Critiques of the Women’s Magazines, 1946–1960
Criticism of American women’s magazines began long before Betty Friedan, in her 1963 The Feminine Mystique, chided these periodicals for pressuring women to expect fulfillment in the role of homemaker and establishing impossible ideals for their performance of this role. As early as 1917, Current Opinion published “An Indictment of Women’s Magazines Edited by Men,” which sounded one of the enduring critiques of the magazines: that male control of periodicals intended for women readers was just one more example of men exerting authority over women’s lives. The apotheosis of this kind of critique was the 1970 takeover of the Ladies’ Home Journal offices by representatives of feminist groups demanding, among other things, the ouster of editor John Mack Carter. Thirty-five years before Friedan’s book was published, a writer for Century magazine expressed similar sentiments in “Woman’s Place Is in the Home, So at Least Ten Million Readers Are Urged to Believe.” Still others criticized the magazines for being repetitious, for condescending to readers, for assuming that women were responsible for correcting all flaws in both household and marriage, or for creating within their pages worlds far removed from the realities of women’s lives. One of the most interesting critiques (not reprinted here because of its length) was launched in the October 1957 issue of Playboy magazine. In “The Pious Pornographers,” Ivor Williams takes the women’s magazines to task for, in his view, pretending to be wholesome guides to household management while offering—in columns by doctors, articles on marital harmony, and fiction—investigations of sexuality not unlike those found in Playboy itself.
KeywordsCivic Duty Woman Suffrage Home Journal Feminine Mystique Playboy Magazine
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