True, magazines like Marie Claire, theoretically the smart-girl’s alternative, and magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour, do publish pieces about abortion and reproductive rights more generally. But pieces like this, that truly encapsulate the debates, and do it in extraordinary language and with intense vividness, seem to end up in Esquire or GQ. I’m not sure why. I loved the piece, and I would have loved to read it in a magazine aimed at my demographic. But its appearance in Esquire just made me feel, yet again, how entirely women’s magazines seem to have given up on their readers, while at least some men’s magazines, for some reason, still seem to hope that their subscribers value something thoughtful, articulate, and finely crafted. When did we become the gender exclusively devoted to junk?
I empathize with Alyssa here, as I’ve made the same complaints about reading excellent, thorough profiles of black luminaries in mainstream magazines and coming across puff pieces on “celebrities” like Boris Kodjoe in black magazines. To some extent, this has to do with pedigree. Esquire may have moved in the direction of other men’s magazines, but its alumni include some of the heavyweights of American letters. The New Yorker is, well, the New Yorker, and every writer in America wants to be on its staff. We’re talking about extremely talented writers working with a lot of resources.
Just a few weeks ago I happened to get into conversation with a junior editor at Vogue — which, for all its faults, is still one of the only American women’s magazines to actually include any long-form feature writing that goes much beyond Area Woman Brought Closer To Husband By Bad Disease. This editor told me that she was itching to cover the financial crisis. (Vogue has apparently noticed that there has been a financial crisis.) The only problem, said this editor, was that her magazine’s coverage would have to take the form of a profile, and because of Vogue‘s female audience, the profile would have to be of a woman. What’s more, any appropriate profile candidate would need to be attractive. “I pitched Sheila Bair to the photo department,” said this editor, “and they said, ‘Are you kidding? We can’t shoot her.'”That next week, the New Yorker published an excellent profile of Bair, the chairman of the FDIC, a profile that explored her Republican background and how her pro-choice leanings probably scuttled her own political ambitions within her party, and explained how Bair had tried to address the subprime mortgage crisis before it actually came to threaten the rest of the economy. Vogue’s latest issue, in case you’re curious, has a story about Vanessa Traina (rich, likes clothes) and devotes two pages to a mother-daughter duo from Austin who sometimes like to share dresses and shoes. I did not notice any stories about the financial crisis.