Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — The New Year is harvest time for the self-improvement industries, even though only 46% of people who make resolutions will have managed to keep them by the six-month mark, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
Jennifer Nelson—author of the new Seal Press book Airbrushed Nation: The Lure and Loathing of Women’s Magazines—exposes the resolution myths found every January in women’s magazines and the yearly toll that such unrealistic expectations can take on their readers.
An industry insider, Nelson draws on fifteen years of writing both for and about women’s magazines in her book Airbrushed Nation, a behind the scenes look at the “chick slicks” that engross over five million women every month.
Tired of finding the same old spin in January’s glossy pages New Year after New Year, here is Nelson’s take on six of the worst offenders, so they can be avoided come January:
1. Resolutions—How to choose resolutions, stick to resolutions, write down resolutions, and make resolution dreams come true so next year can bring all new resolutions. The glossies set readers up to pick from a host of top resolutions for women: get healthy, stick with a workout routine, get out of debt, be kinder, have more success at work, score more sex, and get organized. It’s a one-size-fits-all resolution feast. They nick the jugular to get readers up off the couch and put down the leftover snicker-doodles, and they kindly provide “How to Dump the Pounds Post-Holiday” pieces. In. Every. Single. Chick Slick.
2. Diets—The dieting industry is worth 40 billion dollars. Not only are women’s magazines selling themselves, but their advertisers are trying to unload weight loss and exercise products and services, so women are treated to at least one dieting or fitness article every January. They know readers have been a gluttonous lot—all that celebratory eggnog—and so they move in for the kill with the typical guilt-inducing “improve, improve, improve” mantra.
3. Anti-aging—Of course it wouldn’t be a new year without a glimpse into how to look younger going forward into the next year. Expect to see the standard anti-aging pieces in all the glossies, which will showcase the latest salves, serums, and surgeries to make readers look at least as good as they did last year.
4. Sex—Expect the same fare from the other eleven issues, only this time they’re packaged with the New Year in mind: “Blow His Mind in the New Year,” “This is the Year for your Sexual Revolution.” The glossies will tackle new positions, newfangled sex ideas, and “what he likes best” stories—because that’s what matters most when it comes to sex in the chick slicks. What he likes best.
5. Finding inner Zen—Modern women’s magazines would be remiss not to touch on the spiritual flavor of the New Year: how to get in touch with a softer side, give back, and ultimately discover inner peace. These are called “finding inner Zen” articles. The glossies are full of this theme in January—everything from looking for more meaning to searching for a happier life is right there in the shiny pages. That is where to search for Zen, right?
6. A look back—It wouldn’t be 2013 without a look back over 2012 in the women’s glossies—all those high dollar dresses and designer shoes. If nothing else can be learned from a year spent reading the chick slicks, readers will have at least figured out what to wear! In fact, they’ll have learned what to eat, as well as what every favorite celebrity eats, which lip gloss is best, the “latest” moves in the bedroom and how to drop ten pounds by Valentine’s Day. The January issues are here as a reminder of how to do all of it even better.
Other than carrying January copies straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin, there’s not much anyone can do. Readers who tend to feel worse about themselves after reading a chick slick, skip the January issues and give the copy to a stronger-stomached sister. Do not follow the diet, do not make a single resolution, and do not spring for an anti-aging procedure this month until enough time has passed to recover holiday finances and good sense. Your guy is probably plenty pleased already, and as for Zen, no one ever needed a women’s magazine to show them the way. Like Dorothy, you’ve always possessed the power deep inside your own sense of self-worth.
And never, ever compare yourself to the airbrushed images—like Oz, they don’t exist.
To learn more about Airbrushed Nation and Jennifer Nelson, visit the Seal Press website.
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About Seal Press Seal Press was founded in 1976 to provide a forum for women writers and feminist issues. Since then, Seal has published groundbreaking books that represent the diverse voices and interests of women—their lives, literature, and concerns. Seal's authors are radical and original thinkers, professionals with a distinct point of view, gutsy explorers, truth-tellers, and writers who engender laughter, tears, and rage. Seal Press publishes books with the goal of informing women’s lives. Based in Berkeley, Calif., Seal is a member of the Perseus Books Group. To learn more, visit the Seal Press website.