Where are all the naughty women

In terms of circulation in the millions, fashion magazines are the true educational center of femininity. They tirelessly supply their readers with the same information over and over again, in order to make what they call themselves "women". In doing so, these journals convey an infantile image of women that is suitable for cementing the disturbed female self-confidence against which they only seem to rebel.

Reading educates. But some need picture books for this, such as children or women. The sales figures of the bookstores and the influx of literature houses show that many women read novels even without illustrations. If, however, education differs from knowledge and enjoyment of art in that it shapes the mindset of a person and their entire everyday life, in this respect women are largely educated through images. The fashion magazines are their actual textbooks, their first and most widely read guides in basic domestic, professional, erotic and medical knowledge, their credible handouts for good behavior, in short: the most important orientation aids for self-definition.

If you compare the sales figures of novels, volumes of poetry and travelogues with those of fashion magazines, you will only discover the true educational center of femininity. “Brigitte”, the market leader, sells more than a million copies every fortnight and expects well over three million readers, mostly female readers. "Girlfriend", "For you" and "Woman in the mirror" can boast similarly proud figures. “Bild der Frau” even sells two million copies, so it has an even larger readership. Then there are the smaller magazines, from “Cosmopolitan” and “Petra” to “Elle”, “Vogue” and “Madame”.

The women's school

Every week or fortnightly, tens of millions of German-speaking readers - around half of the female population - are provided with the same information at different levels, which turns them into what is called "woman". The gender-unspecific previous education of the school is followed by this special education: the school of women, which stabilizes the bipolar order of this society.

This fashion school has been attended by women for more than two hundred years. There have been women's and fashion magazines for as long as there have been magazines - the first appeared in France in 1758, and in the same year «Die neue Moden- und Galanteriezeitung» appeared in Leipzig - and they have always made such a proportionally high proportion of women's reading out. By 1840 there were 140 fashion magazines in circulation in Germany. The “Ridikül Books”, as Jean Paul called them, were set up “For the customer of elegant objects and for the assessment of the beautiful in dance, drama, music, drawing, painting, embroidery”. They reported from the capitals and had a service section with train timetables and travel costs. The influence of fashion magazines is therefore not just affecting large areas of woman's life today.

Women are never more with themselves than when they are reading a fashion magazine. You can use it to drive away even the most loving husband under the floor lamp in the evening; he knows that the leaf is a curtain closing an area that is guarded with greater shame than even the most ambiguous areas of the body. Men dismiss fashion magazines contemptuously, but only because they are disturbed by so much female reticence. Of course, if they withdraw without a fight, they think that the retreats of their wives and friends will result in nothing but a change of clothes, a dress rehearsal that has no meaning for the rest of life. In fact, however, the pictures with the pretty women are not the aim of the occupation; rather, the text is the more important part of these magazines: to be read, their real purpose.

The images of fashion only accompany the texts of the magazines, they show the readers how they can translate what is written into gestures, transform it into style and make it visible. Women are always subject to the dream that it may be about beauty, charm, pleasure, aesthetic recognition, otherwise the education through the text would not succeed. They enjoy the images that simulate earthly paradises - chic cars, beach and sand, noble hotels in a lofty mountain setting, street cafes in Paris, Barcelona, ​​Sydney: an environment mostly made of metal, stone, asphalt - in which they are the only focus.

Women see through these dreams, and yet the promises work as reliably as the hopes of a young man for big money or fame when he studies medicine or astrophysics. However, the women's intoxication with images has a different weight in the context of their upbringing than the dreams of the youngsters. The dream itself is the goal of female upbringing, how else could women subscribe to magazines for life and in every situation - whether at work or as a mother, as a disappointed wife and lover? Binding to one of these sheets is often more durable than binding to a man.

So the first lesson in the woman's weekly course is picture reading. This gives the reader a picture of herself that is only filled with content by reading the text. Reading pictures has served as an introduction to the small curriculum of female education since the 18th century. «Der Jüngling», a magazine of the time, recommends a reading canon, at the top of which is the viewing of images. The «Writings for Female Readers do not cause a stir. They are weeklies, small lively treatises, discourses on some special parts of morality and philosophy, instructive novels, little volumes that can be read through in pictures. " This program continues to this day. Like children, women begin their lesson as picture readers, their textbooks spread world knowledge through color, play, and little anecdotes about human and animal societies. From the hand of the mother, growing women switch to the school of fashion magazines, where almost the same childish activities continue.

What the viewer is shown in the photos remains below her level, especially below her age. The characters in fashion magazines act like naughty children. Playing like children, women should learn through pictures, but above all they should remain a child themselves. Can a thirty-year-old be thought of as more silliness than the one on the cover of the March 2005 issue of “Brigitte”? A schoolteacher in the holiday paradise, the stiff chic of an ocher-colored dress with a yellow belt, which her director liked so much, can only assert herself under palm trees, where she seems to have just landed, by pressing a cap on her ear, extra funny does and lets out all pent-up courage to live in leaps and bounds. Even in the playground of a girls’s high school it’s like in a fashion magazine: The women here are brats, they dance on one leg, swing their arms, throw themselves in the sand, walk on the street in panties, get lost, stand in a metropolitan area Pantsuit in the middle of the Nevada desert; one suddenly finds her in front of a rotten wooden wall in the slum - what has brought her there with these shoes, on these heels? All of this, the gymnastic contortions, the fabulous surroundings, amazed, frightened, never depresses this crazy woman, wherever she is, she shows herself happy, blissful, one can only say: she is crazy.

The youthful arrogance that the fashion magazines dictate to the women in the pictures and which they can never imitate in reality is only the preliminary exercise for the ingenious training in self-doubt to which the texts lead. With the help of fashion magazines, millions of women revolve around their most important problem: How am I? How should i be Men - and thank God women nowadays too, if they are not reading - life itself provides an answer to such useless self-reflection; it tells you who you are: carer, doctor, manager or, as a (non-reading) woman, nurse, tax officer, museum director. “Brigitte”, “Freund” and “Petra”, on the other hand, test the result of the character formation that the magazine claims to have achieved on many “For you” questionnaires: How are “you”? Charming? Athletic? Do “you” seem open-minded, have “you” courage, are “you” a mood cannon, a transuse, are “you” a tight-fisted, spendthrift, do “you” behave the right way towards your boss? The questionnaires only prove that a few compliments from men for a beautiful outfit do not give rise to self-confidence, and the papers use this deficit to bind women to the magazine as the only authority that gives them a reassuring answer to their doubts.

The curriculum of texts that the woman has to complete after viewing the picture prefers two disciplines: health and love. The modern woman is made up of a heart and a stomach. The heart is occupied with thinking about flirtation, jealousy, adultery with and without cheating, the first vacation with a friend or what to do when the "guy" has a cold, about the natural duty to have a child, "but when, how and with whom »?

Failure guaranteed

Health teaching has tougher requirements than love teaching. With it the high school of masochism begins. For food intake and physical training, the magazines create a timetable that is not unlike that of a high school: It specifies the days of the week and exact times of the day for the exercises, their level of difficulty, and gives nutritional instructions so that calories and vitamins are supplied to the body at the right moment. This curriculum consists of theory and practice, medical instruction, gymnastics and cooking classes. Women are priestesses of the current religion of slimming, the fashion magazine is their catechism, and, like any religion, binds them through a sense of sin. The timetables for women who want to lose weight, the exercise program that is prescribed for them, are designed in such a way that everyone must fail. There are only bad students in this subject. Success is not the beautiful figure, but the depressed mood. Follow the weekly weight loss programs to make the failure perfect, recipes for celebratory meals, tempting glossy pages with images of glazed dishes that irresistibly drive every starved and well-trained woman to the stove. There she reveals her religion and at the expense of it with increased weight and decreased self-confidence. Women are encouraged to always make the best of themselves; failure is guaranteed.

The insecurity of the female consciousness caused by the fashion magazines, the training of women as objects of men, was a criticism of the sixty-eighters that has not been forgotten. But never has a voice been raised against the education for female masochism, a widespread disease, a long-term ailment kept secret, which only friends, lovers, spouses and life partners of women could report about. But they keep the secret to themselves because they think that they, of all people, have taken a special case of mild depression into their hearts with their partner.

Today, the progressiveness of women's magazines is demonstrated by the way in which they lead their readers towards the seriousness of life, and that means the profession in the age of emancipation. You can also see secretaries juggling two phones and girls struggling with computers in fashion magazines. But behind it there is always - figuratively and really - a boss. “In the morning to the office, in the evening at the bar” was the seductive slogan from the magazines of the fifties, and “Computer courses for girls” are the hit that is increasing circulation today. But the cynicism with which most articles speak of the working woman presupposes her failure. In April 2005, “Petra” encouraged the young entrepreneur: “Of course you can do it!” And recommends several books under the title “First Aid for the New Boss”. The books may be serious. The magazine, however, pretends to expect an ascent, which is followed by embarrassment, with a fall in the stairs, in which the fashion magazine plays the “Red Cross”.

Disturbed self-esteem

With all the disappointments, working and non-working women above all need relaxation. The advice is notorious! Men also work in this society, but only women seem overwhelmed. All magazines offer «relaxation aid» and let those who fail end up as self-deprecating silly in a wellness hotel. Fashion magazines envisage a working woman who does not seem to know her job and who therefore does not ask for specialist information and who is instead to be helped by patting the back and human sympathy. The professional of the fashion magazines is a character careerist, a plaything in the clockwork of the economy and for all who watch, an amusing Zapplerin the race between the sexes, delicious to look at in her melancholy unprofessionalism.

A case study by the University of Münster commissioned by “Brigitte”, the magazine that always wants to know what its readers think, came to the conclusion that women do not want political information and professional instruction at all: “The majority of buyers therefore shine through Not wanting to be stimulated to think or concern themselves with problems in women's magazines. . . . It can also be assumed that the readers of the Brigitte do not want to be confronted with these problems again, but are mainly looking for entertainment. "

After this finding, "Brigitte" returned to the issues that "concern" women, which is not surprising after centuries of semi-education and upbringing for domesticity: nutrition and love. To this day, these are the topics that are treated as generously and freely as possible in order to give the magazine the appearance of progressiveness. Fashion magazines talk a lot about love and, like literature and art nowadays, feel obliged to be as indecent as possible. Yet they are not a Kama Sutra. In contrast to the love theory that men receive through their men's magazines, the fashion magazines, although they place so much emphasis on body styling, lack any gymnastics training for love.

The playgirls of the men's magazines are love objects of acrobatic flexibility and East Asian ingenuity. The models of the fashion magazines have little of it, although in the last few decades the fashion magazines have made use of the hidden lesbian tendencies of women. Since then, the models have been surrounded by a touch of seduction. You suck in the erotic incense - at least the text part turns back to the sermon. The writing surrounding the images specializes primarily in mental gymnastics. This is painful like any sport: It draws on the heart and gnaws at self-confidence whenever a woman gets together with a man - almost never with a woman. The text begins with a piquant scene and ends with the pain therapy. But the magazines would have missed their goal if this did not stop before healing: The unacknowledged educational goal of the fashion magazines is the disturbed self-confidence, the female masochism.

The literary scholar Hannelore Schlaffer lives as a journalist in Stuttgart. In 2003, Suhrkamp published «Das Alter. A dream of youth ».