Friday, January 21, 2011

Gender Roles at the Newsstand

Go to the magazine rack at any local drugstore or supermarket, and take note of what kinds of women's magazines are available there. You'll probably observe that most of them are magazines that focus on how to dress, how to look pretty, tips on dieting and exercising to achieve the ideal figure and how to have sex and be a good girlfriend. The rest of the magazines aimed at women are magazines about domestic skills - how to cook, how to sew, how to keep house, and the big one: how to be a good mother.

Nowhere in those racks does one ever find Bust, or Bitch, or even Ms. Magazine - empowering feminist magazines about real women's issues. No, those are only found in large newsstands, and often in the special interest section rather than the section for women's magazines.

As I mentioned before, I was once in charge of the newsstand at a large bookstore. I could have made a full time job out of managing that section of the store, really, it was enormous and involved a lot of maintenance. I quickly noticed a few things about how magazines were organized. There was one section specifically designated for women's magazines. What were considered "women's" magazines? Magazines about fashion and beauty dominated the top tier, the middle tier was dedicated to parenting, young teen magazines such as J-14 and Seventeen, and finally the bridal magazines. The bottom tier held animal-focused magazines, and publications for young children.

In fact, that whole side of the newsstand was the "feminine" half: it held the magazines about home decorating, cooking, sewing, crafts, health, and spirituality.

There was also a men's section of the newsstand. This section had the adult publications, the tattoo magazines, magazines about marijuana (yeah, apparently tattoos and drugs are a men's topic), magazines about fishing and hunting, the endless amount of gun magazines, hobby magazines about model trains and coin collecting, fitness, and of course GQ and Esquire (we were always puzzled as to where in the men's section those were actually supposed to go). That whole half was mostly either men's or unisex interests: music, movies, video games, cars, sports, business, finance, travel, science, technology, history, current events, and at the very end, almost hidden behind the gay interest magazines, were Bust, Ms., and Bitch.

Not only were the feminist magazines not in the women's section, they weren't even in the "feminine" half of the newsstand. They were somewhat close to the celebrity gossip magazines, but unless a woman was looking for them, chances are they would go unnoticed. Chances are, even a woman looking for those magazines might not find them without the help of the magazine expert, should one be working at the time.

So there you have it: according to major booksellers, feminism is not a mainstream women's topic, but instead a special interest.

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