Thursday, 14 May 2009

Stupid things... Elle, June 2009

(The first in an occasional series (depending on how often I buy magazines) in which the choicest morsels of nonsense peddled by the presse féminine will be extracted, analysed and mocked.)

First up, this month's issue of Elle.

Incidentally, both Elle and Vogue have decided to make their current issues 'the body issue'. This makes complete sense, because they never mention dieting, weight, exercise or 'detoxing' in their other issues, ever, nor do they ever fuck with self-image by promoting images of the female form that are impossible for the vast majority of women to achieve. Glad we've cleared that up. Anyway, the result is that June's Elle is full of tales of women's relationships with their bodies.

So without further ado, here's this month's Elle's top five stupid things.

1) Isabel Mohan writes a 'moving' account of her extreme diet and 5 1/2 stone weight loss. This was apparently triggered when a stranger at a festival called out to her, 'Look everyone, it's Beth Ditto!'. Until then, she writes, 'I never felt I stood out to the point where perfect strangers would choose, with a few humiliating words, to ruin my evening.' Weight-based jibes are mean and nasty, but of course, the wisest way to respond to them is go on a crash diet of 500 liquid calories a day!

What makes this so very interesting is that last year, Mohan was made deputy editor of Heat's online presence. The Guardian makes mention of the fact that, back in 2005 at least, she was also one of those responsible for compiling the delightful 'celeb caught on camera' pages that Heat is so fond of. You know, the ones that like to catch people looking less than their best, and make cruel comments about their appearance.

The article itself is an interesting mash of contradictions, as Mohan tries to avoid saying that she feels better about herself now because she is thin, and to face up to what this tells us about society's bullying attitude towards women who are not. When bigger, 'I always had plenty of fun, and that hasn't changed', but then again, 'her weight was the...thing that did get me down'. Go figure.

2) Another of those 'diets to suit your body shape' articles that we've all read a million times throws up some gems: 'Drink green speed up your metabolism'. The study that this claim is probably based on was made on the basis of a test involving only TEN people. Also, 'Cut down on sugar (try fruit...instead)'. Uh, nobody here heard of fructose?

3) The editor in chief has a persistent cold she just can't shake off. After a consultation with Dr Dirk Budka and a course of the 'Ultimate Detox Silver Package' (??!), a highly restrictive diet plan and over two pages of copy, she is in the position to impart this ground-breaking advice to us, her faithful readers: 'If you want to feel healthy and refreshed when you wake up, you have top live and eat healthily. Drink less coffee, sip less wine, learn to wind down at the end of your day gradually and work out what your body does and doesn't need.' Holy cow, I think we have a genius on our hands.

4) Gotta love high-end fashion mags' attempts to make nods towards our recession-hit wallets. Ellen Burney positively delights in it. 'Never has my shopping been so social...I'm turning every night into party night by gathering at friends' houses for some fashion interaction. As we down our glasses of wine, we bring out our finest cast-offs...we adjust hemlines and alter necklines... Well, Ellen, I'm glad that you and your friends have so many cast-offs that you can affort to hack away at them, but a) I don't have cast-offs: I have old clothes that I'm still wearing because I cannot afford replace them at the drop of a hat, and I prefer not to go naked and b) nor do my friends. She also suggests renting clothes instead of buying them. This is hardly a bargain, at £78 for two nights for a Marc Jacobs dress, when most women would think that price at the top end of their budget, even if it bought them a dress they could actually wear for longer than 48 hours.

5) Final mention to a long piece purporting to teach us 'how to beat bikini-shopping phobia' contains the (very true) line that 'Very often, body confidence is way more appealing than body perfection.' But Elle doesn't like to let us off without a challenge! Oh no! Just to make sure it's not too easy to achieve that body confidence, the entire article is packed through with photos of the tallest, skinniest, catwalk models you can imagine, clad in bikinis of the skimpiest variety.

So thanks, Elle. But you know what? After reading pages and pages of scrutinising, analysing and obsessing about the female body, I can't say I feel a whole lot better about my body. In fact, I feel a whole lot worse about it. I feel worse about it in ways I didn't even know I ought to feel worse about it until I just read it in your magazine! Maybe if you just stopped obsessing about our bodies for a while, we'd have a chance to realise that we are far more than just a body, and that there are better things to devote our time, energy and thoughts to. But nothing sells like neurosis, after all.