What’s Wrong With Women’s Magazines?

STORY BY Emily Kirkpatrick

Published: July 29, 2013

Last week, a small British magazine sparked an online controversy that has caused women throughout the publishing industry to become more than a little defensive.

Port Magazine’s summer issue featured six all-male editors, touting this as the “Golden Age of Print Media.” Port’s Editor-in-Chief, Dan Crowe, never expected such an extreme internet backlash because of his all male cover. In an interview with WWD, he noted that Anna Wintour has turned down his request to be featured, saying “I really don’t care who edits those magazines, if they were all black, or all white, or all women, or all men, or rabbits — I just don’t care. I’m aware that — and I was aware — that putting five [sic] white guys on the cover was going to be difficult, but you know, tough shit. That’s my opinion.” Crowe went on to say, however, that he also didn’t ask any other women editors, apart from Wintour, because “unfortunately these are not the people editing,” what in his mind constitutes truly great work.

But what Crowe could care less about has been a call to arms for many women editors, particularly within the fashion industry. The unrest was amplified thanks to an article in the New Republic written by Jessica Grose with the title “Can Women’s Magazines Do Serious Journalism?” The magazine cover and Grose’s article particularly struck a nerve with Elle’s Editor-in-Chief of thirteen years, Robbie Myers. While other high profile, female Editor-in-Chiefs have chosen to turn a blind eye to this issue, or simply laugh off the problem, Myers was so upset by the implications of the article, she updated her August Editor’s Letter after it had already been published online. When discussing her problem, specifically with the New Republic article, she told The Cut, “The question alone ghettoizes us...if you’re saying women’s magazines don’t care about good writing, you’re saying women don’t [either] because that’s who reads women’s magazines.”

Together with the rest of her editorial team at Elle, Myers has committed herself to proving this misinformed conception of women’s magazines, and, for that matter, the intelligence of all women, undeniably inaccurate. Through defending both women writers and the literature they produce in a string of recent interviews and creating a rapidly trending hashtag, #womenatlength, Myers has become a sort of inadvertent spokeswoman for the potential and intellectual capacity inherent in women-run, women-focused publications. When asked about why women writers repeatedly say they try to avoid the “pink ghetto” of women’s magazine writing, Myers said, “I don’t understand why a female reader is not a legitimate enough reader. We reach eight million women between the magazine and the website every month. That’s a lot of people who have voting power, wallet power, social power. Why wouldn’t you want to write for women?”

Myers vehement protest, combined with Joanna Coles push to renew an intellectual, politicized debate within the pages of Cosmo, seems to be the demarcation of a shift in focus on the types of literature available to, and deemed appropriate for, women readers. Are we on the cusp of a women’s writing revolution that will merge traditional academic discourse with a love of fashion once and for all? Or, is this something that has been there all along, just no one bothered to actually read between the covers?

Other Stories by Emily Kirkpatrick
[^] comments powered by Disqus

Have a topic you want covered? Let us know.