More Than Sex and Style

Why women’s magazines have a place in journalism

You don’t have to be a teenage girl to see that Teen Vogue is killing it. With its inclusive and feminist content, which I wrote about last year, and its dedication to comprehensive news and political coverage, the publication has been standing out from other women’s magazines.

A magazine once known for showcasing avant-garde fashion looks for teens has been consistently producing high-quality journalism for well over a year now. Despite the concentrated applause, though (see below tweet), Teen Vogue is definitely not the only women’s magazine taking on current events.

As someone who’s been devouring women’s magazines since the beginning of high school, I know reading them comes with baseless stereotypes and generalizations. Girls and women who read women’s magazines only care about fashion, beauty products, and sex tips. They are unintelligent and focus too much on how they look. These are the things I’ve been told.

Fortunately, I’ve found this to be far from the truth. In my experience, reading Cosmopolitan, Glamour, ELLE, and Vogue has made me more ambitious, confident, and well-informed. These magazines have exposed me to the real stories and experiences of girls and women like myself — women trying to afford college, women working to reach their goals and find success, women traveling the world, women helping others, and yes, women who are determined to make their hair less frizzy.

Because, you know what? Women are multi-faceted and have wide arrays of interests and experiences. And women’s magazines recognize this.

Last year Teen Vogue stepped up its coverage of politics in response to the increasing number of young people becoming more and more aware of, and interested in, the issues that affect their lives.

“Teen Vogue is the destination for the next generation of influencers,” Conde Nast’s website states. “We educate, enlighten, and empower young women, arming them with all they need to lead stylish and informed lives.”

Empowering young women has become the forefront of Teen Vogue’s brand. It not only informs young women of issues, it gives them the power to go out and affect real change. Last week on its website, the magazine published a guide to The Constitution explaining the difference between free speech and hate speech and how to take action against the latter.

For many young people, Teen Vogue has become a news source. Over the past few months, it has had amazing coverage of the presidential election, the Women’s March, the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock, Trump’s time in office so far, the immigration ban, and more.

Other women’s magazines have been equally impressive, though, which Teen Vogue’s Digital Editorial Director, Phillip Picardi, recently made note of. On February 5, he posted a statement pointing out that other women’s magazines have been covering politics much longer than Teen Vogue has.

“Women’s magazines can be fearless and tireless in a way that I think is so special and unique, and I see so many of our fellow publications rising to the occasion,” Picardi said.

Three years ago as a senior in college, I remember sitting in a journalism class discussing post-grad aspirations with my peers and our professor. While some dreamed of broadcast journalism, national daily newspapers, and sports journalism, I remember saying I wanted to work at Cosmopolitan. My professor looked slightly taken aback, especially when I went on to praise the magazine for the journalism it produces.

Cosmopolitan has been doing in-depth reporting for some time now. In 2013, it featured a piece about revenge porn and the laws surrounding it. And it’s coverage of politics has been as extensive as Teen Vogue’s. On Feb. 6 Cosmo broke the news that Kellyanne Conway used the made up term “Bowling Green Massacre” in an interview with one of the magazine’s reporters days before using it on Hardball with Chris Matthews.

Other incredible pieces of journalism from women’s magazines that come to mind include ELLE’s in-depth look at the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The piece included not only strong reporting, but one of the most stunning photojournalism spreads I’ve ever seen in a women’s magazine.

Glamour magazine has also produced strong content with an essay by Emily Doe, the Stanford rape survivor, and an essay on feminism by former President Obama. The magazine also has a politics and news section on its website called 51 Million, which represents the 51 million U.S. women ages 18–44 who were eligible to vote in November.

As this February 6 Twitter thread from Teen Vogue contributor Lily Herman shows, women’s magazines have produced some top-notch journalism recently.

Women’s magazines as news sources has been the topic of much conversation lately, and much of what’s being said is positive. Many comments, though, contain surprise and shock, as if it’s unfathomable that women are interested in the issues that affect their lives. Women obviously are, so why is it surprising that women’s magazines write about them?

Some people tend to think that if a women is interested in government, she can’t also be interested in nail polish. Or, if a women is interested in policy decisions, she can’t also be interested in hot date night outfits. This simply is not true. Thankfully women’s magazines recognize this and produce content reflecting that.

As an avid reader of women’s magazines, I appreciate their commitment to keeping readers well-informed. Covering politics and other current events adds value to the publications and to the lives of the women reading them. Not writing about these topics would be insulting. Women already go to these magazines to learn more about other interests in their lives. Why wouldn’t they go to them for news as well?