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Friday, 25 April 2014

Book Review: "The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media" by Holly Baxter & Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Holly and Rhiannon are the witty and wonderful creators of the Vagenda Magazine, a fantastic site dedicated to highlighting some of the most ludicrous treatment of women in the media, as well as providing us with frank accounts on women’s issues, whether it’s abortion, office politics, or dare I say it, vaginas. Having only recently discovered this veritable treasure trove of modern feminist issues, I was more than a little excited to find out that they have a book coming out on my birthday. Fortunately, I didn’t even have to wait that long and their publishers kindly sent me a proof copy.

I, like many young women have felt under considerable pressure at one time or another to conform to a certain way of being: thinner, curvier, taller, smoother. Thankfully, when a teenager I started to feel so removed from what was included in women’s magazines (as an acned, brace faced, ginger haired book nerd, I wasn't well represented) that I quit bothering with them, but that hasn’t prevented me from being influenced by media portrayals of women.

This book explores the numerous damaging ways in which the media continue to impact cultural ideas about women, whether it’s their persistent articles on how to find a man and keep him, their suggestion that there is an ‘ideal’ body type through vindictive body shaming, or their disregard for the value of women as people with actual thoughts, ideas, and skills. With the addition of sections on female sexuality, lad culture, and the damaging nature of lads’ magazines, this is definitely a book we should be passing on to our teenage daughters.

With interesting historical research into the rise of women’s magazines, this is a fascinating examination of media representations of women. Readers of the blog will definitely enjoy the book with its laugh out loud turns of phrase and scathing commentary. While there are (many) points which will likely make you seethe with rage the authors refrain from suggesting a universal way of being for women. Rather, they advocate personal choice and the ability to laugh off the silliness included in these magazines. They want us to ignore fad diets, make our own sexual choices, and remember that we are far more than a series of component body parts. As a call to action, this is one for our generation.

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