I’m not usually one to hang about in the Women’s Magazine aisle in shops. I find the average women’s magazine tacky and shallow and full of adverts trying to sell you crappy beauty products. However, in need of diversion this lunchtime, I happened to pick up and leaf through a “new”* magazine called First.

[*Well, I’d never seen it before, and on research it was only launched a few months ago, in May 2006, which with my time lag for grasping events in popular culture is pretty darned new.]

Well I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was like most women’s magazines full of celebrity chitchat and style tips. However, is a newsier magazine than most, with somewhat less brainless content than the usual fare and (wonderful) it contained significantly fewer adverts than most of these magazines seem to, of which a relatively small proportion were for the usual beauty potions and you’ll-be-ugly-and-only-yourself-to-blame-if-you-don’t-buy-this items.

It also carried a number of pro-women features. I didn’t stop to read them but in skimming through I noticed a feature celebrating famous mums who don’t ping immediately back into shape, various pictures of women of real shapes and sizes, a feature on women’s job satisfaction in a range of jobs, an article about women prisoners, and something about midwives, and a feature about stuff that is bad for you that didn’t go all out for the guilt trip as well as something about toxins in food.

I suspect that the lack of significant beauty-crap adverts is linked to the higher than usual level of genuinely pro-woman content, and lower level of standard buy-this-you-need-it editorial crap. Advertisers for diet products don’t want to pay for a slot in a magazine that does not glorify thinness above all virtues; advertisers for cosmetic surgery don’t want to pay for a slot next to a feature about the dangers of nose jobs. (This article I found suggests that my suspicion is probably true.)

Don’t get me wrong. Feminist this aint. It’s a consumer magazine intended to make money for its publishers – who, by the way, also publish FHM and Zoo.

But for all its sins it is a heck of a lot better than the pap my “normal” (i.e. non-feminist) friends usually read and I sincerely hope that the publishers are successful commercially without having to change their style to tempt in advertisers. This is a good direction for women’s magazines to be going.

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