Comedian, Zahra Barri pays a special homage to her favourite magazines whilst warning us of the toxicity of others
‘Sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more’ Carrie Bradshaw Sex and The City
Don’t worry Carrie, no one at Vogue ever eats a proper meal either.
This iconic line in Sex and The City really resonated with me. Even though its triteness was the reason it became one of the most mocked. It doesn’t matter that Carrie can’t afford dinner for she could dine out on that line alone it’s that cheesy.
Nevertheless, the line stayed with me. I love art that ‘stays’ with you long after you’ve consumed it; a moving film, a great book, a beautiful meal. Well, if a meal stays with you, it’s IBS. For everything else it’s the mark of a ‘classic’; a ‘must see’ a ‘masterpiece’.
I find the idea of art feeding and sustaining you so romantic, and so Carrie’s infamous line about Vogue doing just that got me thinking about what magazines nourish me.
My weekly subscription to The Sunday Times Style Magazine is nourishment to me. More specifically, Dolly Alderton’s column in it. Every Sunday, without fail I eagerly rip open the supplements (the actual newspaper is secondary because I’m a basic bitch) and quickly flick to Dolly’s column. It hits me like the sudden inhalation of nitrate acid in G.A.Y, (I can only imagine). It either brings me to my knees or I’m in fits of laughter with one of those iridescent smiles that only a woman on the internet eating salads ever gets. I relish every sentence. Her writing is poetry to me. When she is not wickedly witty with an acerbic punch, she is endearingly sincere, heartfelt and philosophical. I hang on to her every word. It’s the very first article I read in the magazine despite it being on the very last page. Magazines are like comedy shows, the last ‘act’ is always the best.
Even though Carrie’s line about Vogue feeding her more than actual food is mawkishly sentimental, I identify. Style magazine after all is like a poor man’s Vogue in the fact that the clothes adorned by the models are from the more affordable but still adorable Zara, Oliver Bonas and Coast as opposed to the rather intimidating but no doubt breathtaking Valentino, Gucci or Chanel.
Another magazine which evokes similar levels of endorphins is Stylist magazine. It always makes a TFL commute that much more bearable.
And although I don’t consume Vogue I do have a great respect for it. There’s a reason Rachel from Friends read it instead of Wuthering Heights. Now, Vogue gets a bad name because of all the adverts and ridiculously expensive clothes; alas, on that vein we should all therefore have a problem with Instagram. Vogue is a tangible Instagram- it’s full of the beautiful and the bold and the boastful. It’s unashamedly decadent.
Yet, by far the best thing about Vogue is that the front cover is positive. It doesn’t contain captions that are dissing other women, like ‘Desperate To Lose The Baby Weight’ or ‘Terrified He Will Leave Her’ but instead says things like ‘Flawless At 40’ & ‘Elated After Her Oscar Win’. And the absolute best thing of all? I’ve never once seen an article in Vogue, nor The Sunday Times Style, about ‘How To Please Your Man’.
Why, the heck, assume your readers are heteronormative and even if they are: it’s 2019, the age of pleasing men is well and truly over. (They had a good run).
The sort of magazines who have a collage of hate towards women on the front cover and contain articles about how to give the perfect blow job, like the existence of page three of The Sun, are the last pesky bits of misogyny that are still festering away. It’s like stumbling upon a derelict Blockbuster Video in the age of ‘Netflix and Chill’.
What’s odd is that most women’s magazines are made by women. This means that the ever constant berating of women, the banal tips on how to give the perfect head and the bombardment of dieting and losing weight is a symptom of internalised misogyny. The female editors of these publications are indeed ‘double agents to the patriarchy’ if you want to make the quest for gender equality sound like a mission in a Bond film.
These sorts of magazines that spend page after page bringing women down are the antithesis of the cultured fashion bible that is Vogue and the introspective and insightful Sunday Times Style.
Heat and Now and Star and Closer and Reveal at al do not nurture you, they leave you feeling empty. They have the nutritional value of a caffeine free Diet Coke. They are the literature version of junk food.
No woman, not even the very basic of bitches, feels satisfied after reading these horrendous publications that slag women off in a madly edited frenzy of negativity.
So put your Heat, or Now, or Star or Closer or Reveal magazine down and shove it where The Sun newspaper shines (in the drawers of The Commander from Handmaid’s Tale). Instead, find a magazine that feeds you so much you don’t need dinner. That’s definitely the best diet you’ll ever do, girls.
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A bold multi-generational debut from Zahra Barri, exploring themes of queerness, revolution and Islamic sisterhood.
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