Your own kind of girl

What we’re loving and hating this week.

Oh dear. You know where you are when you read those words, don’t you? You’re reading a magazine, or a newpaper’s weekend “lifestyle” supplement, that ultimately has only 2 aims.  Aim no. 1: to make you desire the items advertised and displayed in “features”. Aim no. 2: to make you feel a sense of dissatisfaction with your own life. (You may notice that these aims fit together very nicely, for those who want you to buy their products.)

As you flick through pages announcing this week’s fashion choices, this week’s article about the person who changed their previously superficial life by chucking it all in and starting an orphanage in Africa, this week’s health column by a personal trainer, etc, you feel a vague sense of inadequacy forming. It’s the sense that other people’s lives are more glamorous, or contented, or exciting, or feel profoundly more meaningful than your own. Dissatisfaction feeds desire, and desire, in turn, feeds dissatisfaction.

The thing is, the advertisements in these magazines are merely the overt medium for this message. The covert operation lies in the selection of articles, the comments and attitudes expressed in editorial and regular features. Such magazines are carefully put together to convey that they are the purveyors of taste. To those who have not learned to be critical of the media, what they say holds sway.

So I’ve been pretty disappointed lately with Melbourne paper The Age.

I recently took up a 13 week subscription to The Age, purely because it cost $69 to have the paper delivered 7 days a week for 13 weeks, and they threw in a free copy of The Cheap Eats Guide (value $39.95).  It seemed like a pretty good deal, even taking into account the fact that I rarely read the newspaper. Who has time to read the newspaper? Well, I’ll tell you who has time. My 12 year old daughter has time. She reads more of the newspaper than I do, most of the time.

Now, my daughter doesn’t read the news section, nor the sport or business sections (well, no-one reads those!) but she peruses the weekend supplements Good Weekend Magazine, M Magazine, and Sunday Life.

And that is precisely why I am so disappointed with the message about body image that I’ve encountered so far in 2 different supplements in The Age. The first, which this post is about, was in The Age Sunday Life magazine.  I discovered a regular section entitled Loving and Hating. As in, What We’re Loving and Hating this week. Usually to be taken lightly as a guide to what is currently hip – but here is the snippet that I found offensive:

The Age Sunday Life Magazine 24.06.12

The Age Sunday Life Magazine 24.06.12

In case the text is too small to read, what bothered me is not that Sunday Life doesn’t like beer getting warm (who does?), nor the fact that having a landline is voted as being uncool. It was the fact that they are Hating  “Curves”. According to the voices of what’s-in-this-week,  “When magazines talk about a model or actress ‘celebrating her curves’ , it’s code for ‘she’s got fat’. “

Really? O.M.G. What shocked me most when I read this, was how naive I must be, to be so disappointed by it!  I felt genuinely surprised to read such a misogynistic “tip” from the magazine produced by the Melbourne newspaper of supposedly quality journalism- not the tabloid newspaper, in which I might have expected to read such crap.

Apparently I had mistakenly gained the wrong impression. The Age gives columns to credible female journalists and freelance writers, has credible female editors, and even publishes articles and opinions that are debate issues like the role that the media plays in  promoting harmful messages to women about how their bodies should look (written by progressive thinking writers of any gender).

Naively, I thought that meant that they wouldn’t do a backflip in their own lifestyle magazine, and make the kind of inane comment that is regarded (by those with no awareness of what the past 50 or so years of feminism have been trying to achieve) to be “harmless” and “just a bit of fun.” The message that is expressed is all the more insidiously damaging for being portrayed as just a harmless little fashion tip, aimed directly at those who care about what’s fashionable this week. It’s exactly the kind of “harmless”  little comment that feminists have been angry about for decades.

I feel for young women, and girls, who may read a fashion tip like that and care what a magazine that positions itself as young and cool, thinks about women referring to their “curves”.

Because of course, the natural shape of a woman contains curves. Duh. Even on skinny women, who are still healthy, bums, thighs, and breasts, (however small) curve. Sorry that you find that so repugnant, Sunday Life Magazine.

Isn’t it the ultimate in misogyny to promote hatred and/or contempt for the natural shape of a woman’s body? Since the alternative is to require her to starve it away to meet some desirable curve-less ideal? A woman without any curves is a skeleton. Is that what Sunday Life is aiming for?


PS this post was named after Aussie singer Clare Bowditch’s lovely song about this issue:

Leave a comment


  1. I love the sentiment behind this post, but think that it is important that you know that photo of Ana is a fake. See here:


    • Thanks for that information. I hadn’t realised the media had manipulated the photos of those models to make them look so *unattractively* emaciated! How mad is that??

      I was going to leave the photo, and mention that it was manipulated, but out of respect for the model and her family I decided to take it off – I was a little uncomfortable in the first place with using her image to illustrate my point, and possibly gain views on the back of her picture being there. So thanks again!


      • No worries. I think the point satire to show the way our culture is going – how thin is too thin? It was then passed around as reality and almost served to undermine the argument that was being made in the first place. The point you are making is valid without a picture of an emaciated model though, it’s the skewing of reality which is being help up as truth. It’s not just that this is dangerous for people’s health that irks me, it’s the utter outrage I feel at being told that I am simply not good enough for looking like a human being.


  2. Wow, I need to learn to read back my comments
    *the point was satire
    *held up, not help up!



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