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Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness --- and Liberalism --- to the Women of America Paperback – January 13, 2005
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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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 Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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But even taking into account the things I mentioned above, it's pretty fascinating and I've enjoyed reading it.
But Ms. Blyth gets stars deducted for the way she delivers the message. The book's thirty pages of endnotes and indexing implies a substantive project. Instead, the writing wanders, unfocused and bloated, for 300 pages. It's hard to find more substance than what I summarized in three sentences of the first paragraph of this review. Rather than witty, I found the tone to be ickily catty and mean-spirited. And Ms. Blyth's credibility is eroded by her participation in this media scheme for 21 years as head of Ladies' Home Journal ... her efforts at penance now through this book are weakened by the fact that it's the reader who's paying $$ to read her apology.
My recommendation: read this book's dust jacket to remind yourself of what you already know -- and then use your energy to avoid the media's messages instead of reading this book.
I still read "More Magazine" (but may soon stop if Hillary's on the cover again); Blyth started More but is no long involved apparently. However, Blyth was for many years editor of Ladies Home Journal and admits to some of the same offenses she finds in others, except she is not a Liberal.
She also points out how they paint women as stress-filled and proceed to tell stories guaranteed to make you lose sleep, even though the examples given are less likely to happen to most of us than an alien spacecraft landing on our roof. There are many, many revealing instances here of how they sucker women into their programs, and their magazines with bad news, scary stories.
Perhaps you've noticed how Barbara Walters likes to make people cry; how many magazine shows get in close on personal stories of loss or illness...some have admitted they want to make you care and to care enough to keep tuning in. And they will make into a mountain a molehill tidbit from the Health mavens, but then wonder why you are "stressed". (Oh no. This child was poisoned by a potato!....etc.)
You'll enjoy reading about the lunch crowd at Michael's in New York...the sisterhood gets the best tables and pig out on their Cobb salads after sessions with their $750 dollar workouts.....
How much Katie pays for hair dos, their million-dollar apartments, their homes "in the Hamptons" and just how "like the average woman" they aren't. Which would be okay, except Blyth makes the case that they want us to think the opposite.
Read it, Ladies, and enjoy a good gossipy, informative read, and then start questioning the stuff you read in the rags and see on the [television].