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Home > Media

One at a time, please

13 February 2002

In the fascistic world of women's magazines, it's always been the case that models have to be thinner than normal people, but now even the human interest stories must be about thin and pretty people too.

Cosmopolitan routinely requests that all case studies be 'cosmo-attractive'. As one feature editor expands: "we don't want any old dog in the mag do we?" If you're writing an interview for Cosmo, it's no longer good enough to find someone willing to tell the world about their bisexual tendencies - you've also got make sure that they're blonde, acne free and under nine stone.

At least Cosmo makes no bones about being shallow, but the supposedly worthy Marie Claire is just as bad. One writer was told that her case-study for an article on sexual abuse had to be "western looking and pretty so readers can identify with her". The editorial has become infected by the values of the art department. And this sets up an even more insidious visual fascism.

At least when the models are all 8 feet high and stick thin, we can think to ourselves: "oh well, they're models. I'm not meant to look like that". But when everyone in the magazine, even a random trainee accountant from Basildon talking about her bondage fantasies, has to look gorgeous - what message is that giving out? It's taking the 'real world' of human interest stories and making it reflect yet another ideal of attractiveness to which we have to aspire. You have to aspire even to be real.

Presumably a natural development of this would be the physical vetting of the readership itself. It can't do much good for the vibrant Cosmo brand if a reader flaunting the mag is fat and ugly. Time for electronic scales in all good newsagents.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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