Sponsor Spot: Cute & Chic by The Dreamery

The Christmas Day Outfit rests somewhere between the glam-but-demure Office Party Dress and look-at-me New Year's Eve Ensemble on the sartorial event calendar, requiring a certain casual elegance that will take you from breakfast to church (in my case), lunch and drinkie time with a surfeit of fabric around one's stomach to allow for a gradual expansion without nanna questioning your state of middle-area endowment ("Are you pregnant, dear?").

Faith Talk: Forgiveness for Christmas

Faith Talk: Forgiveness for Christmas

Yesterday three gorgeous young members of our chuch took the reigns to each deliver two-minute sermons. One spoke on faith, another hope, another love. They were remarkable. I had to quell the tears (which is what I'll be doing again this Saturday watching my nieces at their ballet concert).

Oftentimes in Christian circles we get so caught up in theology and doctrine and church politics that the essence of our faith becomes clouded. Conversely, "non believers" become so self reliant, so hardened or dependent on their own resourcefulness and resolve, that they lose all those childlike qualities (fun, wonder, dependence, creativity, trust, forgiveness, hopeful anticipation) that can bring joy in life; the kind of joy that Christmas is all about. This isn't always our fault.

Pretty: Cute & Chic (Meet the Feminist Frockers!)

L to R: Fashion Editor Rosemary Blanch, Layout Director Jane Thorburn, Beauty & Lifestyle Editor Shitika Anand, Web Editor Anna Angel and Editor Sarah Dalton.
Just a few representatives of the Frock Paper Scissors team, these ladies are so much more than their ability to coordinate an outfit and pose for a social snap. In light of 'How much is a pretty picture worth?', I asked them this question: feminism versus frocking up, can they coexist?

Glossy Review: Total Girls have too much stuff

Gloss Review: Total Girls have too much stuff

Every month is like Christmas in the world of tween magazines, so I pity parents looking to find stocking stuffers that surpass the splendiferous and plentiful gifts bestowed on readers each month. 

My old stocking staples, quite literally packets of staples and other such stationery necessities, don't quite cut the mustard next to Celebrity Calendars in Plastic Cases, nor Imagine Town dolls, charm bracelets and cards in a sachet, nor Totally Tasty Total Chef mini mag supplements, all which come with the December issue of Australia's number-one tweenie magazine. Santa Claus? You're stuffed.

No wonder some mothers don't buy their girls magazines: so they don't know what they're missing. If Total Girl ($5.95) had been around at the height of my pester power years, my mother would have had a coronary, so I pass them on to my sister-in-law with trepidation and apologies.

Girl Talk: How much is a pretty picture worth?

Girl Talk: How much is a pretty picture worth?

For those of us who claim to be feminists and rail against the subjugation and objectification of women in society, not everything is black and white: the grey area is significant, as murky and muddied as a coffee you've let go cold.

To be zealous about one's values takes serious and often mind-boggling consideration. Is it okay to spend money on grooming, or does the preoccupation with one's appearance play into the hands of outdated notions of women's role as subordinate accessories, to be seen and not heard? Is it okay or a betrayal to buy gossip magazines that profit from the objectification of female celebrities? To watch films that portray women as sex candy? To partake in beauty, fashion or pop culture practises at all? HEADACHE.

On Friday I thought twice before posting a 'Cute & Chic' tribute to some of the young women who worked on Frock Paper Scissors. My reasoning: while I'm not opposed to celebrating sartorial creativity or offended by youthful beauty, seeing oneself celebrated in purely pictorial form can be detrimental to a girl's self-perception. I'll let you – and them – decide if I should post it or not.

GWAS Film School: Sofia Coppola's Somewhere

GWAS Film School: Somewhere

By Lucy Brook

Four years on from Marie Antoinette, a lavish, pastry studded romp through Versailles, where Kirsten Dunst ran through the halls in sync with New Order and The Strokes, Sofia Coppola returns with Somewhere, a pensive study of an actor and his (seemingly) enviable Los Angeles existence.

Johnny Marco, played by Stephen Dorff, has a permanent dwelling at the Chateau Marmont, Sunset Boulevard’s arcane celebrity retreat, where he kills time watching strippers swing on portable poles and smoking on the hotel’s sun-drenched balcony. 

Pop Talk: A Very GWAS Christmas Music Special

Pop Talk: A Very GWAS Christmas Music Special 

To add to the bloggy festivities kick-started this week with Sophie's Picasa-d GWAS banner (you didn't notice?!), self-nominated GWAS Christmas Cheer Champion Liz Burke lists the pick of celebrity Christmas offerings this silly season.

Not since 2001’s Christmas special smorgasbord, dishing up festive favourites from Destiny’s Child, Jimmy Eat World, Coldplay, Samantha Mumba, and even Pokemon, have pop lovers and Christmas fanatics been so spoilt for choice.

After enjoying a particularly cheerful year with a less-cringe-worthy-than-previous-efforts film release (followed by a minorly cringe-worthy award acceptance speech possibly fuelled by too much holiday eggnog), and a baby on the way with hubby Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey's decided to share some of her good fortune with a follow-up holiday album to her 1994 chart-topper Merry Christmas.

Glossy Talk: Maggie Alderson on feminism, CLEO and her final column for Good Weekend

Glossy Talk: Maggie Alderson on assorted things: feminism, CLEO, royal weddings and her final column for Good Weekend

Maggie at her book launch in Surry Hills, Sydney c/o Sambag.com.au
When we caught up to talk shop about her new book, Shall We Dance, which should definitely be made into a movie starring Emma Thompson (as Lulu Landers) and Keira Knightley (as her daughter, Theo), Maggie Alderson had some very interesting things to say about editing CLEO, feminism and motherhood. 

So with her final Good Weekend column appearing this coming weekend and a royal wedding on the agenda, I thought it time to let Maggie loose on GWAS. Here goes...

Book Shelf: Half the Sky

Book Shelf: Half the Sky: How to change the world by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Review by Lucy Brook

Most nights, when I’d finished a chapter or two of Half the Sky and switched off my reading light, I held the book to my chest and cried. Sometimes, I smiled, at others, I was enraged but always, I was so moved by the courage and hope of the book’s subjects that – spoiler alert! – this is the book I am buying everyone for Christmas.

Half the Sky, by Pulitzer winning husband and wife duo Sheryl Wudunn and Nicholas D. Kristof, is a groundbreaking book that exposes the “most shocking and widespread human-rights violation of our age” – the abuses of women.

Wudunn, a former foreign correspondent and business editor for The New York Times and Kristof, who writes op-ed for the Times as well as an excellent blog, lay out an agenda for the world’s women and detail the three major abuses: sex trafficking, gender-based violence and maternal mortality.

But Half the Sky, named after a Chinese proverb – “women hold up half the sky” – isn’t just a book: it’s a movement, a “call to arms” to “emancipate women and fight global poverty”.

Americans are joining the movement in droves. The book made the New York Times bestseller list, Oprah Winfrey started a giving registry on her website, a documentary and a video game version are in the works and, like Eat Pray Love before it, Half the Sky has become a Western reading group staple. But instead of leaving their husbands, women (and men) are standing up for gender equality in developing nations.

The authors, fearless travellers who stop at nothing (including purchasing sex slaves to free them) to expose the harrowing truths, introduce us to some incredible women, like Mamitu, who grew up in a remote Ethiopian village and now trains surgeons in Addis Ababa. There were times when I closed my eyes in despair or gasped reading the women’s stories, but there’s hope amidst the horror.

As Angelina Jolie said of Half the Sky, “these stories show us the power and resilience of women who would have every reason to give up but never do.”

What’s especially beautiful about the book, and what makes it so essentially unique, is that every page is riddled with hope, and every story has the capacity to inspire action and change. The authors rouse support without chastising privileged Western readers and without inciting hatred of men.

“This is not a tidy world of tyrannical men and victimized women,” they write, “but a messier realm of oppressive social customs adhered to by men and women alike.”

Half the Sky will educate you and open your eyes to unfathomable cruelty, staggering inequality and heart shattering tragedy, but it will also change you in ways you might never have imagined, because, as the authors say in their opening chapter, while “honor killings, sexual slavery, and genital cutting may seem to Western readers to be tragic but inevitable in a world far, far away” we, those privileged Western readers, really do have the ability to change the world. All it takes is an open heart and a little spare change.

Half the Sky: How to Change the World, $27.99, Little Brown. 

To sponsor a woman through Women for Women International, click here.
Yours truly,
Lucy @ Girl With a Satchel

Glossy Talk: State of the (mag)nation - newspaper magazines circulation

Glossy Talk: State of the (mag)nation – newspaper magazines circulation

Fairfax's Sport&Style and the(sydney) magazine were the only two glossy supplements to add circulation in the latest Audit Bureau survey. 

Australia's premier sports and fashion magazine, Sport&Style is distributed via The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on the first Monday of the month. It's the highest circulating men's magazine in the country, with a combined reach of 331,150 copies in NSW and Victoria, putting it ahead of Zoo Weekly (100,530 weekly sales), Men's Health (75,579), Alpha (73,325) and FHM (50,020)*. 

In May, the title released an iPad app with unique content and interactive features – including video, animation, photo galleries and 360-degree views – in partnership with Hyundai, retailing at $3.49. The affluent title is clearly resonating with men with a penchant for suits and sports presented with style.

Overseen by Fairfax chief executive and publisher Lisa Hudson, both the(sydney) magazine and Sport&Style pose a threat to higher-end publications, such as News Magazines' GQ, for those exclusive AB demographic readers and advertisers. With Fairfax's Good Weekend set to relaunch this month, the publisher is clearly investing in its newspaper-insert brands, as with News Magazines' relaunch of market leader Sunday last weekend.

At the mercy of their host mastheads, the newspaper inserted magazines (NIMs) category presented nominal circulation declines across the board in keeping with newspaper sales. The below table showcases results for both NIMs and their mother ships. The value-adding inserts might prove to be the life-raft newsprint needs, particularly with the youth segment conditioned to expect things for free. 

Comedian Josh Thomas, 23, put the Gen-Y case best when he told Good Weekend's Nicky Barrowclough about his reading habits (he gets everything he finds worth reading via Twitter and blogs) after she spotted fifteen rolled up copies of the paper outside his house: "I thought I should read The Age and be engaged with the world. But they come every single day. Every single day! I hadn't realised what a commitment it was!".

*Sales figures based on the June 2010 Audit Bureau of Circulations report.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: State of the (mag) nation - September 2010 Circulation

The show's definitely not over for FAMOUS, the only weekly magazine to post a sales gain in the Audit Bureau of Circulations' latest survey period.

Mirroring the title's impressive readership gain, 5,391 more weekly sales were added to Pacific Magazines' coffers, in contrast to falls experienced across the mass weekly segment, a clear indication that its competitive pricing strategy, if not its extensive coverage of the captivating Kardashian sisters, has worked a treat.

The winner of the Women's Lifestyle award at the recent AMAs, Famous was acknowledged for "tapping into the zeitgeist" with weekly covers "reflecting the talk of the moment, with witty gossip and the latest celebrity news to boot". The magazine's change to a gloss cover "has also added to the magazine's success, making it stand out on the shelf from its matte-covered weekly sisters," said the AMA. I wouldn't hesitate to add a top-notch social media strategy to the winning mix.

Market leader Woman's Day dipped below 400,000 weekly sales, posting 392,503, a fall of -3.9%, but it was stablemate fashion weekly Grazia that lost the most ground, losing 11,778 weekly sales, representing 17.6% of its circulation. Reflecting newsagent Mark Fletcher's experience with the title, NW's circulation dipped a further 11.5%.

But it was the publishers' underacknowledged money makers, the cheapie "reality" weeklies, that lost the most sales overall: Pacific Magazines' That's Life, which underwent a redesign in May, lost weekly 25,555 sales, while competitor ACP title Take 5 shed 20,128.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Glossy Talk: CLEO posts biggest readership gain

Glossy Talk: CLEO posts biggest readership gain; Frankie makes impressive debut

Former CLEO editor Sarah Oakes, who resigned from ACP to take the reigns at Fairfax's Sunday Life, can smile a little today, as the magazine has posted the biggest readership gain across the glossy women's magazine spectrum for the period ending September 2010.

After experiencing consecutive falls in readership, the young women's magazine – now edited by Gemma Crisp, who debuted her first issue in mid-September –  has turned around its fortunes thanks to investment in cover mounting, promotional events including the Bachelor of the Year party, a social media strategy and an editorial direction differentiating the magazine from stablemate Cosmopolitan, which lost -8.9% of its readers, though still has 133,000 more readers than CLEO.

CLEO had posted a -8.2% readership loss in the June 2010 Roy Morgan audit, following a 11.5% loss in March 2010, and massive -26.8% loss in the September 2009 audit at the height of GFC fallout. The change of circumstances will be a relief to CLEO staffers as David Gyngell takes the reigns at ACP Magazines, despite his recent suggestion to AFR that no titles will be eliminated from the stable, though "some will need to be tweaked as consumers' magazine tastes change".

Which brings us to Notebook:, the recently folded News Magazines title, which gained 14,000 more readers in the September audit and published its final issue last month, perhaps prematurely. Other strong gainers* included Vogue Australia and The Australian Women's Weekly, while Marie Claire and Harper's BAZAAR and posted nominal increases. The Weekly, which is going from strength to strength under Helen McCabe's leadership, remains the most-read title in the marketplace.

InStyle lost the most readers (35,000) and SHOP Til You Drop dropped 13,000 shopping enthusiasts, likely a lagging indicator of guilt-ridden-GFC consumer sentiment, with new survey entrant Frankie registering a significant 199,000 readers.

With more gains than losses, it seems the glossy market is coming good just in time for the (happy) holidays. 

*Women's Health also gained 7.1%, taking it to 455,000 monthly readers, while Prevention has 158,000 readers, down from 172,000 in the June audit. These currently reside in the GWAS 'Healthies' category.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Glossy Talk: Famous outpaces weekly market in readership

Glossy Talk: Famous outpaces weekly magazine market... again; Grazia drops 16,000 readers

Pacific Magazines' Famous has posted the largest year-on-year readership increase for any magazine in the women's weekly market for the September 2010 audit period, cementing its position as the fastest growing weekly title on Aussie newsstands.

The magazine has gained 57,000 new readers since October 2009, according to Roy Morgan's latest survey, representing an impressive 21.1% rise to put it in equal stead (327,000 readers) with rival ACP Magazines title NW, which lost 14,000 readers while going through a tumultuous redesign (or two) and change in editorial appointments.  

NW currently retails at $4.95 while Famous has recently upped its cover price from $3.50 to $3.95.

Famous has utilised the power of social media, including Twitter (6,785 followers) and Facebook (2,332 friends), in addition to famous.com.au, to inform readers about breaking news in the world of celebrity and entertainment.

Famous' Pacific Mags stablemate Who also gained readers (20,000 of them), though New Idea lost 131,000 of them (an 8.1% loss). OK! and Woman's Day posted nominal decreases, while fashion weekly Grazia lays claim to the biggest loss, shedding 16,000 readers since last October.

Decreases were also experienced across the reality weekly category and TV magazine category: TV Week dropped 8.4% of its readership, while TV Soap lost 14.9%.

The overall magazine market gained 4.7% in sales year-on-year.

More readership results to come.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: State of the (mag)nation – September 2010 Readership

Robust is what you'd call the Australian magazine market, if the latest Roy Morgan readership figures are anything to go by, and the media market is going to feel the full thrust of the magazine segment over the next 12 months as publishers join forces under the Magazine Publishers of Australia banner in order to restake a sizeable claim of advertising share* and the drive momentum already picking up pace at the nation's biggest publisher, ACP. 

The market increased 4.7% year-on year as it made a steady-as-she-goes recovery from the GFC, boosted by interest in food, health and the home, sectors which all experienced across-the-board readership growth. The women's weekly and glossy market tempered results.

Significant gainers included House & Garden (up 23.4%), which won the "U-Turn of the Year" award at the recent AMAs, BRW (up 24.7%), independent titles Australian Healthy Food Guide (up 40.5%) and The Big Issue (up 54.2%), ACP's DOLLY and Next Media's Inside Sport. Herewith the breakdown...






*Media agency Carat predicts the magazine sector will account for 10.2% and 9.8% of advertising spend in 2010 and 2011 respectively, with magazines losing out to online (11.3% and 12.1% share), newspapers (19.9% and 18.7%) and television (44.8% and 45.4%).

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: A rainbow of your awesome

Girl Talk: A rainbow of your awesome

While we've been banging on about body image/Photoshop/those contradictory glossies for too long now, it is always good to be reminded of one's true value. Ellen-Maree Elliott contributes her two cents.

Picture: Operation Beautiful
I’m 160 something centimeters high (short), 75 kilos (fat) with oily, problem skin (pimply). There are days when I wake up and look in the mirror and want to cry. But those moments do not define me. Why do they even happen?

For centuries, throughout the world, women have subscribed to regimes so cleverly schemed we think it’s “just life.” Wealthy Chinese women bound their daughter’s feet to ensure they remained tiny and “beautiful”. Nineteenth century women CRUSHED their vital organs into tiny spaces using whale-bone corsets.

Today, women of the western world drink disgusting concoctions, pop pills, treat lettuce as a superfood, live at the gym, and restrict their calorie intake as close to zero as possible – all varying degrees of scary – to reach a number on a scale. We put ourselves through agony – some die – trying to live up to whatever relatively short-lived “in vogue” beauty ideal the powers that be throw at us.

“The ideal woman is very thin, generally white, highly sexualised and objectified,” says Lydia Turner, pyschotherapist and managing director of Body Matters. “Women are often positioned [in the media] as passive and vulnerable, by wearing few clothes and with body language. There is also a continual emphasis on youth... on perpetual girlhood.”

Thinking about our beauty is inescapable. We are attracted to, and reward, beautiful people. (Because we think they’re better for baby-making, or whatever.) There are physical traits we find universally attractive: Google it. But a lot of what we think is attractive is Just. Plain. Hype. We don’t have to listen to those powers that be.

There are stronger influences on our lives than ink, paper and pixelated images. There are more valuable human traits than face symmetry, height and weight. What are paper dolls compared to the exquisite beauty of a friend? What are gazelle-like legs compared to the kindness of a stranger gifting you a pen for the crossword puzzle? (Random act of kindness WIN.)

We need to find more substantial role models than swimsuit models in fashion spreads.

“In our society there is too much emphasis on how beautiful we are,” says Lydia. “We need role models who define their own self-worth by many different things, not just one, like how they look.”

People who make us think, laugh and believe in ourselves; who realise being white, thin and “sexy” is not as impressive as, say, being able to play a duet with yourself on a ukelele. (Or just being able to play a ukelele.)

Lydia says family, community groups and church groups are great places to find inspiring people. “Look for people who have integrity and stick to their values, who are confident and supportive; who you come away from them and feel uplifted.”

She suggests trying to find three women who don’t conform to current beauty standards whom you admire. Write down why. [Maybe on a brightly coloured sticky note.]

But, although it’s great to have someone to aspire to being like, self-confidence is about being proud of ourselves. So, for a moment, let’s put away our, “I don’t want to seem stuck-up-ness” and our “I look fats”. Get some more brightly coloured sticky notes. Write down nice things about yourself. Don’t focus too much on looks.

Make a rainbow of your awesome.

Yours Truly,
Ellen-Maree Elliot @ Girl With a Satchel

Glossy Talk: Awesome cover of the moment

Glossy Talk: Awesome cover of the moment (and GWAS Cover of the Year contender)

I hope this beautiful cover comes to define the women's glossy genre as we step into 2011. Thank you, Brigitte!

C/o Jezebel.com

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Glossy Talk: Vogue Australia founder Bernard Leser inducted into AMA Hall of Fame

Girl Talk: Vogue Australia founder inducted into AMA Hall of Fame

Quality over viability was Vogue Australia founder Bernard Leser's motto when he was charged with launching the upmarket fashion magazine as a stand-alone title in Australia in 1959 after being tested as a supplement to the British edition. 

"Quality was absolutely vital," Leser is quoted saying in the Australian Magazine Awards' winners supplement. "We were much more interested in the quality of human relations and the quality of the product than money. The money came after that. We made a good profit but our shareholders were never greedy. We could have made more money had we approached it more in a Murdoch fashion, but the Newhouse family was different in its priorities."

At the AMA Awards held this morning, at which Leser was inducted into the Hall of Fame and given a standing ovation, he reminded the publishing fraternity that the business should be fun, and that creative people are a publication's greatest asset.

"I would say to you all here to always consider the creative people your stars, they are the ones that make the products that make you money."

Perceiving a poor return on investment, Conde Nast sold Vogue Australia to the German-born, New Zealand raised Leser and his business partners in 1972 only to buy it back in 1990. In the meantime, Leser rose to the illustrious ranks of the company, launching a German edition of Vogue in 1978 and becoming the VP of Conde Nast Europe and VP of Conde Nast USA in 1980 while still in London. In 1987 he moved to New York after being appointed president of Conde Nast USA. He returned to Australia in 1994 as chairman and managing director of Conde Nast Asia Pacific, and retired from full-time work in 1997. He was director and chairman of Text media from 1998 to 2002.

While Leser's legacy includes the local edition of the venerable Vogue title, his son, David Leser, is an award-winning journalist whose stories have appeared in Good Weekend and AMA Magazine of the Year The Australian Women's Weekly and whose profile subjects have included Tina Brown, Norma Khouri, Carla Bruni, Germaine Greer and, most recently, Bettina Arndt.

Yours truly,

Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: Disney Dreaming and Demi Lovato

Girl Talk: Disney Dreaming and Demi Lovato

This week girls were reminded of the fallibility of Disney-made glossy cover girls. But, says teen blogger Georgie Carroll, that's no reason to stop dreaming.

On Monday the lovely people at Disney helped realise a dream of mine by supplying me with tickets to EuroDisneyland. Giant posters of Demi, Miley and Selena were up around the park, as were big screens playing the theme songs to their TV shows.

I stood there watching them and thinking to myself about how they have everything I could ever want and how their lives are completely and utterly perfect. Then I came home to an internet connection and read about Demi.

To hear that she had checked herself into rehab for self harm and an eating disorder broke my heart. As the complete and utter fangirl that I am, I had always thought that if you were a 'Disney Princess' everything was amazing; you got your happily ever after and nothing bad would, or could, happen.

Demi and her fellow teen stars get to date the hottest guys (Jonas boys, I'm looking at you), are featured on magazine covers, have their own TV shows and appear in movies, but I guess this new turn in events just proves money can't buy you happiness.

Being a teenage girl today is by no means easy. There is so much pressure placed on us by our friends, family, the media and, most importantly, ourselves. We spend so much time trying to achieve this illusive perfection – the top grades, the skinniest bodies, the hottest boyfriends, invites to the biggest parties, popularity – that we neglect to stand back and realise that this perfection doesn't actually exist.

Of course, we then discover this the hard way and end up in a vicious cycle of hate, more often than not directed at ourselves, because we're just not good enough. We end up self-destructing because our happily ever after isn't occurring like it's meant to.

Demi has taken the first step to saving herself and I can only pray she influences other girls to do the same. We just all need to remember that our happily ever after is really just on the next page, we just need the patience to wait.

Read Georgie's full piece @ Frangipani Princess

Glossy Talk: Maggie Alderson to pen final Style Notes for Good Weekend

Glossy Talk: Maggie Alderson to pen final 'Style Notes' for Good Weekend

Those of you who follow my tweets may have been privy to the imminent demise of Maggie Alderson's Style Notes column for Good Weekend magazine last Friday; those more inclined to follow Caroline Overington's Media Diary web page (no offense taken; she's great, a newshound, and I should have blogged it!) would have picked up on it today.

Alas, Fairfax's Good Weekend is undergoing a redesign – in line with the recent spate of makeovers in the glossy newspaper supplement genre – and Alderson's popular Style Notes column, now 12 years running, will not be a part of the new editorial offering.

"They’re changing the magazine around and getting rid of all the columnists except for Mark [Dapin]. I’m quite devastated," Alderson told me, clearly dismayed (and a little miffed) by the news last Friday morning. "I get so many letters and emails from people saying how much they like it and can really relate to something I said, and I’m going to lose that."

One of Australia's most prestigious and respected magazines, Good Weekend – which celebrated 25 years in print last year  and is inserted into The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age each Saturday – is known for its insightful personality profiles, award-winning long-form feature stories and, of course, columnists.

"What you go to newspapers for is comment, expertise and opinion and humour in the columns," says Alderson. "Maybe they’ve got a raft of fabulous new columnists who are going to be brilliant. And maybe they need a fresh voice. My ego is obviously a little bit hurt, but it’s my relationship with the readers – some who have grown up with me, who started reading [Style Notes] when they were teenagers and now have children, and I’ve kept in touch with them; and new young ones – little 16-year-olds keep popping up. Anyway, it’s over." 

Good Weekend currently ranks second in the magazine supplement sector, behind News Limited's Sunday, in readership (1.635 million is not to be sneezed at) making it fertile ground for journalists and writers of a certain calibre (like the brilliant Jane Cadzow). And for Alderson, it's been a fruitful partnership: she's compiled three non-fiction books (Shoe Money, Handbag Heaven and Gravity Sucks) based on her sartorial musings.

After completing her current book tour in Australia, Alderson will be returning home to Hastings, England, to blog here, where she pens book reviews and writes of her daughter's reluctance to embrace book reading.

"I love to read, and if I write about each book that I read then I will be reading it actively, thinking what I'm going to write, rather than reading it passively," she says. "My plans at this moment are to do another [blog] that will be similar to the column and I will probably archive the old columns on there so my readers can find them. I might try and archive them by subject, to make them a little resource for people."

So there you go... better late than never.

'Tis a shame to see Style Notes go – particularly as it's the very column that this writer has lovingly archived since her days as a uni student – but we can at least continue to get our Maggie Alderson fix through Twitter and her blog.

See also: InStyle with Maggie Alderson, and stay tuned for a review of Alderson's new book, Shall We Dance?

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: Humility, femininity and big, fat mouths

Girl Talk: Humility, femininity and big, fat mouths

"Do nothing from factional motives or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility, let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself." (Philippians 2:3)

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine loaned me a set of CDs by prolific Christian speaker/author Joyce Meyer called "Me and My Big Mouth" (what was she trying to tell me?). While Meyer has a range of things to say about everything from nagging (I learnt early on in my marriage that it doesn't work – that's another post) to whingeing (won't win you friends or get you what you want), one thing in particular struck a chord.

Meyer tells an anecdote about a time in her life when she was struck down with an inability to speak: while words usually flow from her mouth like honey from a pot, she found herself stifled by she-didn't-know-what, unable to string a coherent sentence together let alone deliver it in public.

Discussing the issue with her husband, he suggested it might have something to do with the fact that she'd been bad-mouthing another preacher for his delivery style. Her resolution? To stop talking negative, particularly about the competition (when you're dissing someone within your own profession, it apparently bites you back doubly bad).

As someone who once prided herself on being above cliquey bitchy talk – and sometimes sidelined because of it – I've also been prone at times to falling into the Howard/Costello trap of giving others a bad wrap, though I've known in essence that to spite is not right.

It's tempting as a woman to buy into bitchy talk, often when we are at a low and lonely ebb, as we are momentarily connected by our disdain for something or someone else (usually because they have something we want... like that scalloped Chloe jacket, a great job or a size 8 butt). But it's a false and fleeting bond; a superficial Super-Glue. The Araldite stuff is positive interaction.

This month Kelly Valen, author of The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling The Dark Legacy of Female Friendship, has penned a feature for marie claire hooked on the Australia's Next Top Model Finale. Valen celebrates the kindness shown between Amanda Ware, Kelsey Martinovich and Sarah Murdoch.

"This was a testament to the beauty of civility, empathy and kindness; the thing women are so good at bestowing on each other when we're at our best," writes Valen, whose research overwhelmingly points to a gender troubled by ugliness, "everything from women badmouthing female colleagues who were up for promotion, and mothers stalking their daughters' peers, to the garden-variety gossip and put-downs so many of us fall into the habit, sport, boredom, or even as a bonding ritual."

To exist in a female Utopia where everyone gets along is a ridiculous proposition, but if the benefits of kindness, empathy and inclusiveness, as apposed to the competition-judgement-gossip-insecurity-aggression-manipulation cycle Valen writes of, were to become the dominant characteristics of the "fairer sex", how much more powerful we could be (tra-la!).

How on earth do we get there?

It starts inside, of course, by addressing the voice that tells you you're crap; what columnist/blogger/presenter Sarah Wilson calls the "judgey voice in my head" that pops up uninvited when you need to shift something in your life.

"This “Fred Nile voice”...holds a mirror up to our own shit," writes Wilson. "As Carl Jung said: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” So when the voice pops up, use it to question what the issue might be for yourself."

Nothing breeds hatred or unkindness or ill intent like insecurity and fear and self-loathing (which in turn feeds the insatiable female guilt/anxiety/worry beast). And we turn increasingly inwards as the world appears to threaten or attack us from the outside, shutting out the potential to form wonderful, nourishing, loving and mutually beneficial relationships that buffer us from life's blows.

The three heroines of Australia's Next Top Model are the perfect example of strength in unity of women unencumbered by conceit, arrogance and petty, small-minded thinking, and the benefits of generosity of spirit. Sometimes we just have to let go of old bad habits and grudges and our big, fat, judgemental mouths to allow the world's blessings to come right in.

As Vallen says, "nice girls actually do finish first".

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mag Talk: Talking The Economist

Mag Talk: Talking The Economist

Handling The Economist is like walking around holding a placard that says, "I'm educated and informed and therefore liable to be a bit of a tosser", so I don't make a regular show of this magazine indulgence, but I did for a moment feel smug sitting next to a snooty couple en route from Sydney with The Economist in my lap (neatly disguising the Grazia that lay beneath). Of course, they needn't know that I read over some of the passages twice to fully comprehend their meaning (I was sleepy, okay). 

So, with all that time and cerebral effort, why not share of the fruits of this media engagement on the day of the U.S Mid-Term Election (my sole reason for scooping it up). Here's some of what The Economist and its stable of very excellent journalists has to impart:

The election
"The likeliest outcome [of the mid-term election] is that the Republicans will take back the House of Representatives [435 seats in total] and make solid gains in the senate [100 seats], where, though falling short of majority control, they will effortlessly be able to block any bill they wish."
- Americans are angry at Obama.
The Lefties think he's piss-weak; the conservatives (see 'Tea Party') think he's a spendthrift (all those pricey health reforms); and "centrists", like The Economist, see "his skills as president falling far short of his genius as a campaigner". He is out of favour with big business, Silicon Valley and "middle America", which does not like uncertainty or economic hardship (presumably like the upper and lower parts of the American population!).
- But it's not all bad.
The magazine credits Obama, now 21 months into his presidency, with steering the economy away from a "much worse fate" with a "big, bold and immediate stimulus plan" and also for his attention to health reform ("he should probably have postponed doing so until the economy had recovered"), his "generally sensible decisions about Iraq and Afghanistan" and his political appointments (see 'Hillary Clinton').
- Rounding out.
Obama "inherited the inbox from hell" from Bush, says The Economist: banks to be saved from collapse, GM and Chrysler heading down the gurgler, climbing unemployment rates, unfinished wars and climate change... and then BP spilled a load of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. His health reforms have been controversial (unaffordable! unconstitutional!) and he's been described as "professorial and aloof". Can he redeem his presidency and win back the confidence of disenchanted Americans by the next election in 2012?

The Tea Parties
Nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland, apparently, the tea parties represent a growing conservative movement based on "small government, free enterprise and self reliance". Reports The Economist: "In primaries all over the country they have secured the selection of Republican candidates who are 'true' conservatives, not the big-spending counterfeit Republicans whom they blame for leading the party astray under George Bush... America's pontificating class is not yet sure how to take the measure of this strange new movement. Puzzled academics gathered last week at the University of California, Berkley, to ask, among other things, how tea-partiers were "tapping into and/or managing the populist, libertarian and radical currents on the right, as well as fear, anger and resentment among segments of the American public...".

Afghanistan and the Taliban

The Taliban are in talks with the "corrupt and shambolic" Afghanistan government led by President Hamid Karzai. "[The Taliban] leadership, partly based in Pakistan's province of Baluchistan, is believed no longer to have close ties to al-Qaeda, whose command is thought to reside in Pakistan's tribal areas... it seems unlikely that that the Taliban leadership would settle for less than the significant control over southern Afghanistan it currently wields." Despite NATO's 130,000 peacekeepers, and a recent surge of 30,000 American troops [Australia currently has 1550 diggers in the region], the Taliban has a stronghold in large parts of eastern and southern Afghanistan. In response to questioning about an Islamist acid attack on schoolgirls in Kandahar, a mid-level Taliban leader tells The Economist: "What else do they deserve? A good woman needs only Islam, not school."

And soon, back to Grazia...

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Glossy Talk: Could men's magazines have a new sheen?

Glossy Talk: Could men's magazines have a new sheen?

Have no fear, Charlie Sheen IS NOT DYING, reports TMZ this morning. Apparently the falling "star" of Two and a Half Men is not on death's door but gearing up (ha!) to be on set of his TV show on Tuesday. 

While many will be disappointed to hear of the reckless, drug-alcohol-and-woman abusing Sheen's apparent recovery from yet another night of debauchery (likely to be recounted in court-chery), the Hot Shot sociopath has already turned the event into Spin City (allergies!).

Similarly, the men's magazine market – which has been flatter than a soggy toupee – is not likely to go down without a fight, at least according to the lead item in today's Australian Financial Review Media & Marketing section, 'ACP puts fight back into men's mags'.

Neil Shoebridge reports that ACP Magazines is set to launch a local version of UFC magazine, a sport and lifestyle title devoted to the Ultimate Fighting Championship League. UFC is apparently a "sport" involving "mixed martial arts fights held in octagon-shaped cages and include karate, boxing, wrestling, kick-boxing and jujitsu".

In the words of The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter FitzSimons cited by Shoebridge, UFC is a "a cross between Fight Club, rock 'n' roll, a vicious bar-room brawl and the fall of Saigon" (something right up Charlie Sheen's alley, as it is fellow UFC supporter James Packer's).

"UFC is the hottest men's magazine franchise in the world and the UFC competitions are the fastest-growing sport in the world," ACP group publishing director Phil Scott told AFR, adding, "It's too early to speculate about what UFC might sell, but I think people are going to be surprised."

Mothers with teenage sons are as likely to rush out to buy UFC magazine as they are copies of the video game Carmageddon, dubbed by AskMen.com as "the racing game for the chemically imbalanced."

Packer's passion for the sport neatly ties into his new interest at Channel 10 and its digital sports channel spin-off One HD, which broadcasts UFC in Australia.Given pay-per-view broadcasts of UFC fights are the biggest source of revenue for US-based UFC parent company Zuffa, the Packer/ONE HD/ACP relationship is potentially a big media coup.

Thankfully, there is tamer fare with a sports focus available for gents in the glossy market, including Fairfax Magazines' Sport & Style, which goes on sale on the first Monday of the month and is inserted into The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (NSW and Victoria distribution only).

The latest issue features Michael Clarke on the cover and feature stories on both Clarke ('Working Class Man') and his cricketing contemporary Shane Watson. But even this stylish title isn't averse to the pull of a fighting match: two pages are dedicated to Italy's Palio di Siena, a horse race in which rival neighbourhood jockeys beat each other with whips and some don't survive the dirt track's treacherous turns.

Last week, new of the launch of Gaz7etta, the men's magazine equivalent of Grazia, had media heads talking in the UK with its one-off free distribution of 500,000 copies designed to woo upmarket, 30-something, style-conscious male readers.

The 60-page men's style and lifestyle magazine inserted into Bauer titles Q, Mojo, Empire and Grazia aims to translate Grazia UK's success formula (fashion, news and celebrity done with wit and intelligence) into the men's genre, reports The Guardian. Jordan Plunkett reviewed Gaz7etta for the Guardian online. His verdict? So far so insufficient evidence to necessitate a weekly purchase. 

Meanwhile, in the Australian market, men's lifestyle titles with a fashion focus have been faring well. GQ (101,000 readers) and Men's Style (68,000 readers) both registered increases in the June readership audit, while results for lad mags Zoo Weekly (462,000 readers), Alpha (176,000 readers) and FHM (186,000 readers) all fell. GQ also launched its fashion bi-annual, GQ Style, Men's Health is doing 'Guide to Style' inserts and ACP's SHOP Til You Drop masthead carries a SHOP Men supplement (does it have potential to become a stand-alone brother title?).

This renewed focus on men's fashion could be attributed to the Mad Men influence (just as the show was partly responsible for the fuller female figure making a catwalk comeback and Christina Hendricks scoring several glossy covers). The new edition of The Big Issue has devoted its cover to the show's star Jon Hamm. 

"The MM website boasts a 'fashion file', a 'cocktail guide' and a page where you can 'Madmen yourself," writes Lorin Clarke in the cover story. "This new verb, 'to Madmen', literally means to create an image of yourself in the style of the Hitchcock-inspired opening credits of the program." 

Writes Clarke, the "sexism, racism and the toxic workplace environments explicitly breach contemporary standards of behaviour...is voyeurism at its best... The Mad Men audience gets the fantasy with an acknowledgement of the shortcomings of the reality. We can watch Mad Men without having to live it."

In the current socio-cultural context, where women assert more power and influence, the 'reality' may be why more men are turning into Don Draper lookalikes and turning to UFC. It doesn't take Two and a Half Men to work that out that in magazines, men need escapism, inspiration and style tips, too. The appeal of men's magazines is to service wants, needs and desires; I just wonder what men really aspire to. 

Is it Mr Sheen Extreme, Mr Squeaky Clean or something wearing a suit in between?

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel