Glossy Talk: The Weekly cuts to the chase on Gillard coverage

Glossy Talk: No shilly-shallying, The Weekly cuts to the chase on Gillard coverage

The Australian Women's Weekly's editor Helen McCabe makes it clear there was no shilly-shallying around when it came to presenting Julia Gillard on her cover. Not for The Weekly suggestions that the glossy might play a part in Labor electoral propaganda with the insinuation that a (deputy) Gillard cover was in the bag before the leadership spill: "it is a coincidence that Julia Gillard is on our cover during what will be a tightly fought campaign. Our cover is not intended to be an endorsement of her or her government... It is not The Weekly's role to back a leader, but it is our job to ask questions and to bring you the stories about the people who shape this nation."

We are also reminded that The Weekly ran a feature on opposition leader Tony
Abbott in February (but not that Gillard also featured in December), that Gillard was faced with equally tough questioning (on God, on abortion, on childlessness, on marriage, on her alleged affair with Craig Emerson) and that the photographs of Gillard are mostly true-to-life: "We have not changed Ms Gillard's hair or removed one wrinkle. These pictures are beautiful because of great lighting and a talented photographer, makeup artist, hairdresser and stylist, and that is how Ms Gillard looked on the day."

So there.

Of course, things got interesting when The Weekly went on sale the very day that Gillard had to face rumours about her 'real' (un-Photoshopped) opinions on paid parental leave and the pension increase. In a timely fashion, a trip to Gillard's hometown in Adelaide was organised, during which time she dismissed the cabinet leak as "just a bit of silly carry-on", had a coffee with a local pollie and greeted prideful old ladies in the street (one who said, "I saw your pictures in The Weekly, they're lovely").

Gillard's immaculate transformation from hard-looking, tough-talking deputy with a barren fruitbowl to the groomed, poised, attractive lady we see in The Weekly's pages is nothing short of a PR miracle. You might think Gillard would look disconcertingly out of context amongst the pages of recipes and advice on family, menial and house-wifely matters, but she doesn't. Perhaps that is testament to good styling, flattering lighting or crafty PR. Or her deftness in the communication department. Hopefully, it is more about respecting a woman's right to choose her own path and look a-bit-alright regardless of your political (or religious) persuasions. Lucy Brook shares some of her thoughts on the issue...

The Gillard Cover Spread

The 4000-word Weekly profile by Associate Editor Bryce Corbett, which, as Sally Jackson reported in Monday’s Australian, includes an exclusive photo shoot that “will give Ms Gillard and Labor free national exposure to more than two million readers, almost all of them women voters”, is a pleasing behind-the-scenes package, complete with candid snaps and some lovely description (Gillard, snug in a pink hoodie with her feet propped up on a coffee table, gets grilled about marriage: gold) that’s unlikely to minimise the frenzy sparked by the latest leaks.

Several excerpts from the interview are making their way around the 'net, but this segue from Corbett is loaded: "It could be argued that Tim – for whom there is no doubt she cares deeply – is nice to have around, but he's not strictly necessary. Julia is a lone wolf, unweakened by association or ties. There's no way she can be let down by a philandering husband because she doesn't have one. There's no possibility of being embarrassed by a wayward child because she doesn't have any."

This bothers me. Are they the only choices women have? Be in an (implied: non-committal, unnecessary) de-facto partnership or be married to a "philandering husband"? Be a "lone wolf" or be "embarrassed"? Sorry to do be a nit-picky feminist, but no one sits around suggesting that Oprah is on shaky ground because she is unmarried and childless. No one implies that because of that, Oprah might do a crap job on her show, or for her charities. Or that her partner is disposable because they haven't officially tied the knot.

Elsewhere... The Good Bits

• Heralding the arrival of the Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image, Helen McCabe’s editor’s letter includes a frank disclosure of The Weekly’s use of Photoshop – “We do use these techniques because we want to bring you the best possible magazine. We smooth out skin tones, reduce imperfections and often alter ill-fitting clothing... In the interest of transparency, from this month we will acknowledge whenever a picture prwoduced (sic.) by The Weekly has been digitally altered.” Bravo.

• Flip a page over and The Weekly asks, "Who are Australia's most influential women?" in anticipation of the November issue, which will "pay tribute" to five women from spheres of influence including food, books, film, fashion, politics and media. Looking forward to it!

• Continuing this week's post-MasterChef foodie momentum, Maggie Beer, Stephanie Alexander and Margaret Fulton get feisty in ‘The Original MasterChefs’, featuring gorgeous images of Australia’s three (female) cooking powerhouses.

• ‘Punished for Love’ - Jordan Baker relates Darwin beauty Angelita Pires’ fight for justice after she was falsely accused by East Timor’s Government of plotting to assassinate the president, Jose Ramos-Horta. Compelling stuff. Don’t loose your marbles if you can’t find the continued copy on page 294 – it doesn’t exist, and should say 274.

• Aussie freelancer Jenny Cooney Carrollo talks motherhood, movies and dressing like a man with Angelina Jolie in ‘Earth Goddess’, a refreshing Q&A with sublime Patrick Demarchelier shots (which are possibly very, very Photoshopped. Since the images aren’t produced by The Weekly, we aren’t privy to the details) of the 35-year-old Salt star.

• Yearning for a sense of community? ‘Confessions of a Housewife’ delves deep into the blogosphere, where women come together to “bare their souls, vent their frustrations and ask shameful or embarrassing questions.” Uber-blogger Mia Freedman and The Australian’s Caroline Overington offer their social networking wisdom.

The Not-So-Good Bits

• Natalie Imbruglia... She's gorgeous, of course, but this is a seriously boring profile akin to YEARS of the same old Kylie profiles (are you clucky? Are you seeing anyone special? Isn’t it great that you were once on Neighbours?!).

• It would be unfair to take aim at the poor WAGS themselves, as they're real people (most with accomplishments beyond perfecting fake tanning), but I don't see how the photographic portfolio of these 20-something glamazons and their burly men would appeal to The Weekly's demo without making references to cougar-eye-candy.

Pretty Pages

• Photographer Robyn Beeche, 65, is both inspiring and elegant in 'Women we admire'.

City Homicide star Nadine Garner captures spunky elegance in ‘Black and White Magic’.

• ‘It’s a Classic’ is cramped with cropped capris, timeless trenches, Breton stripes, little black dresses, pencil skirts and pearls - a chic spread that would no doubt garner the Hepburn (Audrey and Katherine) seal of approval.

• ‘A Country Table’ beautifully showcases Kayanba (in Western Australia’s) wide open spaces, and some tasty tucker (white chocolate, macadamia and raspberry blondie anyone?)

The GWAS Verdict... Is this a glossy you should spend your pocket money on?

Yours truly,
Lucy & Erica @ Girl With a Satchel

Pop: All the foodie ladies

Pop: All the foodie ladies (put a napkin ring on it)

Over the past decade, pop culture has given us the supermodel, the waif, the slashie celebrity, the tween icon, the pop princess, the socialite, the reality TV star, the WAG and the funny lady (dabbling in fashionistas, rock-star progeny, crafty types and super-star stylists on the side) but the latest group of women to be pop-cultrified for mass consumption have one hand in a mixing bowl and the other on a MacBook. They are the female foodie heroines; the objects of male lust and female envy and marketing campaigns targeting your iPhone and your hip pocket.

They are about making the idea of cooking palatable and aspirational for everyday women and appeal to both men's stomachs and their appreciation of the female form. Not only can you have the luscious former literary editor Nigella Lawson on your TV screen, you can also keep her in your pocket with an "app that makes your cooking life easier", aptly named the Nigella Quick Collection, for your iPhone or iPod touch. Then there's the equally lovely Sophie Dahl, author of Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights, and maligned TV presenter (The Delicious Miss Dahl), who is as handy with prose as she is with a spatula. And now joining the British ranks of glamorous foodies is Gwyneth "GOOP-lady" Paltrow, who's said good-bye to her macrobiotic diet and hello to a book deal, with My Father's Daughter, her collection of recipes due out later this year.

Scoff as the serious chefs and epicurean pundits might at this likely fleeting female foodie obsession, I for one am happy to direct my girl-crush affections and pocket money towards women who make food preparation look fun and glamorous. For too long we have worshipped at the feet of women who want to suck the joy out of eating by whipping our bodies into submission, while male foodies (chefs, cooks and critics) have topped the celebrity media mantle. Poh to that!

Locally, we have MasterChef's female finalists, Poh Ling Yeow and Julie Goodwin, as well as industry stalwarts like Donna Hay, Kylie Kwong and Margaret Fulton, and comedienne Jane Kennedy (author of Fabulous Food, Minus the Boombah) and former Playschool host Monica Trapaga (author of She's Leaving Home) making a name for themselves as cooks women love. Save for Poh's Kitchen, where are the TV deals? I'd personally sooner watch Sarah Murdoch whip up a pavlova than oversee the next batch of
bitchy top models any day. As these feminine foodies show, you can have a nice booty and bake your biscuits, too.

See also:
GWAS' Book Shelf selection of cookbooks
Reality TV? Chefs still masters in most restaurants by Helen Greenwood @ SMH

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Glossy Talk: Girlfriend magazine's friendlier new image

Glossy Talk: Girlfriend gets a new, girl-friendlier image in light of Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image

Girlfriend magazine editor Sarah Cornish is walking the talk on body image with a relaunch of her teen title to coincide with the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct launched by Minister for Youth Kate Ellis in June.

Cornish was a part of the National Advisory Group on Body Image and also front and centre at the press call for the launch of the resulting initiatives which "encourage media, fashion and advertising industries to promote more positive body image messages" through support for the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct.

In addition to a refreshed masthead, the re-design of sections, layouts and fonts and a new cover-mount strategy, Girlfriend aims to comply with the Code of Conduct with a strict new body image policy covering everything from the selection of models published within the magazine to retouching guidelines. These include:

- The removal of images of models modelling catwalk (runway) from the pages of
- Banning the Photo-shopping of body shape, size, hair colour or permanent marks
(moles, freckles, scars, lines, tattoos);
- An ongoing commitment to using more real girls as models;
- And the promotion of positive role models and banning of celebrities who readers
identify as having poor body image.

Additionally, the new-look August issue out on Wednesday will give purchasers the option of an "I am beautiful" or "I am strong" necklace, which signifies the first of a series of girl-positive gifts to be cover-mounted over successive issues to tie in with the magazine's "I Am Beautiful" body image campaign.

In a press release, Cornish states, "The youth market has always valued innovation, and we’re excited to deliver Girlfriend readers a fresh, creative product which, more than ever, offers greater editorial substance and real understanding of the teen issues of today."

I'm in two minds about the "banning of celebrities with poor body image": by all means, present teens with healthy role models, and subtly omit celebs who might influence girls negatively, but what constitutes/measures poor body image exactly and what does it say to girls about accepting each other, and themselves, if these celebrities are singled out and shunned?

Still, all credit to Girlfriend for getting a jump start on the Voluntary Industry Code, which comes into play later this year and will allocate the body-image friendly symbol to compliant media through an awards scheme overseen by Mia Freedman. Big tick!

See also:
ACP's Australian Beauty Awards + Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image
Kate Ellis' launch speech

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Pop: Pop culture power women – take two!

Pop Culture: Women of pop culture & the unashamed use of cutesy clichés!

After experiencing some minor audiovisual issues (during which time I had a little jokey internal monologue with Tina Fey about the "computer sticky thingy") and giving my introductory lecture on feature writing on Monday, I opened up the opportunity for questions.

"Are you going to be referencing Sex and the City every lecture?" deadpanned one male student channeling Daria. Touché!

I actually hadn't intended to make reference to the show (in fact, I genuinely try to curb such things, knowing how tiresome it can sound), but sometimes a pop culture reference comes to mind that fits the occasion aptly enough to illustrate a point and simply must be voiced (cue the scene in Sex and the City when Candice Burgen, playing Carrie's Vogue editor, returns her piece on shoes dripping with red ink).

Though more "serious journalists" prefer witty literary/historical/political references and high-brow in-jokes, I love a good pop culture reference in a feature; preferably if it's Gen-Y nostalgic. It says, "you speak my language". Gillard and Abbott (or, rather, their speech writers) should really think about throwing some random Simpsons/Mad Men quotes into the mix (okay, as duly noted by Liz, it didn't work for Joe Hockey).

Give me Seinfeld, give me slinkys, give me scrunchies, give me The Goonies and Gilmore Girls and I'm yours. As Elle Woods once said, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." So does good pop-culture (and puppies). And Ellen DeGeneres.

So who better to inspire the writer's muse – that voice that sits upon your shoulder like trusty Tinkerbell – than some of the feisty and fabulous gals you pointed to in response to the pop popularity poll? Make like Buffy Summers who, said one of you, "slew all manner of demons and even had breath to spare for puns and quips".

Pic by Sophie.

Pic credits: Tinkerbell (; Tina Fey (; Elle Woods (; Ellen DeGeneres (; Lorelai Gilmore (; Rory Gilmore (; Daria (; Buffy (

See also: Pop Popularity Poll: Chicks who kick butt

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Guest Girl Talk: Pop culture, politics or both?

Guest Girl Talk: Can a girl have her pop culture Coco Pops and her political Corn Flakes, too?

When a prime-time TV cooking show has the power to shift a national political debate to nanna-dinner-hour, a girl's got good reason to question her politics. Here, Gen-Y writer and ABC Online intern Liz Burke ponders whether passion for pop culture and politics need be mutually exclusive.

I had a polarising proposition put to me this week that I just couldn’t pick: political passionate or pop culture junkie? (Today’s post is brought to you by the letter ‘P’). If you had asked me five weeks ago, I probably would have paused to close a few Firefox tabs full of celeb gossip and fashion blogs, waited for the TV screen to be engulfed by the MasterChef fireball ad-omen, and finished flicking through whichever glossy had arrived in my mailbox that week before considering my answer.

But, to be honest, lately I’ve been more interested in the musings of Annabel Crabb than Anna Wintour; Crikey over Grazia.

With so much going on in both public interest categories, it’s hard to keep up even with one, let alone deal with clashes and overlaps. It’s easy to feel the pressure to keep up with policy talk and election commentary, which can leave you craving some lighter news. I don't think I'm the only one in the nation facing this dilemma. (Just look at the hits garnered by the Miranda and Orlando love story).

Even our prospective leaders are struggling to accommodate the current affairs/culture clash. We saw pop culture prevail when the upcoming political pressure test, the leaders’ debate, was bumped to accommodate viewers of the other big decider of 2010: appointing Australia’s next MasterChef.

The groans of respected political commentators and dining devotees alike were heard loudly on Tuesday when the clash was announced. Compromises like channel surfing suggestions and SatchelGirl's Twitter idea to have Matt Preston adjudicate the Abbott/Gillard debate proved the public’s need to satisfy their hunger for both democratic debate and dinner ideas (in reply the witty MattsCravat tweeted: "Nice but I prefer Gillard and Abbott in a pressure test - followed by George & Gary debating home, economic & foreign policies").

Delightfully, pop culture won out in the end and the PM had to cave.

In not-so-well-received campaign developments, outspoken shadow treasurer Joe Hockey called on celebrity references to insult Wayne Swan and probably also to show the kids he is “down”, likening the Treasurer’s spending style to Paris Hilton’s celibacy.

Wednesday night’s cringe-worthy display of pop-cultural convergence by Tony Abbott in his appearance alongside Kylie on Hey Hey It's Saturday's judging panel, I thought, was taking it a little too far. But it did raise the question, or rather the idea of the importance of entertainment-integration in political campaigning.

I think, and I’ll never say this again... it might be time to take a leaf out of Tony Abbott’s book (shudder) and combine the two (in a less tacky and slightly more respectable manner, please). We can’t always be all over everything, and it can’t hurt to be entertained as well as informed. Maybe this discussion doesn’t need to end with a decider, or even a preferential vote. Stay informed, people, but don’t feel bad for flicking to the social pages before brushing up on the broadsheets’ campaign diaries.

*Last night's ABC 24 launch went up against MasterChef... we’ll see how that pans out.

Yours truly,
Liz Burke @ Girl With a Satchel

CHICTIONARY by Clare Press

(I speak, you speak, we all speak...FASHION)

F’row Word of the Moment

Fashion fatigue. (fash-on fateeg) n. General malaise prompted by fear of falling for yet another catwalk trend. Style system overload. Need to reboot (but please no more new boots, not yet, not until I’ve checked in – and out – of runway rehab).

The condition: The frenetic pace of fashion activity can lead to what’s been dubbed Fashion Fatigue Syndrome (FFS) in those who’ve been overexposed to too many trends and mood altering editorial images. If left untreated, FFS can lead to extreme and destabilising trend apathy, and ultimately – bad style. Yikes.

The symptoms: For healthy citizens of Planet Fashion, a glimpse of Louis Vuitton’s new ladylike look brings on a deep desire to go forth and purchase a new full skirt. This, you will recognise, is the normal reaction. But those afflicted by FFS appear unable to distinguish a natural, healthy yearning for fabulosity from rabid, unacceptable greed and stupidity. Sufferers report increasing down-in-the-dumps, woe-is-me feelings on exposure to new heel shapes or panels of ruched velvet. I spy Vuitton? “Time to scream and run!” say they. For the fashion fatigue victim, the September issues are simply too, too tiring.

Treatment: There are currently no drugs available to tackle this dangerous virus. The best way to beat it is to go cold turkey in a controlled environment. Then, when your system is out of shock, gradually reintroduce it to its past passions via short trips to Gucci in the CBD and controlled flicking through Grazia. In time, most victims can be successfully rehabilitated into the fashion fraternity, although the stigma surrounding the illness persists. Do what you can to spread the word – knowledge is power.

GWAS Note: Mrs. Press is a busy lady (book writing, fashion designing, blogging; you know how it is), so shall be dropping by GWAS sporadically to impart her words of fashion wisdom.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS: Lessons in The Elements of Style #2 (Quotations)

GWAS: Lessons in The Elements of Style #2 (Quotations)

Quotations. Formal quotations cited as documentary evidence are introduced by a colon and enclosed quotation marks.

The United States Coast Pilot has this to say of the place: "Bracy Cove, 0.5 mile eastward of Bear Island, is exposed to southeast winds, has a rocky and uneven bottom, and is unfit for anchorage."

A quotation grammatically in apposition or the direct object of a verb is preceded by a comma and enclosed in quotation marks.

I am reminded of the advice of my neighbour, "Never worry about your heart till it stops beating."

Mark Twain says, "A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read."

When a quotation is followed by an attributive phrase, the comma is enclosed within the quotation marks.

"I can't attend," she said.

Typographical usage dictates that the comma be inside the marks, though logically it often seems not to belong there.

"The Fish," "Poetry," and "The Monkeys" are in Marianne Moore's Selected Poems.

When quotations of an entire line, or more, of either verse or prose are to be distinguished typographically from text matter, as are the quotations in the book, begin on a fresh line and indent. Quotation marks should not be used unless they appear in the original, as in dialogue.

Wordsworth's enthusiasm for the French revolution was at first unbounded:
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

Quotations introduced by that are indirect discourse and not enclosed in quotation marks.

Keats declares that beauty is truth, truth beauty.
Dickinson states that a coffin is a small domain.

Proverbial expressions and familiar phrases of literary origin require no quotation marks.

These are the times that try men's souls.
He lives far from the madding crowd.

Edited extract from The Elements of Style (Illustrated), Strunk, White, Kalman, $19.95, Penguin

See also: Lessons in The Elements of Style #1 (Omit needless words)

Your truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Pop: Brooke Satchwell cleans up on stage

Pop: Brooke Satchwell cleans up on stage

I have a soft spot for Brooke Satchwell, and not just because her ex was a douche bag (can't we all relate to that?) who apparently treated her like a punching bag (lest we forget, given the Australia entertainment industry's unusual penchant for elevating men of dubious character to glory by giving them plum jobs in the TV industry... but that's another post).

Then, to top that whole experience off poor Brooke (a Neighbours and Play School alumni) got caught up in the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks of 2008 (which earned her the tag: "the girl that was in the cupboard"). The girl's had a rough trot of it. Yet in public she is all grace. Clean, shiny hair (she was a Pantene girl), luminous skin and lovely manners. Plus, she's a big believer in supporting good causes, like Jon Dee's "Do Something". If there were a Nice Girls magazine, she'd be a covergirl.

A few years ago, she took some time out, telling Women's Health magazine, "When your confidence is low, you feel the need for validation. Over the last couple of years, I became a little introverted - I was getting stage fright on set and I think that's because I was uncertain about where I was going. In day-to-day life I was keeping really positive and being the person people knew me as, which then made it very difficult to do my job and disappear into another character, because in my life I was already playing a role. I got stressed that I wasn't living up to my responsibilities. That's why I took 18 months out, to investigate different paths, see what else I could do."

Satchwell's latest acting gig is in the stage show The Clean House, which is in-season in Brisbane (until July 31), described as "a comedy about clean homes and messy lives... a heart-warming story of love, loss and how laughter can heal almost everything."

I love it when homegrown TV/movie actresses take to the stage and share their talents with the public at grass-roots level (I saw Rose Byrne perform in a small play directed by her then-boyfriend Brendan Cowell in Sydney a while back... she was mesmerising and I could almost touch her!). Not too big for her boots, Satchwell is a girl-with-a-satchel kind of gal. I am definitely booking tickets ( to show my support. X-Factor that.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Glossy Talk: Dearly disenchanted

Glossy Talk: Dearly disenchanted

"I've been an avid Sunday Life reader for some years; however, in recent months the tone makes a contented Sunday morning almost impossible. Happily married? Soon your spouse will be unfaithful and you will put up with this. Or, this week ("For Better Not Worse", July 4), you need to spend more time working on your marriage. Enjoy one or two glasses of wine with your dinner? You are on the path to alcoholism. Got kids? You'll need to subjugate yourself in every way to do this properly. The aim seems to be to feed every type of guilt, insecurity and doubt imaginable." - Belinda Prakhoff, Vic*

On the phone to a freelance writer friend the other night, she told me that she'd bought Cosmo, read it through and feel wretched about herself. As someone of considerable intelligence, she almost surprised herself with the ease at which she imbibed the content along with its subliminal messages about the vast gap between Who You Are and Who You Should Be.

This is not deliberate. Glossy editors genuinely don't sit in editorial meetings scheming away at how they can make their readers feel inadequate enough to buy stuff they don't need to fill the aching void of discontent. But they are indoctrinated in the culture; y'know, the one that sees everything through the looking glass. Which is why it scares me when I hear that some titles are producing all their content in-house.

In her "Open Letter to Seventeen Magazine" (a teen magazine which equates flat abs with "Major Confidence" and taking drugs with bring "Fat & Ugly"), teen blogger Tavi writes: "By trying to discourage the use of drugs with the threats that it will make someone fat and ugly, you're saying the worst thing that can happen to your average reader, a teenage girl, as a result of drug use, is not that she will have any damage done to her brain or become unhappy, but that her appearance will suffer (again, being fat does not mean bad appearance, but that is what you imply.) Notice anything wrong with this picture?"

Yes, all shades of wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And my cynical self immediately thinks, what a cheap way to attract teens with sensationalised coverlines that feed their physical insecurities: Seventeen should really know better. In an interview earlier this year, Seventeen editor Ann Sholket said: "I feel a tremendous responsibility to help these girls grow up to be smart, amazing, self-actualized, fulfilled women. And you know that responsibility is, like, every day. What do these girls need now, so they can walk into any situation and feel confident?"


When you work in magazines, you are so busy compiling references to take to meetings, shooting, writing copy, attending launches, etc., that the greater ideological/philosophical ideas about how what you are producing might affect your readers plays second fiddle. Eager features writers come to meetings with bags full of clippings and notes on their real-life experiences which are then bandied about until the perfect angle is decided. (Remember the editorial meeting scene in How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days? It's like that.)

Yes, you will have momentary attacks of "I can't believe I'm participating in this vacuous delusion" (I certainly did as a beauty editor) but mostly you are just Trying To Do Your Job. Which is to create pages for the magazine you are employed by. It's only when you start operating outside the glossy-sphere that things start to add up. What, normal people aren't all a size six? People don't wear six-inch heels and power-shoulder jackets? People actually eat carbs after 6pm? Some women are happy and content in their lives?!!! OMG!

Like a sort of glossy Stockholm Syndrome, you don't realise what adverse affects they have on your pysche until some of their more sinister elements have seeped into your consciousness (see here), like breaking up with an awful boyfriend who treated you like crap but whose disapproving words stick to you like glue. Glossy fatigue has long been a hazard of this blogger's beat (and this blogger's beat), but the above published (pilfered, whatever) reader of Sunday Life magazine articulates a wider disenchantment with the genre.

In 2007, I wrote this about ELLE magazine: "I felt all depressed after reading "After age 25, hair starts to lose pigment, which makes it appear flat and dull even if it's not grey yet" in 'Out With the Old'. In fact, the whole feature has got me obsessing over flaws I didn't know I had. Used to be your 30s were the time to start getting paranoid about wrinkles – now we twentysomethings have to be on hyper-alert for dehydration and pigmentation. In skincare, 20 is the new 30. But don't worry, there are a bunch of super-expensive ways to combat premature ageing: radio frequency waves for sagging arms, hyaluronic-acid-filler injections for jowls, Botox for those fine mouth lines, and shock therapy for frown lines! So much for old-fashioned diet, exercise, SPF, Dove beauty bars and age-acceptance."

While critical thought and shared life experiences are a valuable mainstay of glossy women's media, the negative-gearing of many features – let alone the imagery, advertising, etc. – is not a healthy thing for women to participate in. And it's seeping into online content, too. And now magazines are feeding off online, it's a vicious cycle we're participating in and perpetuating – how is any woman to be content while buying in?

You need to develop self-love, not buns, of steel and a healthy appreciation for the business of gloss. Best not to define your hopes, dreams and aspirations by glossy standards. Between you and me, no matter how well meaning, they will never quite make you feel like you are good enough... if you allow them to. The sooner more glossies start producing content to make women feel good – in mind, spirit and body – the better.

*Ironically, I go to church on Sundays to restore what the glossies deplete through the week!

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." 1 Corinthians 13:1

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: For the love of Dove

Girl Talk: For the love of Dove - our perception of a beauty giant, plus being true to personal convictions

All of us, everyday, are making moral and
ethical decisions that best serve our personal values systems or, if you're into social justice, the betterment of others. In my experience, our choices are usually based on a few things: our experience, values, knowledge, the law and professional codes of conduct.

Of course, there are many hindrances to the process: numero uno being we're human and therefore prone to messing up (some more than others). But we have far greater expectations for those in government, big business, religion and media, because these are the institutions on which society is built (arguably, in which we trust!): they are in positions of power, privilege and influence*. We deplore hypocrisy at these levels with vehemence.

The below essay, though explored elsewhere online, has particular relevance in the context of
the recommendations provided for in the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image. As the Australian magazine industry considers how it might balance its beauty and fashion industry interests with the best interests of readers, fledgling features writer Ellen-Maree Elliott asks, 'What's Dove got to do with it?'.

“No wonder our perception of beauty is so distorted.” So reads the evocative text that follows "Evolution", the Dove mini-doco-come-ad that went viral, viewed over 15 million times online. Women linked their friends to it, spammed inboxes with it and chatted about it at the coffee shop. Presumably they bought Dove’s beauty products too because it won the Cannes Lions Cyber and Film Grand Prix in 2007 (big biccies in the advertising world).

"Evolution" was followed by another mini-doco-come-ad, titled "Onslaught", which features a young girl barraged by images of the ideal (looking) woman in the media accompanied by images of all the ways you can become that woman: creams, powders, diets and plastic surgery smash each other out of the way in their eagerness to shape her self-image. The tag line for this one: “Get to your daughter before the beauty industry does.”

The ads, part of Dove’s "Real Beauty" campaign, touched a nerve with women worldwide. In September 2008, the campaign was reviewed on The Gruen Transfer. Russel Howcroft, CEO of George Patterson Y&R, said the campaign showed the power advertisers have to do good. "It is a superb effort, I think, on their behalf. In making this piece of advertisement, they’ve literally created a movement."

Behind the movement is The Dove Self Esteem Fund, which works in conjunction with The Butterfly Foundation, an organisation that provides support for Australians with eating disorders and their carers. Together, they run Dove BodyThink workshops in schools and publish free booklets online to help mentors instill positive body image in young people. The Butterfly Foundation has stated, "The Dove Self Esteem fund is an agent of change assisting young people to improve their self worth, body confidence and media literacy."

But there are those media literate, self-described cynics who question Dove’s motivations. Todd Sampson, CEO of Leo Burnett (and co-creator of the Earth Hour initiative) said on The Gruen Transfer that the campaign needed to be put in context. "It is a marketing strategy to make people like Dove more, so they buy more product. And what I don’t like about this ad is what society has wrapped around it. It’s given it this sort of moral high ground."

When Julie Gale, director and founder of Kids Free 2B Kids , presents to the community about the sexualisation of children and youth, she uses the Lynx “Get the Lynx Effect” campaign and online games. “I can’t tell you the response I get when I let people know that both [Dove and Lynx] are owned by Unilever,” she says.

One of the award-winning Lynx website’s games, The Dark Temptation Game Saga, involves a young guy who turns into a chocolate man after using a chocolate scented deodorant. The aim of the game is to dodge the crazy, mindless hot chicks driven mad by the smell of him to reach the end intact. "The women are starving... will you leave them in this predicament? Alone? Craving for you?" reads the text on the site targeted at 18-25 year old males.

Unilever is also the proud owner of Slim-Fast, the liquid diet product that helps to control hunger. And Streets ice cream. And Vaseline. The multinational has a myriad of brands, many of which have conflicting marketing values.

"People are bewildered and outraged at the hypocrisy,” Gale says. “On the one hand this company teaches girls to respect themselves and on the other hand, we’ve got another marketing strategy that completely objectifies women."

Unilever responded to Gale saying that it had struggled with these issues but that, ultimately, Lynx has always been a brand with humourous, toungue-in-cheek advertising that the target audience recognises as playful. David Evans, national research director for George Patterson Y&R (the firm responsible for "The Big Ad" for Carlton Draught) says he can understand where Unilever is coming from, as advertising practice is going in two directions.

“One is getting rid of the bulls***,” he says, which is what Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign aims to do. “And the other is taking the piss out of the bulls***.”

Evans says Lynx is attempting to do the latter, “[Lynx] didn’t seriously present that if you wore the deodorant you would be surrounded by beautiful women.” However, Evans echoes Gale’s concerns. “There’s too much ‘It was only a bit of fun’ and no-one taking responsibility. It could have major implications outside the target audience,” Evans says. “If you’re making ads, you should be an arbiter of taste. It’s not enough to appeal to the target market, it must also be an appropriate message for the target market to hear. Otherwise it’s just an irresponsible indulgence.”

Evans says that although the Lynx ads are arguably on the side of good taste, the website, which pictures scantily, suggestively dressed women with no faces, completely crosses the line into overindulgence. “I can’t imagine a site that better defines the objectification of women,” he says.

But what about all the genuinely good work Dove does with its charities and Self Esteem Fund? Does the fact they are giving up a percentage of profits and “putting their money where their mouth is” give them credibility despite the conflicting values of their brother brand?

Gale says, “If Dove thinks they’re doing the right thing by women, they’re being completely undermined by the Lynx campaign.”

Evans is more sympathetic, “Unilever is a giant company and they have hundreds of brands operating independently all over the world,” he says. “It has to hand down responsibility to the brand marketing teams and trust they adhere to the group marketing standard. Enforcing standards across two brands is easy, across 2000 it’s going to be bloody tough.”

So, it seems we come to the crux of the argument. Does Lynx’s advertising really undermine Dove’s unique and impressive mission? Should we boycott one of the only brands that promotes images of “real beauty” because its parent company isn’t keeping its brother in check? Ultimately the answer lies with the consumer.

Note: this is an edited version of a longer feature.
*Still, we do exert some amount of power, as Ellen-Maree notes: with our votes, money and voices.

Yours truly,
Ellen-Maree @ Girl With a Satchel

Guest Glossy Talk: Rachel HIlls on Frankie

Guest Glossy Talk: Rachel Hills on why it's worth talking about Frankie magazine (edited extract)

When I was in first year uni, I happened across a copy of The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order in a bookstore near my house. It was raw, witty, well-constructed and used real people’s personal stories to illuminate larger feminist and political points. As my extremely favourable adjectives would suggest, I loved it. It played a substantial role in my decision to take up Gender Studies at the end of that year.

I felt much the same way when Frankie hit the newsstands a couple of years later. So funny! So clever! So fresh! Just like The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order, minus the overt feminist disposition. But totally awesome. I was thrilled to discover this fantastic magazine, which seemed to be written for people just like me.

Then I got over it. I realised that while Frankie might be written for “people like me” in the marketing sense of the phrase, it wasn’t actually speaking to me. It was quirky, sure, but its quirkiness increasingly felt narrow and affected. Its models conformed strictly to the hipster beauty ideal, which as a woman with substantial hips and tits, left me feeling more alienated than Cosmo or Cleo. It didn’t strike me as any more critical than the magazines it positioned itself in opposition to – just written for a different “type” of girl.

In part of the conversation around those two blog posts yesterday, a bunch of us basically came to the consensus that if you looked at Frankie purely as “an indie/twee/hipster mag” rather than “the most super amazing, authentic, progressive magazine EVER!!!”, it was pretty much meeting its brief.

Journo Nicole Haddow observed: “The brand is consistent and it distinguishes itself from mainstream perfectly,” while Frankie contributor Chloe Walker commented on Tiara’s post: “on the website the mag is described as ‘aimed at women (and men) looking for a magazine that’s as smart, funny, sarcastic, friendly, cute, rude, arty, curious and caring as they are’. That’s their focus, not ‘diversity’.”

Chloe also made the following, rather salient, point: “I think people project a lot of yearning onto Frankie. … We’re so desperate for decent material that when we find a magazine that we identify with more than usual we can sometimes get so clingy and obsessive that we become angry that we don’t identify with it completely.”

She’s right. You can observe the same criticism around other publications targeted at an intelligent, critical, non-mainstream audience – Jezebel, Feministing and Jane, to name but three. People expect mainstream media to be bad (often, I would argue, they expect it to be worse than it actually is). But if you position yourself as something different, something alternative, something for smart, discerning young lady – well, then it’s all on.

But those projections go both ways, and Frankie also benefits from the hopes and expectations that are projected onto it. Some may be disappointed that it isn’t everything they’d like an indie, progressive mag to be, but a lot of others are so glad that it’s Not!Cosmo that they imagine it to be things that it’s not. People don’t just buy Frankie because the content “makes them feel good” - they buy it because it makes them feel smarter, hipper and more discerning than other people.

It also strikes me that it’s in response to these projections that people are critical of it. As an indie/twee/hipster/creative magazine, it’s fine if flawed (as are we all - this blog, and me, certainly included), as but one manifestation of a broader model of white, hipster-skinny, middle-class, centre-left “alternative” womanhood, it’s no less problematic, exclusive or aspirational than Grazia’s rail-thin fashionista, Cosmo’s confident “sexy chick” or Cleo’s “hot mess”.

To read Rachel's full post, go here.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel