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The commodification of women - as shown on magazine covers across the decades

(74 Posts)
needaMNnamegenerator Fri 14-Aug-20 12:56:18

I just came across this article. Really interesting comparison of magazine covers over decades, but utterly depressing.

AIBU to think it's capitalism we're up against really these days, isn't it?

Depressing because it feels like a much harder fight than going up against 1950s stereotypes, which our foremothers did pretty successfully. But while we've gained freedom in so many areas, the commodification of women (and everything) is intensifying isn't it? (Or does it just seem harder as it's our fight, and we're living it.)

If radical feminism is about getting to the root, well, there's not much point in fighting the magazine industry - it's just demonstrating the influence of consumerism isn't it? And that's the real problem - isn't it?

OP’s posts: |
needaMNnamegenerator Fri 14-Aug-20 12:57:04

Some more pictures comparing magazine covers over time...

OP’s posts: |
needaMNnamegenerator Fri 14-Aug-20 13:01:10

Interesting to compare Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover to other covers at the same magazine (ignoring the article's ridiculous "go girl" commentary though).

Jenner's issue totally focused on Jenner. There wasn't a load of text cluttering up the cover like there usually is. A privilege not usually afforded to their other cover models.

OP’s posts: |
needaMNnamegenerator Fri 14-Aug-20 13:03:45

The conclusion of the article is depressing too:

Not so long ago, black people couldn’t vote. Though they still face significant discrimination, they are also now idolized on magazine covers. As women have earned more rights over the years, they now take control of their sexuality. And Vanity Fair’s most iconic cover this year is a woman who used to identify as a man.

We’ve come a long way in 100 years.

Well yes, things have changed a lot in 100 years, but I despair that people think this is progress or that this is what women taking control of our own sexuality looks like.

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PlanDeRaccordement Fri 14-Aug-20 13:05:01

I don’t think capitalism is to blame. It is more about the cover models are now celebrities instead of professional models and their desire to use the magazine to gain further fame and opportunity because them and their looks/sexiness is part of their brand to their fans.

DidoLamenting Fri 14-Aug-20 13:13:24

PlanDeRaccordement

I don’t think capitalism is to blame. It is more about the cover models are now celebrities instead of professional models and their desire to use the magazine to gain further fame and opportunity because them and their looks/sexiness is part of their brand to their fans.

The photo is Nikki Minaj isn't it? She could just keep her clothes on.

I suppose that is problematic to say here because the usual narrative on here is that women in the music industry have no choice 'cos capitalism/ patriarchy/.

Goosefoot Fri 14-Aug-20 13:19:21

Well, I am very much inclined to agree, but if you take the same logic and apply it, for example, to what young women wear, or school or work dress codes, or anything like that, all of a sudden you are a misogynist and it's about what women choose and obviously that in no way relates to their self-perception, not does it affect the perception men or boys have of women.

If a bunch of women in real life dolled up that way have no effect on anyone why would magazine covers?

So I am inclined to be blasé. If we are content to think of women that way we can hardly complain about magazines doing so.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 14-Aug-20 13:21:27

When in history have women not been a commodity though?

PlanDeRaccordement Fri 14-Aug-20 13:36:22

ErrolTheDragon

When in history have women not been a commodity though?

Exactly, women have always been a commodity and were millennia before anyone had even imagined capitalism.
Most of the frescos in ancient palaces show naked dancing girls, for example.

DaisiesandButtercups Fri 14-Aug-20 13:39:30

We have become more sexualised, more superficial, we read less, we have shorter attention spans but it is all good because we are more open minded and really pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable...

And the above is meant to be a good thing?

OMG I feel quite depressed now.

Yes I do think capitalism and patriarchy hold one another up. Liberal/popular feminism is a product of that alliance as are queer theory and trans ideology imo. Capitalism relies on inequality as does patriarchy.

PlanDeRaccordement Fri 14-Aug-20 13:40:17

The photo is Nikki Minaj isn't it? She could just keep her clothes on.

Yes she could and the magazine couldn’t force her not to. If you watch her music videos she’s clearly very happy wearing very little sexy things as part of her image/brand. The person doing the article has clearly cherry picked examples that fit a particular narrative.

DaisiesandButtercups Fri 14-Aug-20 13:44:01

Did the commodification of women and children begin with the agricultural revolution?

I am sure I read somewhere that in many gatherer/hunter cultures there was more equality between the sexes and between people in the same tribe generally.

PlanDeRaccordement Fri 14-Aug-20 13:44:05

Capitalism relies on inequality as does patriarchy.

No capitalism doesn’t rely on inequality, quite the opposite. In capitalism the producers (or workers) own the means of production instead of the State (or government) owning the means of production. It’s a society based on voluntary cooperative enterprises rather than a society based on involuntary work units where you, as a worker, do not even own your own labour or what you produce through your labour.

Patriarchy is completely separate from the economic system in use.

DonnaQuixote Fri 14-Aug-20 13:48:28

Patriarchy is much older than capitalism and very adaptable. This is really conservative patriarchy vs. liberal patriarchy, women being private property vs. women being public property.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 14-Aug-20 13:50:04

DaisiesandButtercups

Did the commodification of women and children begin with the agricultural revolution?

I am sure I read somewhere that in many gatherer/hunter cultures there was more equality between the sexes and between people in the same tribe generally.


There does seem to be some evidence of that.

AllieCat26 Fri 14-Aug-20 13:50:27

I personally feel that it is less about commodification, and more about how the view on women has changed in society. In the past women were meant to be seen as ‘proper’ in their behaviour, and a woman being sexually liberated was seen as sinful, as they were meant to be seen as ‘pure’. Hence, their pictures are completely over the top showing a ‘nice kind girl’ with a horse, or standing prim and proper like the seventeen magazine.

Nowadays, it is widely accepted that women are allowed to be sexual beings, and are allowed to be proud of their bodies. I personally feel that whilst some covers are overly sexualised - lots of covers, are just women feeling empowered and sexy in their own skin. I personally don’t see anything wrong with that. Also these magazines are designed for women, and are sold to women - not for men. Meaning that this resonates with their female audiences.

PlanDeRaccordement Fri 14-Aug-20 13:50:29

Commodification of women predates the agricultural revolution as many societies before then were nomadic and most definitely had slaves.

BigFatLiar Fri 14-Aug-20 13:50:55

It's sex sells. The publishers put images on the front that they think the target audience will buy. Until you can get young women not wanting to be slim/sexy/well dressed then I think you're flogging a dead horse.

PlanDeRaccordement Fri 14-Aug-20 13:51:52

This is really conservative patriarchy vs. liberal patriarchy, women being private property vs. women being public property.

Yes, very good way to sum it up.

Imnobody4 Fri 14-Aug-20 13:58:06

'Sex sells' Capitalism has now moved into 'personal brands' so everyone is selling themselves. The question is what sells, the images of scantily clad women are not balanced by witty, intelligent charismatic young women. Greta is the exception, but doubt her profile will last into adulthood. Same with internet influencers, it's all whatever it takes to get your followers.
This isn't the fault of individual young women but of the toxic societies we're creating. It's just another twist in the development of capitalism and it's going nowhere I want to live.

DaisiesandButtercups Fri 14-Aug-20 14:00:58

@PlanDeRaccordement

Are you able to direct me to sources where I can read more about your description of capitalism because it sounds a lot like what I had previously heard described as communism.

I would also be interested in your sources on pre agricultural societies.

One that I found interesting was “Nisa” by Marjorie Shostak

DaisiesandButtercups Fri 14-Aug-20 14:04:03

Imnobody4

'Sex sells' Capitalism has now moved into 'personal brands' so everyone is selling themselves. The question is what sells, the images of scantily clad women are not balanced by witty, intelligent charismatic young women. Greta is the exception, but doubt her profile will last into adulthood. Same with internet influencers, it's all whatever it takes to get your followers.
This isn't the fault of individual young women but of the toxic societies we're creating. It's just another twist in the development of capitalism and it's going nowhere I want to live.

Yes, this seems the case to me. We are creating a toxic culture driven by capital, what sells. It suits patriarchy very well.

QuarantineDream Fri 14-Aug-20 14:06:16

Men don't buy women's magazines - women do.

I also think the GQ covers are really misleading as they still have plenty of male covers - they don't have semi naked women every month.

DonnaQuixote Fri 14-Aug-20 14:07:54

BigFatLiar

It's sex sells. The publishers put images on the front that they think the target audience will buy. Until you can get young women not wanting to be slim/sexy/well dressed then I think you're flogging a dead horse.

Do you think women are not sexuall beings or how would you explain the lack of scantily dressed men on the covers of the magazines?

Sex doesn't sell, sexism does.

DaisiesandButtercups Fri 14-Aug-20 14:26:37

To be fair communism is arguably no better for women as they discovered after various revolutions they were saddled with the “double burden” of working outside the home whilst continuing to do all the traditional housewife work in the home.

I think once humans developed ideas of accumulating wealth and property, whether private or public, women were in trouble from that point on. We became chattel.

The idea of industrial growth is part or communism just as capitalism and those two theories on how to run an economy are perhaps different sides of the same coin.

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