Lizl Morden

December 2013 magazine rating: Glamour vs. Destiny vs. Marie Claire

Lizl Morden
Lizl Morden

By Lizl Morden

The idea of rating women’s magazines in terms of how feminist they are excited me greatly because after reading a few a couple of years ago I realised that they recycled the same women-hating nonsense every month. This is my chance to prove it! I compared the December 2013 issues of magazines with different focuses to look at the range of women’s magazines available.

The lower the score the more feminist it is. Magazines rated according to these categories and criteria. Summary of rating system: 1 (very good, feminist and empowering), 2 (could be better), 3 (anti-feminist, sexist, or disempowering). Categories: A) Images and photographs  B) Content C) Weight loss and ‘health and fitness’ articles D) Sex articles E) Gender roles F) Violence against women.

Glamour: A2, B2, C1, D3, E3, F3. Total score:14 out of 18

A) 2 – This score is only because some of the photos were of women of colour. There is no body diversity and no age diversity – everyone looks young and thin. There are also not diverse activities represented in the photos. Cover model is white, international, thin.

B) 2 ­– There is one business-related article and another on financial well-being. There is nothing on women’s rights, sexual or reproductive health.

C) 1 – This issue has a good score because there is nothing about diets and there is an interview about getting fit and participating in sporting events. The preview for the January issue tells me that this number will increase next month as they will have an article on how to “kick extra kilos”.

D) 3 – There is an article about a threesome – written by a man! And therefore from a man’s point of view. There are “random facts” about guys; men are seen as (potential) significant others. Very heteronormative.

E) 3 – There is an article on ways to get men to open up, they are female celeb vox pops on their signature dish (men are conspicuous by their absence). The magazine is not focused on families but does have that “get and keep a man” orientation. In a Q&A section on how to get your husbands to become friends, one woman’s (or ‘comedienne’, a word I very strongly dislike) advice is: host a braai, let them bond outside and “ladies, stay inside and drink sangria”. Haha, women staying inside. My sides are splitting. The January preview promises articles on how to be the best hostess and the top 2014 relationship trends. Can anyone shed some light on this last one? What is a relationship trend and how can they be predicted since it isn’t 2014 yet?

F) 3 – There are no topical women-issues related articles. There is nothing on gender-based violence and also no victim blaming. However, there is some celeb-shaming/judgement in the DO/DON’T section. A photographic example of one of the fashion DON’Ts is dolls. Porcelain dolls wearing white shoes with lace socks. Yes, ladies, don’t look like the porcelain doll who have always been style icons we could look up to. Alas, no more, Glamour has declared it thus.

Destiny: A1, B1, C1, D2, E2, F2. Total score: 9.

A) 1 – The cover model is black, local, thin. There is a wide range of ages, body types, races and some diverse activities.

B) 1 – This is a business/career-focussed magazine and there are therefore many business articles. There is an article on educating women/girls and there are two info boxes on sexual health.

C) 1 – The few health-related articles have a more holistic approach: happiness, feeling good, being active to improve health, no particular body type or weight is mentioned. Although there are mentions of calorie-counting/awareness.

D) 2 – There is a focus on female pleasure and health. It is not specifically heterosexual only although the heterosexual couple is mentioned once and the two accompanying photos portray heterosexual attraction.

E) 2 –  There is a lot of emphasis on business. Families are not really mentioned, but one interviewee is a single mother and another has a non-nuclear family. There is an article on different SUVs as part of encouraging readers to explore. However there is mention of the stereotypical “shopping spree”. There are articles about a female site engineer and female brewers. (women! beer!)

F) 2 – There is nothing on topical women’s issues, gender-based violence or victim blaming. Not empowering, but not disempowering either.

Marie Claire: A2, B2, C1, D1, E,1 F2. Total score: 9.

A) 2 – The cover model is white, international, thin. There is a diversity of races, bodies, ages and some variance in activities. This issue includes a watch special and a very strange accompanying shoot. Unless I don’t understand modelling/fashion. One photo is of a women with her posterior in focus, watch around her ankle and her face not in shot at all, which smacks of objectification to my unfashionable mind.

B) 2 – There are no articles on business or sexual/reproductive health. There is an article on the dangers of alcohol addiction, which unfortunately includes shaming photos of drunk celebrities. There is also an article on plastic surgery beauty pageants and another on other controversial pageants (holocaust survivors, landmine) highlighting the problems with such. MC does focus quite a bit on (women’s) bodies, deconstructing the stereotypes and expectations and has a regular feature on body politics.

C) 1 – There aren’t any health, diet or fitness articles.

D) 1 – There aren’t any in this issue and they don’t have this as a regular feature. This is one of the things I love about MC: many other magazines see heterosexual relationships as the ultimate goal in life.

E) 1 – There is nothing about being a family- or home-maker; neither is there anything about careers/business. There is a focus piece on a female hip hop artist, a short piece on cowgirls and another featuring young female skaters in Afghanistan. There is also a piece about a male beauty therapist and the prejudice he faces because he is a man in a ‘woman’s’ industry.

F) 2 – There are no long articles in this issue on topical women’s issues such gender-based violence (there was one in another issue this year) but there is small info box that mentions the issue of trafficking women.

This round’s winner: Marie Claire AND Destiny!

Would you like to rate your favourite, or not, magazine? Here are the criteria. Share your findings right over here.

Athambile Masola

Becoming a woman in my black skin

Athambile Masola
Athambile Masola

By Athambile Masola

Athambile reflects upon the resistence amongst African-American women in the 1800s and how this influences the struggles of black women today.
I’ve been reading a book by Paula Giddings, Where and When I enter: the impact of Blackwomen on race and sex in America. Reading a book about the history of African-American women led me to consider my own narrative of what it has meant becoming a woman at a time when people are rushing towards a post racist society as though history had no bearing on our present.
I first encountered the narrative of resistance amongst African-American women when I read Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a woman”. It’s a stirring piece from a speech she made in 1851. It was the first evidence I saw that slaves in America didn’t accept their fate at the hands of slave owners. They resisted. Understanding the resistance of black women through a slave narrative has widened my perspective on the importance of being a woman and I how I make the rights I have a real life experience. Once upon a time women were at the bottom of the food chain where they were mere objects that could be bought and sold. The children they bore were not their own but they became part of a system where they were sold before they were even born. The assault on women’s bodies has a history beyond what we see in the form of rape and domestic violence today.
When I read about the resistance of black women in Africa, especially South Africa I was moved when I realised that once upon a time black women in South Africa had the status of minors. Their movements and inheritance were dependent upon the sons and male relatives they had in their lives. Prioritising the education of black women has a brief history in relation to how white women were protected and often benefited from systems that oppressed black women.
Knowing what I know about black women who have challenged the limitations placed on them because of their class, gender and race I realise I am not a renegade, I just happen to have read and met other black women who are comfortable in their own skin and know that I can live my life as though I were dancing to the rhythm of my own music. Beyond my home of many mothers (my mother, my aunts and grandmother) who were working class women, loud, big, crass but economically oppressed in a system of apartheid, it wasn’t until high school that I began to realise that there’s another narrative for being black and female in the world. When I started high school I encountered a group of senior girls who set the standard for what it meant to be a “cool black girl”. They oozed confidence and set the standard for what it meant to be a black girl at a time where Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera became popular or black women who resembled the petite femininity we saw on TV that did not reflect what we saw in the mirror.
The senior girls in my school were not the prototype. They were opinionated, smart (they cared about not only passing academically but forming an opinion about what mattered), they laughed out loud, very loud and didn’t listen when teachers told them they were being loud they didn’t toe the line. They were big girls, tall and they had presence when they walked around the school (I didn’t think of them as bullies, except for maybe Soso who had a stinging sense of humour). I moved aside for them in the passage not out of fear because they were seniors but mostly out of awe. And when they spoke to me as though I mattered I became a star-struck junior. They also had wonderful names that were distinct: Navabe (who was many years ahead of me but became infamous for starting a trend of wearing her socks differently and her girdle on her hips much to the teachers’ chagrin) Zoya, Vangile, Ghana (who had the most eccentric dress sense I’d ever seen), Duda (this was actually her surname), Thulani and many others who gave me a different representation of what it means to be black and female in the new South Africa. They were often in trouble for sneaking out of the hostel and drinking when they should have been. They dared to break the rules.
Zoya had dreadlocks even though the school had colonial rules about how we were supposed to wear our hair. They became my example of what it means not to be the norm and to be comfortable in that category. They were nobody’s darlings. I think about them when I read about the resistance of black women in South Africa and African-American women in America and realise that a different resistance took place in my high school. The representation of black female bodies has always been under siege but I am lucky to live in a time where this is being challenged. It’s okay to be loud, opinionated or not. It’s okay to consider being a wife or not. It’s okay to be who I want to be on what I think of as my terms. And when I think about this reality I am drawn to Anne Julia Cooper‘s words: “Only a black woman can say ‘where and when I enter in the quiet undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole…race enters with me”. She said these words in 1892 when black women in America for fighting for equal rights and ending slavery. These words remind me of the importance of what it means being a black women and the gains that have been made and are yet to be made. Liberating women, in this case black women who are still oppressed, is not about eliminating anyone else. It’s about liberating the human race from sexist, racist, classist ideas that are dangerous for now and future generations. When we consider the history of black women, it’s not enough to consider it through one lens but multiple eyes and consider the complexity of gender, race, sexual orientation and class and recognise the privileges I have: the privilege of being comfortable in my own skin.
Lizl Morden

‘Ladylike’ is bullsh*t

By Lizl Morden

It’s not ladylike, they say.

Men don’t like women with short hair, they say.

Guys don’t like girls who drink beer, they say.

Guys don’t like girls who do…, guys don’t like girls who wear…, guys don’t like girls who like…, that’s all they ever seem to say. Heteronormativity aside for the moment, I say: so what? How true is that? Did you do a worldwide survey? Am I supposed to care what men are supposed to like or not like?

What If I don’t want to be ladylike? Or a lady? What if I just want to do things that make me happy? Things that aren’t harmful to anyone. Unless you define harm as making people uncomfortable about gender roles and I don’t.

Why do I have to look and behave in a way that is pleasing to guys in general? Am I trying to attract all the guys; hypothetical, imaginary guys who all like the same things? Or am I trying to attract one guy in particular? Or a type of guy. The type who does not give an ever-loving fuck what I drink, seeing as how it only stays with me for a short amount of time anyway. Or, just maybe, a guy who actually likes the way I look and behave. Most of it, anyway.

What if I don’t care what ‘men’ and ‘guys’ like? Must I present myself in such a way that all men find me appealing? It is statistically impossible. Anyone who’s ever  tried deciding on what to do/eat with a group of friends knows that it’s damn near impossible to make everyone happy. Let alone all straight men who roam the earth. Saying “men do/don’t like…” implies that all men like the same thing, which is, surprise surprise, untrue. Same goes for what women like and don’t like.

Yes, some women like men who tell them how beautiful they are, how special they are. Men who are ‘gentlemen’, who open doors and pull out chairs and offer jackets. (The reaction to swapping the genders for these things is interesting. Once, in high school, I offered a guy my jersey because he was getting cold and I wasn’t wearing mine. He declined my offer pulling a face like I just asked if he would like to eat a bowl of cold garden snails covered in mayonnaise – how could I even think of doing such a thing.)

Well, guess what. I, like Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy, believe that “if you want to appease me, compliment my brain”. I know I’m special and also that I’m not. Everyone is special, so no one is. I have hands and am perfectly capable of looking after my own damn self, opening my own damn door and sitting on a chair all by my damn self. This last one is key – I am graceless enough as it is, somebody trying to scoot me onto a chair would just emphasise my awkwardness and that I can also do perfectly well on my own. If I require assistance,  I have the ability to ask for it. I also have my own clothes, including jackets. I’m not going to attack anyone who does any of these things – if it makes you happy, whatever. At the most I’ll politely decline. But it’s not exactly going to make me swoon either. For me it’s not about how well you treat ladies, but how well you treat people. Not how chivalrous you are you to women but how kind are you to those around you. Not would you keep the door open for me, but would you keep the door open for someone who really needs it?

What  I want to know is: what is the point of pretending to be someone to attract guys, according to standards set by “them”, who won’t even like who  you really are? Keeping up the charade is just going to make you miserable. Everyone is special. Everyone is different. Everyone likes different things, including qualities in a partner – man or woman. Just remember that someone tells you what women/men like/don’t like or you read it in some magazine article. Opinions are subjective and there is absolutely no accounting for taste.


I am a woman who doesn’t pronounce the ‘c’ in schedule

By Julie Nxadi

White people trust me. They really do and I don’t blame them because I am awesome. They invite me to dinner and introduce me to their parents and feed me crudités.  However, today I will have to strain my relationship with my white friends by being honest (I will let the irony of that serve as ambiance to this piece). The fact of the matter is; I have uncovered my secret; that je ne sais quoi that allows white people to let their guard down around me; I don’t pronounce the “c” in “schedule”.

Now before you dismiss this as inaccurate street therapy…or racist, please allow me to elaborate. I am a very dark skinned woman who is often mistaken, by many, for a foreign national on account of my dark skin and my accent. Upon finding that I am in fact a Xhosa woman, both black and white people tend to assume that my command of the English language and my fastidious approach with regards to my pronunciation means that I hate black people. Apparently there is an English Language/Black Pride ratio that is being applied throughout society and my Black Pride numbers are dismal due to the height of my English Language numbers. This would be absurdly funny if it weren’t for the fact that it is a real thing and people subconsciously use this ratio all the time. Still not convinced? Please read on:

When I was but an impressionable youth, I noticed that I kept finding myself in a rather awkward scenario. My white friends kept telling “black jokes” in my presence. The first time it happened I quietly looked for my reflection in a nearby window to check if I still had the charcoal coloured face I had come to know and love. When I saw my dark face staring (confused) back at me, I realised that I had to make a decision; was I going to giggle along and be a good black or was I going to stand up for my people? I heard myself say “that’s kind of racist” softly as if to get the statement out of the way. My white friends patted me on the back and giggled “come on now Julz, you are hardly what I would call black” (that response made me feel funny). These situations kept coming up time after time as if some higher power was trying to bring a point across. Was I a sell out?  I began to look closely at the reason my accent was as it was. I did not go to a private school and was not adopted by a gay white couple at birth so there had to be a deeper meaning to it all.

The fact of the matter is I am a child who started at a predominantly white school at a time when the country’s future was not clear. My mother had no way of knowing which way the country was going to go. The streets were on fire and the threat of civil war was hanging heavy in the air. So she decided to arm me with the best English accent that her money could buy. She believed that doing this would secure my future no matter what happened. If the country went to the dogs and white people sent us all back to the homelands, I could still, at the very least, get a good job as a high end domestic worker by impressing them with my poised accent. In the event that white people did not send us to the homelands, I would be in the running to live the South African dream and become an MEC (whatever that is). Fast forward back to present day; I have my “good English” and absolutely no desire to become an MEC, and these awkward scenarios are still rearing their annoying heads and my white friends’ responses still make me feel funny.

I have never considered myself a prude, nor do I get myself all worked up over things before I know and understand the situation but I need to make something clear. Just because I speak “good English” and am well read, does not mean that I think that the word “Kaffir” is nothing but an Arabic word that has been misinterpreted. A Bitch is a female dog, but I don’t hear people telling women to calm down when someone refers to them as such. A seventeen year old democracy doesn’t change the fact that I would have failed the pencil, colour bar and brown paper bag test three decades ago and therefore would have been considered a second class citizen. This means that my parents were considered second class citizens as were their parents. I know that when bad things happen people say; “ten years from now we will all look back and laugh” but I just want to warn everyone that it may take a little longer for most black people to find the word “Kaffir” paradoxical. Am I asking white people to whisper in the presence of black people? No. I am simply reminding white people (as well as all those black people who have promised to find and kill all blacks with the bourgeois twang in their voice) that “good English” is not a symptom of self hate and even if it were; etiquette is a standard requirement if one wants to be acknowledged as a human being. Just like we don’t tell fat jokes around obese people, we frown upon those who tell black jokes around black people.

There is no pride in being perceived as a pseudo white person, nor is there shame in having gotten a good education. The shame is rather in the fact that the good accent matters so much and that English is interpreted as some higher power that only the best of the best can touch. The sad fact of the matter is that; we model C snotty types make the best window dressing…which brings me to that funny feeling I felt in the presence of those “black jokers”: Disappointment. I was disappointed that this group who I perceived as my friends and others perceived as open minded and diverse were racist’s incognito. They were forgiving me for my blackness on account of my general whiteness. I refuse to be that spineless excuse for a person that is too scared of being a sell out to speak English well but that by no means suggests I have any desire to eat crudités for the rest of my life.

I love my culture, my colour and my people. I love my language, my heritage and my country. Having said that; I will never apologise for my education, nor will I be ashamed of my command of the English language. I am a Xhosa woman from Peddie in the Eastern Cape AND I am a woman that doesn’t pronounce the “c” in schedule.