Thursday, September 13, 2007

Post Women?

Here is something I have been meaning to address for several weeks now, pardon the delay.

During my brief respite at home in Toronto, I came across an interesting publication, which, until now, I had not been aware of. The publication is the "Women's Post," a weekly newspaper which claims to address "women's issues." The paper is catered to "professional women" and treats an admittedly affluent demographic. I find this odd, particularly given that the newspaper is free. (Though they do run a membership program through their website. May I direct you in particular to their page of "Quick Facts" on the demographics of their readership. Notably, only 5% of their readers are male...)

Although the paper fills a niche market and certainly attempts to think through the "business world" in a way that speaks to women, I think it to be an interesting study in marketing--rather than a serious publication.

Case in point, the ubiquitous pink boxes in which the magazine can be found. "Women's Post" is marketed as a magazine for women. That is, it is sold to them, rather than for them. The articles which address the "struggles" of women, and other social minorities, are few and far between. This paper is a bit of wolf in sheep's clothing. If ever one could coin the term "the Old Girl's Club," this paper is it.
This paper, to my mind, is simply another instrument of a consumer society which depends on continual consumption to sustain itself. I don't see the point of affixing the qualifier "women" to such a paper--not when we already have sufficient such publications...

The eerily large brand-name advertisements which litter its pages made me reflect deeply on Antigone's need to advertise in order to fund itself. It is to be hoped that we should learn what NOT to do from this paper.
Perhaps even more discomfiting was the nature of the advertisements found within its pages: diet programs, nutritional supplements, fitness outfits, spas, cosmetic surgery, and of course, automobiles. (The paper even has an "auto" section, which I will address in due course.) These advertisements by themselves write into so many scripts without even mentioning any more pieces from the issue I am reviewing (for the week of August 24-September 7th).

There are, however, some interesting and socially salient pieces in the paper. Notably, a piece by a literary critic on her emancipation relative to her mother, and some pieces on environmental threats.
I do not mean to discredit its writers, nor the information it provides on the business "world." Rather, I wish to illustrate how the paper panders to, and reinforces, pre-existing stereotypes and scripts which service a patriarchal order. (Likely because of its capitulation to marketing gimmicks and its emulation of other larger publications.) Case in point: the aforementioned "auto" section. Here we have a female columnist discussing the merits of a Ford pickup. What the heck is such a review doing in this paper? This isn't to say that trucks are not useful to some, farmers, ranchers etc, etc...But in a paper which services a demographic of working, URBAN professionals? Just what is this article doing here?

I don't know that we can hold journalists to analyze the phenomena they report on, but we can ask that they choose to stimulate rather than to reinforce. I'm not sure whether this paper achieves anything "new" or different from other papers. Is this to say that women are no different from men? That we need not differentiate ourselves as such, that we should play into the roles given us? Why call the paper a women's paper then?
A circular dilemma indeed...
It is also possible that I haven't given the paper a fair try, and I will return to a later issue in order to re-evaluate my criticisms. But, for the moment, I ask you to comment on the paper and who YOU think it is servicing...

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