An AAPI Woman’s Perspective
By Joyce Yin
New Organizing Project blogger
‘The Month Men are Most Likely to Cheat’
’10 Things That Make You Undateable’
‘Get a Better Butt’
‘The Sex Move He Craves in Summer’
‘7 Things Never to Say to a Woman During a Fight’
On occasion, when I’m waiting in line to checkout at the grocery store, I’ll admit that I pick up a women’s magazine and flip through it to pass the time. And as soon as I’m done, I remember why I stopped reading them in the first place. Headlines like the ones above are only a small sampling of the ‘suggestions’ and ‘advice’ these magazines offer. They stop at almost nothing to make you, the reader, feel like you are never good enough, that there is always something wrong with you that needs to be fixed – all to keep your man satisfied. And the only solution to all of the problems they tell you that you have? To beat yourself up, lose weight, put on make-up and spend lots of money in the process. And you can forget about articles that talk about anything other than sex, clothes, make-up and men in completely superficial ways. Apparently these are the only things that women care about.
Anyway, in regards to the content of these women’s magazines, I’m not against self-improvement but only if it’s accomplished in a healthy, loving way. If I want to lose weight, I will but only because I don’t want to be out of breath and ready to collapse after going up two flights of stairs. If I want to buy that cute purse, I will because, well, I think it’s cute and I have my own disposable income to do so. But let’s be real here: ‘mainstream’ women’s magazines don’t frame self-improvement in a way that’s empowering. They tell you that you’re crap and that if you want to feel good about yourself or want a man to like you, you have to tear yourself down to do so.
I don’t know what’s worse: the consistent theme of inadequacy or that everything you do is supposed to cater to the male gaze. Oh and I forgot to mention the fact that most of these magazines assume that you’re a white, middle-class, straight, cis-gender, able-bodied female and how much they ingrain in you that if you’re not one of these things, then you should do whatever you can to become one of them; that’s kind of annoying, too. And come to think of it, do you ever see AAPI women being featured in these magazines, let alone mentioned? It’s like these magazines think we live in some kind of hegemonic society where we simply don’t exist.
As I thought more about women’t magazines in relation to AAPI women, it made me sad to think of the countless ways many of us undergo ‘ethnic makeovers’ to achieve what these magazines want us to become whether that’s through double-eyelid surgery, skin-whitening creams, rhinoplasty, dying our hair lighter, straightening our hair, etc. The scary thing is that all of this is so normalized, too. I remember so many of my AAPI friends who would visit Asia would usually come back with double-eyelids that definitely weren’t there before; our parents talked about it like it was another trip to the dentist. When I was in Asia, skin-bleaching creams were everywhere, on every subway advertisement and in every drugstore window. As an AAPI woman, I’m constantly being told that I’m not good enough because I don’t fit into notions of what western society prescribes as beautiful and you know what? It’s getting kinda old.
Which is why I choose not to consume them anymore [except for the occasional grocery store indulgence]. For those of you interested in women’s magazines that actually, you know, make you feel good about yourself, offer suggestions for self-improvement in healthy ways [fancy that] and/or talk about things other than how to please a man, I’d recommend:
- Audrey Magazine – the Asian American women’s lifestyle magazine
- Bitch Magazine – feminist response to pop culture
- Bust Magazine
- Ms. Magazine
I know my list is a little sad looking and that there are a plethora of other women’s magazines out there that I don’t even know about. That being said, what recommendations do you all have?
*This post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival*
Venus is another decent addition to your list!
I wanted to say that I really appreciated your new blog post! I could completely identify with all of the points you made and feel strongly that we as a society should learn to appreciate different forms of beauty. Thanks for your insights!