By Callie McBride
I had the most enlightening encounter the other day at the check-out counter of Whole Foods that I want to share. I approached the one of many counters at the Union Square location and set my Suja green juice, Avocado Kale Slaw, and my Women’s Health Magazine down to pay for. The man working behind the counter couldn’t have been over 25. He had a bright personality, which I could tell right away when he picked up the magazine, read the cover, and started to laugh. He looked up at me with a smile and said,
“Man, these magazines are funny.”
I smiled back as he continued, “You know, Men’s Health magazine don’t have none of these headlines on them. They are straight to the point. ‘Get Strong Abs’; ‘Eat To Stay Fit’. None of this stuff.”
He was referring to the July/August issue of Women’s Health, bearing in thick letters, “GREAT SEX-EVERY TIME!’ and “A FLAT TUMMY NOW!”
I sheepishly laughed with him and explained that it was simply a guilty pleasure. He replied with an interesting thought: “I guess it gives me an idea of what is really going on in a woman’s head.”
Woah. I smiled and nodded to the man, thanked him, and was on my way; internally, however, I was contemplating his last statement. I asked myself whether I agreed if the countless magazine headlines are what consume the female mind all day long. Great sex? A tighter bod? Cute summer dresses under $50? It seems a bit shallow, and is definitely a generalization…but is there any truth to it? I continued to think this over by asking myself why I purchase these fitness or style magazines. A list formed in my head: clothing ideas, recipes, exercise tips, the occasional horoscope. When I see a bright red headline promising me that I can lose up to 5 inches in a week, it’s not the real reason I pick it up off the rack. Then it dawned on me-am I sure? Do I pretend to appreciate such magazines for their helpful information or celebrity on the cover, but actually just browse through them to seek out the outrageous body claims? It’s hard to tell. But, it does conjure up deeper contemplation, that is, what the media wants for us versus what we want for ourselves.
It seems that these days the media wants women to “crave washboard abs” and to “fit into your skinny jeans by friday!” That is, they want us to focus all of our time, money, and attention on our outward appearance by flashing highly edited photos of sweaty, tan women and listing gyms to belong to or DVDs to buy. That’s not to say that certain online and print resources aren’t helpful in steering women toward fun and accessible methods of health and fitness. I own plenty of at-home workout DVDS! The point I’m making is that the media seems to utilize a brainwashing technique of some sort to convince consumers that they want the same things that the magazines promise.
I beg to differ. On any given morning commute on the subway, I find myself planning out the rest of my week, which turns into planning the month, the next sixth months, and the next year. Naturally this leads me to consider my “master plan”-what I hope to be ultimately accomplishing in the future. You can trust me when I say that washboard abs and amazing sex aren’t my first thoughts. My career, my family, and my overall happiness fill those spots. I think that there are millions of women around the world who envision themselves in the same manner. They may enjoy learning the latest moves for a perkier butt and which superfoods are fore-fronting the health craze at the moment, but they have much deeper, emotional desires and dreams, and they certainly don’t need to be shouted at in thick letters on a magazine cover to go attain them.
So, what do we want for ourselves?
Part of what makes each woman entirely unique is the learning process through which she comes to know herself, what she wants, and how she plans to get it. There is something off-putting about magazines, television shows, commercial products, etc. that bombard consumers with a hidden message, “Do this quick! The faster the better! Spend your money in this way to be happy! We know what you want!” Obviously the people behind such brands aren’t red-eyed, fire-breathing monsters out to corrupt the female population. But their message can still come across as overbearing or cruelly persuasive, simply to make money or get something to “trend”. A woman who truly comes to know her goals in life has taken the time to discover what it is she is passionate about, and how her achievements will change the world in some grand or minuscule way. She has cried, screamed, pondered, and doubted her way to where she is today, all for the sake of her ultimate goal. No silly or empty-promise headline revealed a truth to her. She knows that these things take time, and dedication, and patience.
You may be thinking, so then why did you buy the magazine!? Like I explained to the Whole Foods employee, it’s a guilty pleasure. I do, in fact, love reading about which celebrity does what exercise program, and what the month of July will bring for the Cancer. It’s entertaining for me, and a way to keep up with the health and fitness world, which is a passion of mine. However, I am fully confident that “Be Crazy Sexy Cool This Summer” isn’t triggering me to drop everything and conform to what a couple of editors are convincing me of I want to be. There is a fine line between consuming media, and being consumed by it. I say this because it is my hope that all women read such magazines with caution, keep their true goals in mind, and don’t become a slave to a society that expects all female bodies to resemble that of Gisele.
So, friendly check-out man at Whole Foods, let me kindly correct you: women don’t think about flat abs and awesome sex all the time, though those topics certainly find their ways onto our minds. What we do think about is how to better ourselves and improve our way of living; for some, a strong core is what will satisfy that goal. For others, a deserved promotion or a family of 4 hits the bullseye. Whatever it may be, women of my generation are conscious of their actions and strive to turn them into success and fulfillment. A little article on the prime time to workout never hurt anyone, though.