Women’s magazines, and more specifically, fashion and beauty magazines, have always been easy targets for cynics. Glamour is superficial, they say. And it is not a very widely refuted idea either. We all have seen boys and men scoffing at a woman’s obsession with cosmetics and jewellery (no stereotyping intended here). Since beauty and glamour have become clearly gendered ideas, the question that comes up is: What does glamour mean to a woman? What is it to feel beautiful? Of course, women’s magazines all over the world have rushed in to answer these questions; the problem is, the world at large believes them to be “trash” reads. That view, however, is highly contestable.
In March 1939, a soon-to-be-a-rage magazine called Glamour (then named Glamour in Hollywood) started publishing in the US. Seventy five years down the line, it has spread across three continents and has never been out of print. Good news for reading, the optimists would say. However, with the wider dismissal of fashion magazines from the literary panorama, how does one account for the growing readership of Glamour? Cannot these magazines be appreciated as proper literature? There have been countless debates centring around the issue, and many women have also taken offence at the derisive, often misogynistic views of these magazines. However, the cult-status occupied by Glamour amongst women-readers have prompted a more serious scrutiny of the magazine and its readership.
Generically speaking, women’s magazines are not ones to be chided so easily. They clearly have a strong impact on their target readers, and it is their cognizance of their usually stereotyped roles that society has given them that makes women relate so strongly to the magazines. Glamour not only indulges their interests in fashion, clothes or accessories but also goes much deeper to give them a sort of a psychological boost about their own selves. Two of the most coveted features that the magazine has introduced are Glamour Woman of the Year Awards (started in 2007) and Glamour Top College Women Awards. These awards, declared annually, strive to promote aspects like community service and academic achievements to substantiate women’s roles as more holistic in the society. The awards have been given to prominent women from disparate fields like writing, sports, and drama. Still hearing superficial, are we?
The point to drive home here is that the arrival of the Glamour magazine is no less than a milestone in the history of all publications. With the gender prejudices our society is rooted in, works both targeting and celebrating women are a laudable means to empower them. They give women a space to explore their interests and innate desires, strengthen their sense of identity and at the end of everything, give them something that appeals to their general interests. The issue with the general public is that it is too easy to label anything related to garbs and fashion as “superficial”, when the truth is they form a crucial part of the identity of both men and women. Glamour has reached the scale it has because it celebrates the identity of women, and in no way aims to only glorify and glisten “the surface” so to say.