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Suppose that weight loss weren't a highly valued goal..... - Input Junkie
February 14th, 2014
11:22 am

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Suppose that weight loss weren't a highly valued goal.....
It's possible that I'm not entirely sane on the subject, but when I look at magazine racks, I suspect that other people don't exactly have a sense of proportion, either.

If losing weight was taken away from the magazines, what would you like to see them giving advice about? Admittedly, if there was just one topic of advice, it would be a major social signal and get weirdly out of proportion, but let's ignore that problem, or possibly take it up in comments.

Possibilities: learning more languages. This has the minor virtue of not being self-serving for me. It's not something I'm interested in doing, nor that I think I'd be especially good at. If it were a major sort of signalling, we'd have the outcome of people shifting from one language to another in conversations to show off.

Massage: we really don't want this as a major social signal, but I think the world would be a better place if more people knew massage-- both self and other massage.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1034535.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:andrewducker
Date:February 14th, 2014 06:54 pm (UTC)
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Sex tips are pretty popular in women's magazines. Makeup. Clothing.

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From:nancylebov
Date:February 14th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
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True, and there are whole magazines devoted to cooking and gardening.

It would be interesting if dressing well (how to choose, maintain, and arrange clothing) were a dominating interest the way losing weight is.
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From:andrewducker
Date:February 14th, 2014 08:37 pm (UTC)
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So far as I can tell, most of the women's magazines are as much about clothing/makeup as they are about weight. They combine the various aspects of "looking awesome, all the time, no matter what".
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 14th, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
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Maybe I should take another look at a magazine rack. And, of course, we're on opposite sides of the Atlantic, so the emphasis might be higher over here.
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From:andrewducker
Date:February 14th, 2014 08:45 pm (UTC)
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It's also been a few years since I paged through Cosmo :->
From:paulshandy
Date:February 16th, 2014 07:37 am (UTC)
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And I'll bet the ads for the products are pretty near the articles encouraging the need for them...
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From:elenbarathi
Date:February 15th, 2014 02:02 am (UTC)
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Um, well, the magazines I look at (when I look at any) don't actually deal much with weight. My housemate subscribes to Renaissance; I occasionally buy Self, Science, Real Simple, Utne Reader or Adbusters off the rack, and a friend always shares her Nat. Geographic with us Another friend gets Wired, so I read that from time to time.

My parents subscribed to Life, Newsweek, Sunset, Better Homes and Gardens, Readers' Digest, Nat. Geo, Smithsonian and Aviation Week, so those were what I read growing up. I sometimes used to buy Redbook, Cosmo and The New Yorker in my 20's; in my 30's I sometimes bought Parents, Mothering and Psychology Today. The only magazines I ever bothered to subscribe to were Omni, Green Egg and The Mother Earth News.

I don't look for advice from magazines. When I need to know about things, I look them up online, read books and/or ask people with expertise in the subject. Mostly I consider magazines as something to read while eating, waiting, riding public transit, etc. - it's nice when one learns something new, but mostly they're just brain-candy, a way to pass the time.

Seems to me if the mainstream 'womens' magazines' were looking to give women useful advice, they'd be writing about being true to oneself, having integrity, being courageous enough to own that, no, one is never gonna be the Prettiest, the Richest, the Smartest or the Most Talented and that's okay because one doesn't HAVE to be. It's all right to be just an ordinary person!

Of course, those magazines will never do that, because what they're selling is dissatisfaction, and what their sponsors are buying is an opportunity to hawk their ersatz remedies for that dissatisfaction.





Edited at 2014-02-15 02:04 am (UTC)
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 15th, 2014 02:48 am (UTC)
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Of course, people can choose to read more sensible magazines, but I was looking at popular culture, or at least what's easily available to a lot of people.

In my ideal world, not only would the proportion of gendered magazines be a lot lower, the advice would be on how to do useful and delightful things rather than teaching people how to give themselves permission to do useful and delightful things.

As for what's needed in this world.... what psychological techniques have you found to be the most useful?
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From:elenbarathi
Date:February 15th, 2014 05:16 pm (UTC)
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I don't see how the magazines I read are any less available to the mainstream culture than 'Cosmo' or Womens' Day', when they're right there on the same magazine rack in the grocery store. It's 30 years or more since I subscribed to any magazine. My town is small, rural and conservative, so if that's not 'mainstream American culture' I'm seeing pushing carts in Costco and Safeway, I don't know what is. The fact that those stores even carry the magazines I named surely must indicate that they're popular enough to be profitable here.

'Womens' magazines' mostly seem to be about clothes and products I'd never buy even if I was young, skinny and rich, and the lifestyles of 'celebrities' I've never heard of. They've got all this fake pop-psychology glurge hyping 'empowerment', but they never seem to mention the 'empowerment' of refusing to fill one's mind up with trash, or of cultivating some worthier values than vanity.

By the time people are grown up, it's too late to do much about their psychology - if they're going to alter it, they're going to have to alter it themselves, by their own free choice. So, about the only psychological technique I can employ on them is setting an example: Yes! It IS possible to NOT watch television, NOT listen to the radio, NOT read junk magazines and mass-market best-sellers, NOT shop at Mal-Wart, NOT buy crap one doesn't really need.: check it out; I've been not-doing all these things for decades. This would be why I have enough time to read actual books, write every day, and spend time out in the Wild. This is also why I live comfortably on an income most would not consider comfortable. Anyone who wants to, can do just the same as me.

With children, the field is wide open. With all the children I've helped to bring up, I have found that encouraging them to mock commercials is effective, and there are a lot of entertaining ways to do this. One fun way is to hit the 'Mute' button and supply the dialogue oneselves - heh, we had this whole surreal ongoing saga about the Sprint guy (who's really an alien spy.)

The principle is to make children aware that ads exist for the purpose of shucking people out of their money, and that the shiny crap being thus peddled is not worth buying, because it won't stay shiny long after it's bought. Nothing people NEED is sold by advertisement, because it doesn't have to be; people will seek it out on their own, and those ads cost zillions of dollars a day, which is why the shiny crap costs so much.

Every excursion to town is an opportunity to talk about values. Why do we buy this stuff, AKA real food, and never even look at all the other stuff in its fancy boxes? Because that is not real food. Why don't we go to Mal-Wart? Because the cheap plastic junk they sell there is made by child slaves. LOL, y'know how one always hears one's mother's phrases coming out of one's own mouth? I can't help but smile every time I hear my daughter say "I could make that myself for ten bucks" - and smile even more when she does go make whatever-it-is.

For girls? Stop praising their appearance all the time! The fact that they're cute is not the most important thing about them! Praise them for the things they do; particularly for the things they work hard for. I really think a huge component of eating disorders is having been conditioned in early childhood to base one's self-esteem on being tiny and adorable. All preschoolers are tiny, and most are adorable, but they did nothing to earn that, and it's sure not going to last a lifetime, for anyone.

So shut up about it, and praise the qualities that do last: those qualities called 'virtues' in less-cynical cultures than our own, such as kindness, honesty, loyalty, thrift, patience, initiative, problem-solving, critical thinking, hard work and perseverance.

Children hear everything we say; they see everything we do; they model themselves after our example. So it's useless to say "I don't want my daughter to be snared by this vain and tacky bullshit" while continuing to indulge in it oneself. That's kind of like a father giving his son a high-minded talk about fidelity and respecting women when the son already knows about his Dad's porn stash.

Edited at 2014-02-15 05:17 pm (UTC)
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 16th, 2014 02:53 am (UTC)
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What I was thinking of was the magazine rack at my local CVS (big drug store)-- there's rather little in the way of what I'd call magazines with content. The only one that comes to mind is Scientific American, though I'm going to take a better look the next time I'm there.

There's a wide selection of magazines, including the ones you mention at Barnes & Noble, the last big box bookstore in the city. There aren't a lot of magazine stands anymore. Barnes & Noble is mainstream, but not nearly as available as what you can get in a drugstore or supermarket.

I've seen a fair amount from mothers who are worried about passing on their dysfunctional attitudes about food and their bodies to their daughters. I'm not saying they're anything but a minority, and I don't know how successful they are, but they're trying.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:February 16th, 2014 07:22 pm (UTC)
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Really? I'm surprised; I'd have thought you'd have a lot more selection than we do here. We don't have any big-box bookstore on the Olympic Peninsula at all, but the supermarkets seem to have plenty of magazines of all sorts. The library does too, though I don't borrow them myself.

Anyway, if you put in requests with your store managers and/or librarians for the magazines you want, they'll probably get them in for you. Or you could just subscribe - that's cheaper than buying off the rack anyway.

I think a lot of people these days are re-examining their attitudes about food - basically, going for a higher standard of freshness, flavor and nutritional value than the stuff that comes in those factory boxes. All that artificially-sweetened reduced-fat crap only makes people eat more, because it's not satisfying the way real food is - that whole concept of removing the food-value from food so people can/will stuff themselves on it may have been a brilliant marketing ploy, but it's made a lot of people very ill.

Fortunately, the whole healthy eating/'foodie' thing is currently very chic, and so is growing one's own. This is a totally cool thing, for fathers and sons as well as mothers and daughters: get everybody involved in the wonder of Real Food. Because it really is a wonder, and it's also a very sound economic move.

Consider: if everyone who has a bit of yard or a sunny place for some containers were growing at least some of their own food at home, and relying mostly on local farmers for the rest, rather than on mega-corporate factory farms and processing plants, it would change the whole tone of this nation. Used to be, everyone cooked, everyone had a kitchen garden if they had room, or at least a few pots of herbs - even if the front yard was all lawn and ornamentals, there'd be space out back for the snow peas and strawberries.

I'm baffled to know how parents who don't cook, garden, raise animals, make things, play music or hang out in the Wild with their children relate to them at all. It's bizarre and distressing to think of all these citizens growing up thinking that Life consists of going to school or work, shopping, staring at electric screens, and showing off for social status. No wonder they're dissatisfied and depressed; that's the mental/emotional equivalent of living on Doritos and Diet Pepsi. But a more satisfying life is available; all they've got to do is start living it.

From:paulshandy
Date:February 16th, 2014 07:36 am (UTC)
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I agree with you right down the line, but people keep looking at me funny for it. My disconnect also disappoints my students in China sometimes, because I don't know enough pop culture to talk about basketball or "Vampire Dairies."
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From:elenbarathi
Date:February 16th, 2014 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Awell, people look at me funny too - my local friends are intelligent enough, but not very intellectual or educated, nor motivated to become so. Therefore, there are a lot of things I just don't bring up with them, because they wouldn't know what I was talking about.

I often don't know what they're talking about either. It's amazing how my saying that I don't watch television induces them to tell me all about their favorite TV shows: I'm not sure what the thought is there, because it would seem self-evident that if I cared, I'd watch them myself, but... apparently not. *shrugs* It's okay; they have to talk about something, and it does me no harm to let them tell me whatever they wish, up to a point.

Heh, 'Vampire Dairies', that's like that cartoon in Bride of the Far Side: "Ooh, here he comes to feed on the milk of the living!".

No, seriously: with students it's perfectly fine to not be 'cool', not be up on all the intricate details of their current tech-entertainment-consuming options. After all, how cool would all that stuff be if their middle-aged teachers knew all about it? I wouldn't have thought Chinese teachers of a certain age would pay much (or any?) attention to basketball or vamp-fic either.

Edited at 2014-02-16 08:51 pm (UTC)
From:paulshandy
Date:February 17th, 2014 03:56 am (UTC)
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My fellow teachers don't, but my students sometimes know more about popular American culture than I do. I've even seen "Oh my God" translated into "Oh, my Lady Gaga!"
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From:xiphias
Date:February 15th, 2014 04:43 am (UTC)
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Maybe pushing an involvement in culture for fun, without reference to "highbrow" vs "lowbrow" -- articles about how to compare FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and TAMING OF THE SHREW, for instance. What operas you TOTALLY have to see this season, what Broadway musicals, and what reality shows. Opera diva vs. American Idol sing-off contests.
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From:xiphias
Date:February 15th, 2014 04:58 am (UTC)
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To put it more generally: I would like it if our media encouraged both voraciously creating and experiencing art, in the most general definition of "art" possible. I want everybody to be exposed to so many different expressions of art that each person can find lots of different things that they enjoy watching, hearing, making, doing, and whatever other verbs are appropriate. I want everyone to experience intellectually challenging art, and learn how to understand and enjoy it, and also brain candy, and be able to enjoy that.

I'd be okay with it if magazines recommended limiting your brain candy and mostly doing rigorous stuff, so long as they didn't try to get people to cut it out entirely.
From:paulshandy
Date:February 16th, 2014 07:34 am (UTC)
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Since I don't have a TV at home, I mostly stick to rigorous stuff there, but when I visit my parents splurge on the brain candy. Of course, I like to think that even my brain candy is intellectually stimulating, like "West Wing," "Castle," "Star Trek," or anything by Joss Whedon.
From:paulshandy
Date:February 16th, 2014 07:31 am (UTC)
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I think it would be a lot more economic advice, how to find a better job, how to find a cheaper lifestyle, how to make old clothes like new...
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From:elenbarathi
Date:February 16th, 2014 11:10 pm (UTC)
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Yes! How to run a budget, how to build credit without building debt, how to teach oneself the math skills one never got in school.

That last would be key, because what's holding a lot of people back from managing their money well is lack of plain old arithmetic. The functional-illiteracy rate in this country is shocking, and the math-illiteracy rate is surely even higher, especially among women. If all American adults had to take the standardized tests high school seniors have to pass, there'd be an awful lot of failing and gnashing of teeth.

What many people really need is to go back to 2nd or 3rd grade math and work their way from there, picking up the basic concepts they missed. But that's just what they will never do, because they were shamed quite enough as children for 'not getting it', and won't go there again. So what is needed is a fun and fascinating super-cool game, or ongoing series of games, that teaches these skills in such a subtle, sideways manner that players never realize that they're 'leveling up' in grade-school math.

Science, history, art and music trivia games are another way to raise the cultural level. Apparently a lot of mainstream folk love those TV game shows, so one could hype the magazine articles as 'Could YOU be the next Big Winner?!?' and maybe get an advertising tie-in bonus.

Meh, I know. As Dorothy Parker (or someone) said, "you can lead a horticulture but ya can't make her think" - the minute anything triggered those distressing grade-school memories, the channels would be a-changin'.

Edited at 2014-02-16 11:12 pm (UTC)
From:paulshandy
Date:February 17th, 2014 03:57 am (UTC)
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I was saving a credit card for emergencies in case I had to leave China in a hurry, then I returned to America to visit my parents and discovered my card had been cancelled for lack of use. I guess two years was a long time to wait.
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From:witchwestphalia
Date:February 17th, 2014 05:58 am (UTC)
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I'd like to see realistic relationship advice. About friendship, family & love relationships. There's plenty of unrealistic advice. Not much that's real. And having people in your life are key to a good life.
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 17th, 2014 03:59 pm (UTC)
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What relationship advice would you like to see?
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From:witchwestphalia
Date:February 18th, 2014 06:10 pm (UTC)
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I don't know for sure. I do know a couple things I've learned the hard way.

One is don't try to change people. I see an awful lot of (mostly) women saying "this person would be a great relationship partner if only s/he would change the following thing...and I'm going to get him/her to change it." It never works. People change when they have an internal motivation to change. They don't change because their romantic partner is nagging them to do so. My experience has led me to conclude you accept them as they are, or you decide you can't live with whatever it is. It's fine to tell them that whatever it is is a deal breaker for you. That might (unlikely but possible) supply the other person with an internal motivation to change, if that person wants you in his/her life. But don't count on it happening. Many times it won't. I don't read a lot of the popular magazine relationship advice, but I've read some, and I've never seen this mentioned.

Second thing I've seen a lot of is the expectation (usually by women, sometimes by men) that the initial passion level in a relationship will last. It doesn't. "New relationship energy" is just that. From talking to couples married happily for decades (and I've been lucky enough to meet some elderly couples and elderly widows/widowers who were willing to talk about it), it does seem to return at intervals. I've heard people married 40+ years say that they had several "honeymoon" periods over the course of their marriage. But I've never heard someone say that intensity lasted the whole time continuously. It's more like they moved between a more companionate, friendly mode and a more romantic, passionate mode, and back again, cyclically. I've never seen this discussed in the popular relationship advice (caveat: I haven't read a ton of this stuff but I have read it off & on for 30 years now), but if people expected it, and were prepared for it, instead of expecting endless honeymoon, they might be happier, and less apt to break up. Most of what I have seen is "how to keep the passion alive" content. I'm sure that's useful, but I don't think it's the whole story.

How to maintain friendships. I don't know many answers here. It's really hard, when so many people work so many hours, and most families need 2 incomes, and many parents spend essentially all of their non-working waking hours providing the high intensity parenting that is currently the norm. But it puts tremendous pressure on primary relationships when the only friend either member of a dyad has is their partner. Friendships might really help us be more connected to the world around us, to our communities, and to ourselves.

There's lots of parenting advice, but not so much advice on relating to our parents, or to our grown children. Lately there's an increasing supply on how to relate to our aging, frail, ill parents, but that doesn't cover situations like the woman I talked to today, who is traveling to Rome with her mother. She's in her 50s, her mom is in her 70s, and they travel together to visit the world. It's working well for them. Advice on how to build that kind of relationship might help more of us be intergenerationally connected. This whole issue is moot for me, as my parents died when I was in my 20s, and I have no children, adult or otherwise, but talking to the lady I met who was on her way to the airport with her mom made me think of this in particular. She seemed so happy to be heading out on another mom-and-daughter international trip, and her mom seemed happy with it too. They just seemed well connected as adults.

Of course, YMMV.
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