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Recent between-the-pages mishaps
When Self made fun of a cancer survivor's homemade tutu, the country freaked out and demanded an apology. But this is not an isolated incident. Illinois woman Brooke Birmingham recently declined an opportunity to be featured in Shape magazine regarding her tremendous weight loss of 172 pounds when the writer asked her to send a picture of herself with a shirt on instead of in this totally appropriate bathing suit, which shows loose skin on her abdomen.
Photo credit: Brooke Birmingham
Shape called it a miscommunication from the writer, and the magazine has since said that they would love to feature the woman in a bikini for the upcoming feature, which is now being redirected to discuss the real changes a woman's body experiences after a huge weight loss.
While we understand that mistakes can happen, it's no secret that the pages of women's magazines are filled with pictures of heavily photoshopped women with perfect hair, skin, bodies and clothes, which can lead women to feel less confident about their own, albeit real, imperfect bodies.
Experts weigh in
Rose Hanna, M.S., licensed marriage and family therapist and professor in both the Psychology department and the department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at CSULB, says, "Women's magazines generally tear down women's self-esteem. They basically create problems by suggesting we need improving in areas primarily of body image, and then they provide avenues for us to 'fix' ourselves, utilizing their advertisers. Magazines alter images of women in their magazines and so as a result, women look at themselves and wonder why they don't look like that."
Audrey Hope, a relationship therapist and the creator of Real Women TV, which is dedicated to creating powerful female role models in the media, says after a woman flips through the pages of a magazine like this "her inner war begins, saying 'I am not good enough, I am not young enough, smart enough [or] skinny enough!' And when a woman focuses on her age, her weight, her wrinkles, she is distracted from her goddess power."
Hope notes that negative images in the media "cripple the soul of womanhood [and] cut off her true potential and her authentic voice and replace beautiful feminine gifts with wounds of self-judgment, guilt, punishment and pain." Hope suggests finding inspiration from non-fiction books on historical "goddesses" or attending women-geared inspirational seminars.
Hanna adds, "In the Women's Studies class I teach, I routinely ask my students to cut out all women's magazines for a period of one month, and only look at the real women in their lives, on the bus, at the hair salon [or] in the Starbucks line. They realize that we all are different and beautiful in our own way."
After considering what a negative impact women's magazines can have on our self-esteem, we just had to ask real women what they read to feel inspired.
"My favorite magazine is Inc. As a woman- and veteran-owned business I love seeing what others are doing. I know I can achieve the same level of success if I read quality magazines and align myself with the right people. The right people have similar goals and interests as me." — Jaynine Howard, USMC (Ret), Ph.D. (ABD)
"My picks are Essence and Ebony magazines. Not only do I oooh and ahhh over the celebs featured, but I've always loved reading the stories of men and women who are being positive in their communities or making big strides in their jobs in both magazines." — Whitney Smith, blogger
"My favorite is O Magazine. It is consistently upbeat and positive — the most life affirming magazine around. Even when it's a Suze Orman or Dr. Phil column 'scolding' the reader for some financial or psychological misbehavior, it's presented in a loving, supportive way. I also think MORE magazine does a great job of making women over 40 feel young, vital and good about themselves." — Suzanne Wickham
"I have been a long-term fan of Ladies' Home Journal and still find such uplifting information and articles. From allowing life to be silly to learning serious bits of life and how to participate in helping, LHJ is my go-to magazine." — Kathleen Shaputis
"Give me Departures magazine by American Express Platinum Card any day of the year and it inspires me to work, play, travel and simply enjoy life with my family." — Stephanie Adams-Nicolai
Next time you're tempted to pass time by flipping through the pages of a popular women's magazine, consider the damage that it is doing to your mental state. We think the world would be a much better place if instead of being bombarded with images of so-called perfection at every turn, we appreciated people for who they really are and how they really look.