Women’s Magazines: Body and Beauty

Las revistas femeninas dictan una tiranía comercial alrededor del cuerpo de las mujeres / CLAUDIA VILA

Three feminist communication professionals, reflect on the stereotypes that the media and advertising create about the ideal of femininine putting women in conflict with their own bodies.

What is beauty? The RAE (Real Academia Española) says it is “the quality of beauty and person or thing remarkable for its beauty.” Beyond these two meanings, the Platonic philosophy presents itself with ideal beauty: prototype or exemplar of beauty, to which certain forms of reality tend in continuous search of beauty itself.

For María Zambrano, “Beauty creates emptiness – it creates it – as if that face that everything acquires when it is bathed by it comes from a distant nothing and she will return, leaving the ashes of her face to the terrestrial condition, to that being that of beauty participates […] .” In its poetic definition beauty is not inert, but it is in movement and has a close link to creation.

What is the relationship between the feminine and beauty? The film director Sofia Coppola in an interview with Stylist said that there is a pressure on women that forces them to be perfect at all times, “I think that nowadays a specific prototype of beauty is aspired, whereas in the past there were different types of face, as for example is the case of the actresses of the seventies. Now, actresses have to be like models, but I have always been more attracted to women who look real.”

The poet Alejandra Pizarnik also confessed in her Diaries, “I think that my physical appearance is one of the reasons why I write: maybe I think I am ugly and therefore exempted from the meager role that every single girl must play before reaching a place in the world, a husband, a house, children. But sometimes, looking at myself closely, I see clearly that I am not ugly at all and that my body, although not faultless, is very beautiful.

But, I love beauty so much that any approach to it, as long as it is not its perfect consummation, enervates me. And that my face is interesting does not comfort me.”

These three concepts are related: femininity, beauty and body. These are the three aspects that magazines focus on women having in common and what has a direct impact on the social conception that defines them.


The journalist Sandra Camps, a program director for National Radio of Spain (Radio Nacional de España), allows the protagonists to be the narrators of their own experiences in the first person. “It is essential that everyone tell their story with their times and in their spaces, that the journalist does not pose a question with an implicit answer.” Recently, interviewing a group of mothers, she could verify the importance that they gave to call their children by their names. In her work, Sandra has interviewed people of diverse profiles, with different lives and has come to the conclusion that the bodies that do not conform to a standard are not visible: “a 20-year-old girl with a large size wasn’t able to dress according to her age, only one store carried modern, large sizes.” Even so, Sandra appreciates that there is an increase in attention to body awareness, beyond the judgment of beauty. “There is body worship in health, but it is still present in the media because it is almost always used to get more audiences. The physical appearance says a lot about a person, a woman with a pronounced nose, for me, is interesting. Who defines if she is beautiful or ugly?”

Sandra Camps, directora de En primera persona

Nekane Serrano coordinates the Maria Laffitte Women’s Association, where she has carried out several projects to make “micromachisms” visible, help battered women, give voice to fe- male characters, and, ultimately, reach a better social reality. Nekane understands the frustration of the ideal body as a symptom. “Since we were little, we have been educated at home (although not in my case) and at school to like the gentlemen. Even so, do we all like to be beautiful, because we want it or because they tell us how to be? In the end, we all fall into what is stipulated.”

Sofía Coca is one of the coordinators of Zemos98, a cultural creative management team that promotes education, communication, and audiovisual creation internationally. The team creates workshops and interactive events in which the social, cultural, and political are usually brought together. For Sofia, the problem lies in the complexes inculcated in women. “It is a conflict of dissociation, there is a model imposed: to be a woman, a mother, and a worker. A man can dedicate himself to success in his career and that is enough. The woman, if she does not have children, is incomplete. We feel that we have not fulfilled those expectations since the development, for example with hair removal, but also with the porn industry that has nothing to do with the reality of privacy, glass ceilings and that, in general, the labor market is not It can be reconciled with family life.”

Sofía Coca, es una de las coordinadoras de Zemos98

Sandra does not consume magazines because she does not like to be told what she needs. “I like the feminist background magazines, the woman is not something that should be encorse. We have values that must be defended; we have not yet won any battle; it is constant. The scientists exist, I can vote because someone battled for universal suffrage. Everything that has to do with the information that makes you see the fight for rights and duties, I like.” Nekane believes that the magazines lack everything, although “fortunately, some women serve as an example.” She refers to those who break with the stereotypes and mark a new vision, without necessarily following the patterns. “They are those who decide not to weigh 40 kilos measuring 1.70, or don’t have large breasts, or who aren’t 36-24-36. Leave fat people alone; they can exist, they care about them. Also those that have wrinkles or those that are different to the stipulated ideal.”

“We must create feminist media, women must be represented in a real way, beyond being an object for consumption and marketing,” says Sofia. “We do not need pharmaceutical beauty; these feminine references are very negative for girls.” For her, feminism is about expanding democratic boundaries and making societies more inclusive. The objectives of Zemos98 – apart from achieving its own economic sustainability – are the conciliation of capital, work, and life; taking responsibility and creating a critical, empowered, and self-sufficient culture.

Are women trying to imitate the images in magazines or are magazines trying to capture the reality of women? Sandra considers it a vicious cycle. “Designers are the dictators of fashion. Without trends, how would people dress? The human being is becoming a hanger: we can not go above certain sizes, we dress the same, there is no authenticity. We form aesthetic molds.” Nekane believes that it is not easy to be different. “I’m not the standard woman prototype. Since I left and my mother stopped sending me, I changed my hair and I dyed it all different colors. I have to be honest with myself, sometimes I buy things because I like them, other times I do not do an exhaustive analysis. It is very difficult to evade and stay out of what is pressing us. In addition, those that are outside are the most indicated.”

Nekane Serrano coordinates the Maria Laffitte Women's Association
Nekane Serrano coordinates the Maria Laffitte Women’s Association

Sofia is very critical with certain industries: “There are liberal, neoliberal opinions, fashion, art. The tyranny of beauty is difficult to confront. Also the culture of rape that defends that the body can be possessed.” As part of an industry that wants to maintain its power over everything, women’s magazines do not transform, but try to adapt. “Can feminism be generalist? For whom? It has been lost fear to say that word, or equality, which refers to the same concept from a conservative position,” says Sofía.


“I would interview ordinary women, I would ask them what they like, why they dress like that. We could see what we really want to show, not be repressed,” suggests Nekane. “The other day on the street, some girls told their mothers what they wanted to buy. They pointed to a showcase of children’s clothing that seemed to be made for 20 or 30-year- olds. There are also places where princess-themed birthdays are celebrated,” explains the coordinator of the Maria Laffitte Women’s Association.

For Sofia, education is essential, although the most necessary transformation is that of the media. “You have to capture diversity. Not only for the body, but also racial diversity, functional diversity. We must demand that from the public media that often forget the importance of language for their style books. Women do not appear deceased, women are murdered.”