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Going Rogue: Fashion Magazines aren’t the Place for Politics


Opinion | Photo by Grace Goldman | Graphic by Emily Fey

At the end of a long day of constant commentary from the media, I turn to places like Vogue, Glamour or Cosmopolitan to escape. Whatever madness took place at school, I can crack open a “glossy” and indulge in the aesthetically pleasing images of Elsa Hosk’s beauty routine or what dresses are fresh off the Parisian runways. So when I stumble across a new tax proposal in Marie Claire, my ritual magazine getaway is disrupted.

CNN wouldn’t publish an article over “Fall’s Top 10 Most Stylish Fashion Trends,” so why should Teen Vogue be writing about the “Top 10 Things Wrong with Donald Trump”?

This isn’t to say that women don’t have a place in politics — they do, and I’m all for breaking the glass ceiling — but women’s fashion and beauty magazines shouldn’t be the voices speaking to these issues. This is especially true when their coverage consists primarily of heavily-opinionated news as opposed to real, timely reporting. An affinity for fashion and politics can go hand in hand — I’m passionate about both the newest Marc Jacobs bag and the recent bills that Congress passed — but one hand should be in Vogue and the other in BBC News.

By publishing legislative updates and political commentary, magazines go against the primary reason people flock to them in the first place: indulgence. For me, fashion magazines are a retreat from reality, a chance to become enveloped in the whimsical world of glamour, celebrities and smart dressing while forgetting about stress or obligations. I’ll still be checking the news, but not in the same place I’m reading about the resurgence of western plaid.

I still think it’s important for magazines to cover when legislation is directly affecting the fashion industry as well as highlighting women in power and successful girls crushing the status quo, but that type of coverage is different from politics.

Teen Vogue was one of the first in the industry to dip their toe into political waters when they published “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America” in December 2016. Others, like Glamour, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, quickly followed suit. Now, most major magazines have a dedicated politics section on their website and in print. But even though I agree with many of their opinions, that doesn’t mean I agree the story should be positioned as an unbiased news piece. These publications try so hard to be “woke” and connected to their audience that they publish click-garnering buzz pieces that lack a two-sided perspective.

Fashion magazines are often seen as frivolous or shallow, so political coverage is probably their attempt to position their readers as more modern, progressive women who like more heavy-hitting subjects. However, there’s nothing shameful or “unfeminist” about being interested in traditionally feminine topics like clothing or beauty. To some, fashion is purely materialistic, but to me, it represents well-curated taste and a good eye.

And it’s not just women’s magazines. Politics should be omitted from men’s clothing publications as well. After GQ began to cover Trump, a Twitter user said they should “stick to suits” — and I couldn’t agree more.

Why would fashion mags, whether they target men or women, cover politics when there are professional, established news organizations out there doing it in a more comprehensive and less-biased way? “This Week in Feminism: Hillary Clinton is a Total Queeeeen!” a real headline from Elle, sure doesn’t sound neutral to me.

These publications should stick to their sartorial roots and veer from politics because, well, they’re just not good at covering them.

It’s almost irresponsible for magazines to steer their readers away from real news sources with real reporters. It would be a different story if these magazines were acting as a supplement to mainstream political news, but for an audience of young girls who might be relying on it as their only media source, it tips the partisan balance.

Articles like “12 People Who Have Been Bullied More Than ‘Most Bullied Person in the World’ Melania Trump” from Cosmopolitan set up an evident left slant and bias. The irony in this is clearly present in the aforementioned “Trump is Gaslighting America” piece where writer Lauren Duca states “facts have become interchangeable with opinions.” She may have been referring to the Trump administration, but it sounds a whole lot like what fashion media is doing.

After receiving backlash, Duca responded to criticism by saying, “a woman can love Ariana Grande and her thigh-high boots and still discuss politics. Those things are not mutually exclusive.” This is absolutely true, but in a world where distrust of the media is ever-present, should we really be getting our news from the liberal fashionista safe haven that is Teen Vogue instead of actual news organizations?

It’s OK for magazines to be opinionated or biased in pieces clearly labeled as editorials or opinions (hey, I’m writing one of these right now!), but it taints public trust in the media when they are displayed as news stories and take a clear partisan stance. When you’re posting something clearly opinionated in a news section, that’s when things become misleading.

We don’t need to be consolidating our news sources by getting weekly updates about Trump’s policies from the same place we get an analysis of Meghan Markle’s looks from her Australian tour.

If Vogue is the fashion bible, then I’m praying for the separation of church and state.

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Annabelle Cook

Annabelle Cook
Annabelle Cook is a Co-Online Editor, writer, designer, and copy editor. In her 7th semester on staff, she has developed content for the online, social media, and print platforms and won awards at NSPA/JEA National Conventions. Outside of Harbinger, she is a part of Student Council, SHARE, Junior Board, and more. Catch her at Einstein Bros. Bagels on any given Saturday. »

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