From Publishers Weekly
"The story that began as an exciting movement for equal rights and morphed into a wonderful celebration of opportunity today has become a depressing, discouraging gains-means-pain tale of woe sold to women readers as the grim new reality of their lives," writes Blyth, editor-in-chief of Ladies' Home Journal
from 1981 to 2002 and former publishing director of More
, in this juicy insider's look into the $7-billion-a-year industry of women's magazines. These glossy rags, she says, peddle the message that women are the unhappy victims of a stress-filled world: they are too fat and too wrinkled, prone to disease, and overworked by their jobs and families. And, according to Blythe in this mea culpa, all the fear-mongering is underlined by the subtle, liberal message that more government will alleviate women's problems. The media divas who run what she calls this "Girls' club," from Harper's Bazaar
editor Glenda Bailey to Katie Couric, are out of touch with middle-class American women, Blyth charges: they command the print and broadcast worlds from their sleek Manhattan offices, pay indulgently for an army of domestic help at home and, even worse, vote overwhelmingly Democratic. If her conclusion is a stretch and her critique of colleagues often catty and vituperative, many of Blyth's jabs at women's media seem to have merit. She challenges what she sees as the assumption by much of the media that all women think alike and are interested only in diet, fashion, sex appeal or stress relief. Whether this superficial content is the fault of liberals or conservativesâ"or whether it's the market simply feeding demandâ"remains less clear.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Blyth admits that, as editor in chief of Ladies' Home Journal
, she helped create "the negative message of victimization and unhappiness that bombards women," complete with attention-grabbing headlines about weight problems or sexual dysfunction. But she is not taking the blame by herself: "I am certain that there is a liberal tilt in the media aimed especially at women"; that tilt, Blyth argues, helps make modern women unhappy. She explains that women's magazines (and TV) have a vested interest in female discontent because an unhappy woman is more likely to spend a few bucks in search of a panacea for her psychological, sexual, or physical ills. Further, Blyth bashes the Left on grounds that the Spin Sisters (her name for the female media elite) need women to think of themselves as victims if they are going to look for help from a liberal government. Blyth may not convince many liberals to change their politics, but she is an engaging writer, and she effectively makes the case that for many women--thanks to more education, better health, and independence--this is the best of times. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved