Elle Doesn’t Care What We Have to Say

This post might come off as an angry rant, so let me preemptively apologize, it happens every once and a while, I promise happier posts about makeup and fun later in the week!

One of my first posts on this blog was about a letter I wrote in to Elle magazine about horrid advice given by their resident terrible advice giver, E. Jean in the June issue. So when I received my July Elle in the mail on Saturday I immediately flipped open to the “mail bonding” section as they call it, and was dissapointed that, duh, my letter wasn’t published. I knew that already since they didn’t contact me or anything, but I had really expected them to at least publish a letter from someone about the E. Jean advice mishap since Jezebel did a post on it too, and in the comments section dozens of women mentioned that they had written in letters as well.

What is even more interesting is that of the 5 letters to the editor that are published, each one is filled with glowing praise and thanks for creating such a wonderful magazine. You would think that Elle received absolutely no negative comments from any of their readers last month.

Most magazines will publish at least one or two negative or opinionated letters each month, that’s sort of the whole point of the section isn’t it? I mean as I write this blog I don’t expect to only receive comments like “Justine you’re so fabulous, everything you write is just gold and baby hedgehogs and sunshine, you’re perfect!” as lovely as that would be, I want to open up a discussion, and not everybody has the same opinions on things, that’s what makes life interesting. You would think Elle would be interested in what their readers have to say too, and not just the ones who adore them.

Out of the five letters to the editor, two start with “thank you” one starts with “I absolutely love” another with “I’m deeply moved” and the last ends with “keep up the good work!” You see? All women just love Elle. I’m sure the magazine had some notable or even moving articles last month (though I can’t say I felt that way about any of them), but they also published some incredibly offensive advice that was called out by the largest women’s blog on the internet, and they don’t mention a thing. To me, this is a clear message that I, and the readers of Jezebel too, are not who Elle is marketing towards anymore—were they ever? I thought so.


In a time when print publications are dropping like flies, you would think some of these lady-mags would start listening to their readers. I think Glamour has actually made it pretty clear that they do care, even if the changes are slow in coming, they’re at least making a visible effort. Elle used to be my favorite magazine, but now it is trying way too hard to be Vogue, and I’ve never been a big fan of Vogue, I can always feel Anna Wintour staring out from the pages mocking me, judging me, and now I feel that way about Anne Slowey when I read Elle, and nobody wants that, it’s not a pleasing sensation.

I think a lot of the disregard comes from this idea that keeps pouring out of magazine editors mouths about “women liking aspirational images” and it really pisses me off, because if that were true, then fashion mags would be doing better, and body acceptance blogs wouldn’t be nearly as popular. I would much rather be in a place where I am accepted than in a place where I am purposely made to feel inadequate, wouldn’t you?

I know, I know, I should stop reading magazines, but I can’t help it, I still like them. They were a part of my youth, (I still have a box of Seventeens in my closet, which I credit for introducing me to graphic design as silly as that may sound, it makes me sad that Seventeen has made a stiff decline over the past 10 years too) I like stuffing one in my beach bag, I like buying them at Penn Station when I’m waiting an hour because I missed my train, and as much as I like reading blogs and online magazines, there is just something nice about having a physical thing you can hold in your hand and take with you anywhere (can you tell I don’t have a smart phone?).

One of the most depressing parts for me about the bullshit often found in these publications is that they’re mostly run by women. Taking a look on the credits page of Elle, it’s great to see that more than three-quarters of the staff are female, how many other industries is that true for? From vice presidents to assistants, it’s wonderful to see women in such a variety of roles, but it drives the point home that we’re doing this to each other. We can’t blame men, or society, or even the publishers that own these magazines because it’s not like they’re selling well and then being told to do the same thing to keep the profits up. It seems like it would be a perfect time to make some changes.

With all the blame that is thrown around about who is responsible for the severely underweight, depressed, abused models in the fashion industry, you would think that a little sensitivity and acceptance might be a good way to start things moving in a healthier direction. Even if, as they claim, the magazines have their hands forced by the designers, they’re still responsible, because when you see injustice done and you stand by and do nothing, you’re also to blame.

So I can’t help but believe they want to keep things this way, but unlike the art world where it is in the interest of dealers to maintain a wealthy elite group whom they can convince into spending heaps of cash on whatever artist they deem worthy, the fashion magazines are marketing to the public, so being exclusive only keeps people from buying their product, which doesn’t seem beneficial.

I don’t think I’m unique in that I’m a woman who likes makeup, shopping, beauty advice, and fashion, but I don’t look like a fashion model and I never will, and I’m OK with that, so stop making me feel bad about it. I get upset when I hear women rail against other women for liking fashion and beauty and vice-versa, I don’t think to be intelligent you have to denounce other things that make you happy. We are complex creatures, we can like cosmetics and politics, and history and nail polish, or whatever we want, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. So that’s why I can’t help but have hope for fashions magazines, because they have the potential to speak to all kinds of women, unfortunately that isn’t their goal. I know I’m a walking contradiction, but aren’t most of us? Are there women out there who feel completely represented by Elle?  Who knows, all I can say is that I am not one of them, but I hope that maybe one day i will be.


Filed under acceptance

11 responses to “Elle Doesn’t Care What We Have to Say

  1. Love, love, love the rant. You are baby hedgehogs all the way, Justine.

  2. haren

    Elle isn’t marketing to you, they are marketing to the shallow and stupid who want to see some dumb celebrity on the cover. And someone should tell E. Jean that she is too friggin’ old to be giving out advice in a magazine meant for the young.

  3. sara

    Ugh, that’s horrible. I wish more magazines respected their readers instead of just catering to their own ideals.

  4. Dear Justine,

    I enjoy reading your beauty blog every week and seeing your beautifully colorful drawings! Hope you are well and having a lovely summer!

    xoxo Ilana

    • Thank so much for reading Ilana! I am sitting here sweating at the moment, but I’m glad summer is here! I hope you’re having nicer weather in Germany Frau Bauer!

  5. lizzy

    uh oh! i’m the naughty person whos going to disagree with you (just a little bit). i agree about ridiculous beauty standards in fashion, but i read that e jean article too, and i didn’t think it was that bad. i thought she was more saying that in a perfect world it wouldn’t matter what you look like, but that in reality its not the case. we’d all like to be told that whats on the inside is all that matters, but thats not what matters to the petty small minded people we work for. and apparently our doctors, AHH!! i always KNEW doctors are secretly judging me! i hate them!

    • Lizzy, I do see your point, and I’ve seen far worse in the glossies, but at the same time, I don’t think E. Jean stressed enough how awful it is that employers can do such a thing, and even that it is technically illegal for companies to discriminate based on the way you look. I mean she literally tells the girl “lose the weight” not, got to HR, or make yourself indispensable in another way, or go find a better company. Even though it is totally true that people are small minded and that sucks, she is perpetuating the idea that we can’t do anything about it, and I really hope that’s not true. Also E. Jean repeatedly gives bad advice, and I think Elle could do much better, I’ve heard her give lots of blunt advice like “get a divorce”, which granted the guy in question was a total jerk, but still have a little sensitivity, it’s not cool to be crude.

      Oh, and thanks for sharing the opinion, dissenting voices are very encouraged!!

  6. Brian

    There my be a lot of women in the creative team but there are more men (unfortunetly) on the publishing side selling ads and nudging creative in the wrong direction.

    You should check out Moore magazine. I thought it was for old women but they have a lot of interesting articles and their Design Director Deb Biship has done a great job with the art.

    • That makes me sad Brian, so then it’s sort of the same as in book publishing, all the highest positions (likes sales) are held by men. I’ll have to give More another look, I love a magazines with good design—like Real Simple. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Whoops! Elle Actually Does Care What I Have to Say « beauty dart

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