It had been a long time since I treated myself to a women’s magazine; flicking through the glossy pages to admire the beautiful faces and cosmetics that stare back at me.
I would always make wish lists and save up my pocket money to hit the shops at the weekend and treat myself to whatever product was branded a “must-buy” that week.
My bedroom could’ve been used as the set of a cliché teenage TV drama. Walls plastered with cut-outs of these pretty little things that I aspired to look like. Headlines in jazzy fonts about how I should remember to dress to impress. Most nights you could find me sat in front of my mirror trying out a few new hairstyles or outfits, after feeling what I thought at the time was inspiration.
This stopped being such a regular habit for me in my later teenage years. I found new hobbies to get stuck into. And I noticed I always used to finish the magazine feeling bad about myself, with the urge to change something about my appearance. But I didn’t question why I had these negative thoughts at the time. I just shut them away and assumed it was my own self-doubt and lack of self-confidence that was the problem.
Years later, I am lucky enough to feel more educated on female empowerment and self-worth. I can now understandably look back at the content I used to fill my life with and see clearly that none of it was healthy.
I was queueing at the shops a few weeks ago. Whilst in a daydream, I found myself staring at the bustling magazine rack and thought it’s been a really long time since I sat down with a coffee for a read; assuming naturally that the content would’ve shifted with my mindset, and that I was missing out on some motivational material.
Instead of purchasing a glossy magazine, I decided to browse a couple of websites to unwind for 30 minutes once I got home; to see what was new in the world of women.
The first few headlines to greet me were unnerving, but instead of luring me in they made me slam my laptop shut and roll my eyes.
This woman shows underboob in bodycon dress.
That woman has revealed which lip balm she keeps in her purse.
Can you believe that SHE just cut all of her hair off?!
Quite frankly, yes, I can believe all of the above, and honestly, I don’t give a fuck.
Nothing went deeper than appearances or objects. It felt as though women were being put back in the outdated, pretty box that I remember all those years ago.
Why must we go hunting for stories of beauty, positivity, and self-love; yet often be involuntarily bombarded with body-shaming, superficial nonsense, and slander?
We think we’re fully in control of what we see. But there are still so many algorithms and unhealthy messages out there which make it nearly impossible to not feel some hint of shame during the day.
The beginning of a new year can be the most challenging. The toxic diet-culture giants come knocking down our doors with absolutely no plans to leave until we bow down.
How dare we indulge over the festive period and enjoy ourselves? The AUDACITY of you to not spend every day counting calories and hitting the gym for hours.
Your punishment? Guilt and shame that can be cured with this pill/smoothie/diet plan/etc.
I don’t know if the media will ever U-turn. But as writers, and even participants on social media platforms, we have the power to slowly shift the message.
I know that I don’t want this life for my friends, my sister or my mother. You may not think that your message, retweet, or Instagram story will go far. But even if it puts a smile on one person’s face or changes one person’s mind, you have done something that matters.
As women take themselves on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, I wish we could see this reflected more in the media and messages in the world. I know there’s a wider game of sales and advertising at play. But if there’s something being created for the women, create it FOR the women. Help the women. Inspire the women.