The heated debates about the Vogue Empower ad have spun off many other interesting conversations including the place of fashion magazines in cultural debates and feminism. Here is the second in a series of responses. Read the first one here.
Here’s why I like fashion magazines, even though if I want to be a serious person, if I want to be a serious writer, I’ve gotta disown them, I’ve gotta step away from the pretty clothes, and the objects that shout: have me, have me; I’ve gotta be like, this flat stomach is not real, those thighs, how do they even hold up a body, but I like the stomach, I like the thighs, but more than those skinny, unhappy girls—and no judgment—I used to be a skinny unhappy girl—I like the way the clothes flutter on their bodies, I like the way the outfits promise me a great evening, or a dinner party I will never forget or this life, this life that I will never have but that this fashion magazine promises I will with just one pair of shiny shoes or a bag that’s so small it won’t even hold the single cigarette I sometimes smoke on evenings when the power goes out and I’m in a t-shirt and my life is the opposite of a cover; no, my life will never be as good as those lives, my life will never be glossy, my hair will never blow back from my face, my cheekbones will never glimmer in the light like a dagger you pull out and hold, like a last resort, I will never be that lady, my hair is too big, my stomach has two folds now, and it kills me, though it doesn’t kill me enough to do anything about it, but it’s nice to know that some people are being pinched and poked and prodded to display things for me, some people are holding a handbag like the handbag is their last chance to get into heaven, and that handbag is fuh-gly, but that handbag is what this magazine has decided will save me and so I want it, I want it, I want it all—I want this life, I want the life they promise, I’m too old now to fall for it, and yet I fall for it all over again, head over feet, the fashion magazine is an old lover wearing a fedora at a jaunty angle at my door, and I am caught out, I am in my nightie and I’m not ready, but look sweetheart you could be beautiful; fashion magazines call you sweetheart but never babe, babe is for the lady who subscribes, not for us fly-by-nights who buy a copy at the airport just to gaze and graze through at the pretty ladies, hi pretty ladies, can I join your table? No? I’ll just sit here and watch you, and smile every now and then, I’ve been told my smile is my best feature, and yes, please, dress me in that skirt that twirls when I turn around, dress me in that crop top that will show off a sliver of my stomach, and the pants that will hide the hint of muffin top, you know what you’re doing, you’re the big sister I never had, you know how to put on my mascara and ease me into scary looking shoes, and please hold me in the comfort of your pages, rock me to sleep with the idea of what my life could be.