house, because after all they are popular ones and the ones that make most money, but I also loved how you reflected on your experience while reading Ms. and how it switched something in you. Your point that, “it is important that Ms. publishes these kinds of stories because it is adds awareness to issues that many people don’t think are important or prevalent. Ms. provides an outlet for people to read about important feminist topics that are really not covered anywhere else in any other major media source.” I found that really powerful and could relate to extremely.

    I also liked how you mentioned pop culture because it is such a great part of American and New York’s culture, something we are so proud of that has unfortunately turned into a weapon of mass destruction. Destruction for women girls exposed to it, exposed to this pop culture. I also really liked how you added some international stories like the one of Hungary and your point that it is “incredibly shocking that in such a progressive world, countries like Hungary are taking a step backward. Although I find it just as disturbing that many countries in poor parts of the world are anti-choice, I find it even more upsetting that a country in Europe is as well.” I completely agree. Overall great writing and great points Adam!

  11. Really great post! I loved how you pointed out how movies and shows with female protagonists are almost always “girl movies”, or “chick-filcks”, whereas movies and shows with male protagonists can appeal to both girls and boys. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with two of my cousins. My female cousin, my sister and I would always like to watch shows like Totally Spies, Charmed, and Hannah montana. My boy cousin refused to watch these shows, but we were always fine with watching the shows he wanted to watch, like Fairly Odd-Parents, Ed, Ed & Eddy, and Hey Arnold, all of which had mostly male protagonists. This makes me think about being a tomboy. Why is being a tomboy, or a girl wanting to act like a boy, so much more accepted than a boy wanting to act like a girl? It is because acting more masculine is considered a “step up”, whereas wanting acting more feminine is a “step down”? Great job!

Leave a Reply to phoebethomases Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s