When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2009, the women’s magazine with the highest circulation in Germany, Brigitte, will no longer use models on their cover or their editorial pages. Instead they will use “real” women (whatever that means).
While this could be construed as an intentionally political move, editor-in-chief Andreas Lebert explains the decision by saying the shift will occur as a result of reader complaints about depictions of über-thin women with “protruding bones.” Coupled with Lebert’s additional clarification that using women who aren’t professional models is an investment and that the magazine is “not going to become a magazine for plus-size,” I get the feeling that Brigitte is less concerned about representing “real” women and more concerned with turning around its dwindling readership, which Melissa Eddy reports has been decreasing steadily for the past 20 years. We have seen this strategy before, and it exudes a desire for money, not feminism.
In August the US edition of Glamour received an enormous amount of media attention when it ran photos of plus-size model Lizzie Miller in the buff with an article on women’s body confidence. Women–readers or not–were overjoyed before the magazine even hit the newsstands, and the outpouring of positive feedback prompted editor Cindi Leive to publicly ponder, “Will it change our approach? I think it will.” True to her word, next month’s issue of Glamour is slated to feature more fat and fabulous models.
Maybe the media is starting to catch on to what Dove found out during its “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Appreciative, happy women equals loads of free publicity–not to mention increased sales. (Damn you for snagging us social criticism types in your capitalist trap!) Sounds like a good marketing strategy to me.
What goes by the wayside when we give uncritical praise? And does our necessary criticism undermine equally necessary baby steps toward change? Perhaps. But I’d rather have all the cards on the table.