Can Fat News Ladies Be Role Models? Oh Yeah!





In the January issue of Glamour an as-told-to story by the “fat news lady” (her words) appears on page 35. The Wisconsin TV news anchor Jennifer Livingston shares her story of receiving a viewer email in which she was disparaged for being obese. The email in part reads:

  “Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Livingston was hurt and outraged at the comment as was her husband, colleagues and community when she shared the email on television. Thousands of letters of support poured in and her story made national headlines.

Livingston, it turned out, has a one-year old. For those still clueless that means she had not long transitioned through pregnancy and childbirth—her third. She also doesn’t balk at the O-word. Obesity. She admits she fits the label at 5 ‘5” and 233 pounds and was still obviously struggling to eat healthy, exercise and take her low thyroid medication as she tried to shed post-baby weight.

But what she and most of the women who heard her story do have their ire up about is this notion that she could not possibly be a role model to girls or that she had somehow chucked her responsibility as a public persona.

Come again? So beside the fact that some random viewer judged her solely on what she looked like on his flat screen perhaps not knowing she had recently given birth, that she has a low thyroid condition that makes it twice as hard to shed weight, or that she actually runs and tries to eat healthy, he also implied that women in the public eye aren’t a role model to girls unless they are what, slim, healthy-looking, perfect?

I’m not sure what the “ideal woman in the public eye” looks like but since when does a woman’s character, morals and values—qualities that make up a suitable rode model–take a back seat to her looks? Jennifer Livingston and by proxy, any woman in the public eye could be the role model of the century, but the viewer had made his decision about her solely based on her weight.

Just what does that say about society, about women, about overweight people in this country when a new mom can’t even get a pass?

I hope Livingston, as well as all of the supporters who came to her defense  loudly, conveyed that it doesn’t matter what size you are or whether you are even in the public eye or not. That your character and moral compass have nothing to do with your jean size and that the quality of your soul has less to do with your scale number–and more to do with your heart.

That’s what I hope anyway.

Happy Holidays to women of every size and shape!  jennifer-livingston-overweight-tv-anchor


Keeping Up with the Social Media Joneses





So an interesting piece in the December Marie Claire titled “Do you Measure Up” got me contemplating what it is we’re all measuring up to.

The story starts out when the reporter is at a prestigious party complete with a star chef in the kitchen and a mini red carpet. You know, like a Real Housewives of Anywhere party when the champagne is flowing and the guests are an A-list roster of Who’s Who in that city. The woman thinks her own life is pretty terrific and then she meets her. The silky-haired, better dressed, prettier version of herself with a hot husband, an on-fire career and a few doting tots back in their trophy home being lovingly cared for by the live-in nanny.

This ‘wish I were you’ doppelganger suddenly made the writer seem like her bubbly flute was only half filled. It wasn’t envy so much, she says, as inadequacy. And worse, this trend, dubbed ‘yard sticking,’ is the impulse for women to pit themselves against other women in order to determine self-worth and social standing.

Problem is, unlike even five years ago when all we had to pit ourselves against was the other moms in the preschool class, the women on our street, or our co-workers, today we have  hundreds of Facebook, Twitter and Google + competition. Seems these “look what I got” status updates are kicking our proverbial self-esteem.

Rarely are posts about a fight with our mother, our temper tantrum prone toddler or our work demotion, so the smiling personal and professional posts of social media are making women envious and insecure.

Psychologists warn that yard sticking is OK if we use it for self-improvement. For example, that woman on our Facebook opened a business, got a new car, landed a book deal, how can I get that, too? It only becomes problematic when we let it override our good judgment or wear away our sense of life accomplishment.

So what is it about all the other women in our social media that have us wanting what they’re having?  Psychologists say to try to find the answer for yourself. Is it really the BMW in the driveway or the vacation home in Vail, or is it a more simply defined core happiness? They look happier so therefore they are. Perhaps all you need to stop measuring yourself against every social media acquaintance is to actually ask yourself what it is that would make you happier today– and then pursue that.

How Does the Public Prefer the Women of Hollywood? Elle Magazine Examines


An interesting piece in the November Elle talks about the new wave of young women in Hollywood without hard bodies. Seems after years of Jessica’s and Jennifer’s sporting six packs and ripped deltoids, a new wave of actresses ushered in a new paradigm—bodies neither excessively taught or particularly ripped. Oh, yes still lithe and lean and elegant; it is Hollywood after all. But this ever-growing band of women—picture Taylor Swift, Kristen Stewart, Rooney Mara, Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence—are either paper-thin or regular sized but effortless in their delivery. Actresses who come with the ‘this is just how my body is’ mantra.


These are “normal” girls who don’t necessarily go to the gym and train three hours daily, sans the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, who once famously quipped, “It’s not luck, it’s not fairy dust, it’s not good genes. It’s killing myself for an hour and a half five days a week…” Girls who answer the question about their workout routine like this answer via Emma Stone: “I haven’t worked out for a month and I’m proud of it.”

These girls it so seems want the public to know that their gifts: acting, singing, songwriting lie in their brains and their talent as opposed to their tight tushies. And for that we should applaud loudly.

Seems Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the new cool Barbie rather than Malibu, and that the trying-too-hard biceps wielding bombshells of the past have been replaced by women dressed in effortless layers and Bohemian rhapsody no matter how defined their body may be.


And so while this newfound real feminine ideal is a fresh breath of air on the one hand, on the other at least those ladies of the past worked hard at something. Madonna didn’t get those ropey veined arms eating bon bons. Today’s starlets have youth and genes on their sides in the casual, effortless way they come to the screen not working hard per se at their bodies, but just working hard on their craft.

So which paradigm does the public prefer? Women who work their asses off—literally. Or those who rather you take them as they are– tousled hair, flawless face, naturally slim, lithe body that simply comes with youth and good genetics?


Why Do You Read Women’s Magazines? Win a Free Copy of Airbrushed Nation: The Lure & Loathing of Women’s Magazines



In several recent interviews I’ve been asked a similar question: Why are women still buying chick slicks if we know they contain such negative messaging about beauty, dieting, aging, and sex and are crammed with airbrushed images of women, with whom we should never compare ourselves.

It’s a great question and one that I can only answer speculatively.  Here are some theories:

We Overlook the Negatives

Do women just overlook the negative messaging that makes them feel badly about themselves? Women may still be gun-ho for the chicken recipes, the craft ideas, the interior décor advice or some of the other informative articles, therefore they blow right by the images and the content that doesn’t resonate with them or makes them feel inferior.

We Ignore Disparaging Content

Have women turned a blind eye to disparaging content? Maybe we’ve become so accustomed to the underlying negatives in the glossies that we’re aloof. You know, the way you get a snack, go to the bathroom, let the dog out or check out what else is on Television during a commercial break, so that after a while the commercials become a non-issue because you don’t even pay attention to them anyway. Maybe women don’t pay attention to the content that strips their sense of self-worth.

We Consider Them Part of our Culture

Are women’s magazines just a part of our cultural lexicon? Perhaps reading your favorite glossy every month whether it’s in a lounge chair, at the doctor’s office or in bed under a cozy comforter is a rite of passage the way we read Nancy Drew with a flashlight or ran out for the latest Harry Potter volume—it’s ingrained in our psyche to take delight in the scented silken pages of the chick slicks since they are still like a giant helping of non-edible comfort food. It’s just the way it is.

We Look for the Good

Are we just looking for all the good within the pages? I for one still have a love/hate relationship with the glossies and am always searching for those that get it right. Maybe you are, too. Some months there are real women who inspire me to do and be more, excellent journalism in stories as diverse as the latest health, social and political issues, or celebrity interviews that dig deeper that than the celeb’s fave lip gloss. We can still find those stories buried occasionally between the ad-thick content of the glossies. Are you looking?

Why do you read them, if you do? Do you subscribe to your favorite? Do you still love nothing better than cracking open the crinkly pages as a form of inspiration, ideas, aspiration, advice, humor, fluff, information or entertainment? Is it a mindless read or does it mean more?

Drop me a line and tell me why you read a woman’s magazine and which one. I’ll randomly select one winner from the commenters and send you a free copy of Airbrushed Nation: The Lure & Loathing of Women’s Magazines (Seal Press).

Look forward to hearing why you read a women’s magazine!

Women’s Glossies Tackle Campaign Issues with a Healthy Dose of Liberalism!


Less you weren’t aware the women’s glossies got political, a gander at any of the chick slicks this month could clue you in. Though the glossies are often accused of a left leaning political bent, I’ve found they do at least try to provide a balanced view, with the occasional right-wing zinger thrown in for good measure apparently.

For instance, in the November Glamour, page 70 begins an Election Special: “Who Will Be Your Next President?” First up is a great interview with the POTUS. The incumbent dishes on things that traditionally matter to women magazine readers, or so they think, such as why birth control has become controversial, the economy and jobs for women as well as education and same-sex marriage.

Next up should be Mitt Romney’s interview; however the contender declined repeated requests for an interview due to a tight schedule. Glamour makes note that despite the 2004 and 2008 Republican and Democratic candidates for President all having made time for a sit down with Glamour for their election coverage; MR just cannot make it happen. Instead, women readers offer up what they like about the candidate and where he stands on issues. Many tout his faith and his commitment to marriage, his business and economic acumen as his strengths and the reason they are voting for him. It’s apparent however, that having the actual Obama interview and not having the Romney one weighs heavily when it comes to balanced coverage.

To round out the whole thing, Stephen Colbert has a tongue-in-cheek piece on why we need a lady-leader. Enough said?

In the November issue of Self, page 42 tackles the political/reproductive health connection in “Vote! Your Health Depends On It!” The candidates make their case on four issues: healthcare, equal pay, supporting Planned Parenthood and clean water and air. Of course POTUS comes out looking squeakier than Romney on most of these social issues and Romney turns several answers (clean water and air and equal pay) into an economic-based reply.


In “Rock your Vote! Are you an Obama-girl or a Romney-ac?” Marie Claire takes the same format as Self in a piece on page 176 with a split column of Obama vs. Romney and where they stand on the issues, including their records. Issues like abortion, education, healthcare, birth control, immigration, taxes and jobs & pay are tackled and well, let’s face it; Romney is called out negatively on quite a few issues. One, that his tax plan will likely raise middle class taxes according to an analyst, his tenure at Bain Capital has come under fire for outsourcing jobs, that the pill and the IUD will be harder to come by under a Romney presidency, and that he hopes a future Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. The Romney presidential picture painted clearly has a negative overall view for women who lean left on social issues.

Kudos for the chick slicks who cover the issues and assume women readers care and want to know the facts.  However, as most of us know, the glossies lean left and the liberal bias can’t be mistaken in the small undercuts, digs and negative comments occasionally seen against the right.

Fourteen Million Plastic Surgery Procedures & No One’s Talking!





Remember when breast cancer was quietly called the C-word and spoken only in hushed tones? Now women proudly sport pink and talk about chemo’s side effects and the latest 5K in support of the cause.

For beauty, that paradigm is the B-word. Botox. In the October issue of Marie Claire, Judith Newman explores “Your Secret Beauty Life: A Little Botox, a Spot of Lipo—Why So Hush-Hush?”

Seems despite several reality shows devoted to plastic surgery and a few of The Real Housewives series having one resident plastic surgeon hubby, and showing numerous wives going under the knife, plastic surgery is still whispered about in closed society circles, if spoken aloud at all.

Fourteen million procedures were done last year, 1.5 million of them surgeries. That’s a lot of whispering, ladies!

So why the deafening quiet? Seems there are many reasons from the fact that having your lips over-plumped or your forehead wiped frozen denotes a lack of self-confidence to the stock women in “serious” professions like science and law, claiming it’d be embarrassing to reveal such shenanigans.

Hmmm…but isn’t everyone staying hush-hush leading the rest of us to think you were born with those lips or that flawlessly timeless skin?

And despite Kris Jenner undergoing a face lift on the Kardashians reality TV show and the few famous women who have spoken publicly (thank you Kathy Griffin and Jennifer Grey), celebs are even more apt to keep mum since they want their adoring fans to think they were born with it.

Plastic surgery shame is still rampant and the quietude is an elaborate hoax. Surgeons say some women refer plenty of patients to them, other’s never reveal they had anything lifted or tucked so naturally don’t make surgeon recommendations to their friends and family.

Thank God at least Newman concluded that there’s a feminism argument here. Why do women keep perpetuating the myth that they are paragons of perfection? What’s the point?

Not only is it doing women a huge disservice but women recommend their gynecologist to friends and talk about what they could keep down during chemo today, but whether their face has gone under the needle and their boobs have been under the knife is too much to reveal?

Well lemme clue you in, ladies. Even if you’re in science or law, even if you’re on TV or in the movies, we can tell when your lips are suddenly twice their size or that your face is pulled so tight you look like the Joker. Don’t want to tell us what you had done to your face? Would never share that your boobs are three sizes bigger? Want us to think you are fucking perfection incarnate? Ok. Go ahead, keep quiet. We’ll just talk about what we think you had done in quiet whispers.

Would You Go Hungry for Beauty Products?


Glamour, Glamour, Glamour, why must you encourage this? On page 162 of the October issue with beautiful Emma Watson on the cover (with nothing much obviously airbrushed on her body beside her now cat-like amber glowing eyes), there’s a story called “Would you Eat Ramen to Afford Good Skin?” So much for that anti-airbrush pledge a few months back, huh Glamour?

Anyhoo, would ya? Would ya really give up food for high dollar skin care? Well those of us older and wiser wouldn’t, but it’s the younger set that you encourage with cover lines like that. You say some women are already doing just that—eating Ramen—or its equivalent, which is probably like bologna sandwiches day after day, in order to afford expensive creams, salves, gels and balms that claim to give us extraordinary skin.

Women jonesing for skin care products speak frankly in the piece. One 22-year old insists she found a wrinkle in which she needed a bevy of products to wipe away, and another confesses she blows $100 a month on Le Mer lip balm alone.

The experts say it’s a status symbol thing in the same way we want the latest iPhone and the cute new boots over at Frye. Consuming expensive facial products makes women feel well, beautiful and keeps their lust for the fountain of youth alive and kicking. Why wouldn’t women’s magazines encourage that?

A Mintel survey found that women who make between 25 and 50K annually use anti-aging serums and potions several times per week. Problem is dermatologists agree women are self prescribing–and overspending–often tallying dozens of products applied to their face daily—all with the hope of looking younger and more beautiful. Cha-ching.

A typical woman tells the derm she uses a daily cleanser,  toner,  moisturizer, eye cream,  youth serum, spot reducer, sunscreen,  BB cream, and lip plumper, not to mention the masks, exfoliators, deep cleansers, wipes, spritzes and scrubs for occasional use.

In fairness, Glamour does “prescribe” a budget-friendly 20s, 30s and 40s version of what women actually need in their anti-aging and beauty arsenal, suggesting they multi-task with products that do double duty—a firming cream that brightens, for instance, and gives good advice about skipping a morning cleanse job for 40-somethings who no longer need an a.m. face wash, and advocating a simple drugstore cleanser for 20-somethings. They suggest what’s worth a splurge in each age segment (sun glasses (20s), laser hair removal (30s) and eye cream (40s).

But buying dozens of expensive beauty products built on hope and dreams while eating Ramen every night—not such a great idea for your health–or your crows feet, Glamour.