The Importance of Women's Magazines in our Modern Culture

Between the ages of roughly 12 and 16, I would wait with bubbling anticipation for the arrival of my Seventeen magazine subscriptions. Each month brought the exciting world of fashion, celebrity, and even horoscopes within the grasp of my fingertips, and I would often devour every one of its pages within the day.

While my pre-teen self would sometimes disregard the longer, more serious articles for short quizzes and skip over the Health sections out of embarrassment, as I grew older and developed a more confident emotional maturation, I found myself deeply enthralled by the feature pieces Seventeen had to offer. From stories on the successes and pressures of life as an adolescent to news headlines that were broken down in a way that someone my age could comprehend, Seventeen provided me with something I didn’t fully appreciate at the time: a space for engaging a young adult (and typically female) audience in the larger world around them.

In the post-adolescent world of magazines, publications such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and Elle typically dominate readership among millennial women. Topics can range from the latest fashion and beauty trends, to the most recent coverage of the policy changes working their way through local and national government. Long gone are the days in which discussing politics is deemed too taboo for these elite establishments, and much of that has to due with the 2016 election cycle.

As aspects of the last election cycle managed to seep into parts of our everyday life and culture, avoiding the realities of politics was no longer an option for magazines looking to stay relevant. Many publications chose to face this head on, and developed an approach of seamlessly incorporating news stories to match their readers’ interests and demands.

The result has been an outpouring of captivating and pertinent journalistic effort. In September of last year, Cosmopolitan was in the middle of interviewing Ivanka Trump on maternity leave policy and her father’s stance on the issue when she abruptly cut the interview short after a line of to-the-point questioning. Vogue endorsed Hillary Clinton in October despite having “no history of political endorsements”, signaling a call to action to their readers who might have considered sitting out the election. In post-election December, Teen Vogue published a scathing Op-Ed piece titled “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,” and saw its role as an analytical news source take center stage. The list goes on.

Although these outlets generally target a female audience, the current event and human-interest pieces within them offer insights relevant to any engaged citizen regardless of gender or age.  They emphasize giving a platform to those whose voices are often left out of mainstream media, and this shift to elevating such stories has resonated deeply with countless readers. Magazine reporting provides the space for telling the real stories of real people, offering perspectives on a range of issues such as Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, rape culture, election hacking, transgender rights, and reproductive rights.

Much of the beauty in what it is these publications are doing, and the power from which they draw, comes from the idea that they sacrifice nothing of their essence by including coverage of news and politics. Readers can enjoy the cutting-edge style section on page 49, and also in-depth policy reporting on page 50, without giving up one interest for the other. These publications are treating readers as intellects and not mere consumers, offering a wide range of subject matter intended to inform and connect. The dedicated efforts of these magazines go far beyond entertainment, as they are examples to us of what telling the full story truly looks like.

For all of these reasons, it becomes clear why the work and mission behind a publication like Her Campus is so important. Not only are we striving to engage our peers at different levels, but we are also seeking to push one another to consider ideas that may be new to us or even different from our own. That’s what college is for, after all: finding answers outside of predetermined boxes. And if a platform such as Her Campus can elevate these ideas, then we’re surely on the right path.