Why media by womxn for womxn matters
When I was younger, magazines like Vogue and Cosmo shaped the way I viewed myself as a little girl and young woman. Even though I rarely read them, seeing the airbrushed models on the covers of these magazines as my mom was checking out at Giant most certainly impacted my self esteem.
I really wish that I had been exposed to more uplifting media back then. I wish even more that magazines and media companies like Make Muse existed at such a critical point in my life.
I had a rough relationship with my body for a number of reasons back then. The portrayal of a very specific kind of woman (white, cis, thin, tall, often blonde and blue eyed) in the media damaged the way I viewed myself. As a young girl, I was extremely impressionable and these subliminal messages about what the idea woman should look like made me feel lesser than. It’s a universal feeling that every young girl, and even older woman, has encountered time and time again.
What kills me the most with these images and messages is that they’re crafted not by women, but by cishet men(1). There’s a lack of women in these industries, which means that our image of women is crafted through the male gaze(2). When men are given the power to control this, images of women tend toward overtly sexual images in which a woman is often dominated by the creator of the image, rather than dominating the image herself. Her sexuality serves to please the (cis, straight) male viewer and creator, rather than serving as something by which she is empowered.
The messages in these magazines were no better. How many times have you seen a magazine advertising a new weight loss trick, or how to have better sex? Have you ever seen a magazine dedicated to helping women learn to love themselves, or one that critiques the (white supremacist capitalist heteronormative) patriarchy we live in?
I’m happy that Teen Vogue and other magazines are paving the way to provide the latter. But I’m even happier that the lovely Maura Sheedy founded Make Muse! Full disclaimer, I did receive their magazine for free in exchange for content promoting them, but I also donated $20 to their crowdfund ages ago, so you know it’s real. When a broke college kid donates any kind of money, it has to be.
I’m so excited about Make Muse. It’s a magazine and digital publication by womxn for all womxn, not just white cishet women(3). This magazine has no room for the male gaze and as such, is able to view womxn as people, not objects for male pleasure. These pieces tackle issues such as body, fashion, activism, education, and more in ways that frame womxn as active participants in their own lives and in this world, rather than passive objects meant to serve others. It completely subverts the male gaze, and I am HERE for it.
One of my favorite articles that emphasizes Make Muses’ efforts to shine light on and create a space for all womxn is their piece on the revival of the #MeToo movement and how it excluded the women of color for which the original movement was meant. Many people credit Alyssa Milano with the movement, but #MeToo was founded many years ago by Tarana Burke, a black woman who wanted to provide help to the black and brown women who are disproportionately affected by sexual assault.
I loved that Melanie Rodriguez, the writer, also discussed how transwomen, especially transwomen of color, experience sexual violence at higher rates. The #MeToo movement has sparked an incredible conversation, but it certainly has a ways to go in terms of making sure to include all womxn.
Another favorite was an article on the female gaze, written by Caitlin Panarella. If my comments on the male gaze went over your head, or if you’re interested in a critique on it and how to subvert it, this piece is a must read.
I’m still working my way through the rest of the magazine, but I have to say that I’m absolutely in love. It is so incredible to view and read so much incredible media written by and for womxn. To see my own views reflected in these pieces is so comforting. I love knowing that there are so many badass womxn out there no longer willing to accept the bullshit that we’ve dealt with in the past, courtesy of the patriarchy’s male gaze.
If you’re looking for a great Christmas present for your feminist friend, this is it. Otherwise, if you want a beautiful magazine that you can read over and over again, you need this. Head online to grab yourself a copy and let me know if you do! Alternatively, head over to my Instagram post for a chance to win a copy! Just pay for shipping!
Have an incredible holiday season, yall! Drop me a comment with a gift you’re hoping to get or one that you plan to give.
1. Cisgender, heterosexual men. Men whose biological gender agrees with their gender expression and who are attracted to women.
2. As defined by the Free Dictionary: In the visual arts and advertising, the depiction of the world from the perspective of a heterosexual male, with the assumption that the audience also consists of heterosexual males, especially as manifested by depicting women as objects to be gazed upon.
3. I’m using womxn here, as opposed to women, because this magazine is for womxn of all genders, sexualities, races, etc. Not just white, cishet women. This spelling (or womyn) is a great topic to read up if you’re curious. It also takes out MEN from women.