glamour’s outstanding year

This photo of Crystal Renn in Glamour's May 2009 issue stopped me in my tracks.

Last week, Glamour was crowned 2010 Magazine of the Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors. In its hilariously snarky recap of the event, Gawker called the win “head-scratching,” but I’m not surprised at all. To me, Glamour has always stood out among its peers, but it made waves this year in ways that I find very encouraging.

In just the six years since I graduated from j-school, the landscape of magazines has changed a lot, and one of the things I’ve appreciated most is that women’s magazines are being taken to task more for the mind games they sometimes play with readers. The most egregious recent example, to me, was Self, which airbrushed Kelly Clarkson almost beyond recognition on a cover that promised “Total Body Confidence.” All women’s magazines are guilty of these mixed messages, but I do honestly feel Glamour has risen above more often than most.

I was happy to see my opinion echoed in plus-size model Crystal Renn’s memoir, Hungry. She notes Glamour has always had a reputation among models as being the most “body positive” women’s book, and was one of the first to embrace both her voluptuous looks and the power of her personal story. (Bride’s and Teen Vogue also deserve that recognition.) Renn has been in Glamour multiple times this past year, and the magazine was also lauded for running a photo that showed a model’s “pooch.” In response to the outpouring of support, editor-in-chief Cindi Leive promised to continue to feature women of all shapes and sizes, and I think she’s made good on that promise in a very real — not token or overly self-congratulatory — way.

There’s a tendency in the blogosphere to dismiss any incremental progress in the mainstream media as “not good enough.” And yes, supernaturally beautiful, size 12 Renn is still a pretty far cry from representing all women. But I do think Glamour and Leive  deserve some credit. I’ve been reading the magazine faithfully since I was 13. Has it contributed to my views on women’s rights and beauty standards as much as, say, Virginia Woolf and Betty Friedan? Certainly not. But there’s a lot to be said for a book that reaches millions systematically dismantling some of the most disturbing women’s magazine conventions. Congratulations, Glamour, on your Ellie, and please keep pushing that envelope.

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