Trendier Than Thou

Scan a magazine rack these days, and you'll see titles like, "Children's Crusade for Somalia." "Green Watch: . . . the fight to save our environment." "Inside Germany: Confronting the Neo-Nazi nightmare." From the titles alone, these could be news magazines. But they aren't: They're women's fashion magazines. Obviously, the editors know their readers aren't interested in just movie stars and fashion trends. They want to be up on the latest issues. Perhaps you were still under the impression that fashion magazines were about, well, fashion. Forgive me for saying so, but that only shows that you're terribly out-dated. As columnist Richard Grenier comments, "today's Fashionable Woman must not only wear fashionable clothes, she must also wear fashionable ideas." This is nothing new, of course. Fashion magazines have always reflected the styles and tastes of the upper classes. After all, women don't buy fashion magazines so they can emulate the working class. They peruse fashion photos to learn how to look up-scale. The articles in these magazines serve the same purpose: They express the political views of the upper classes, the trendsetters. They're a way for the ordinary women to find out what the chic ideas are. Of course, a generation ago the chic ideas were pretty staid. The majority of well-bred and wealthy people held fairly conventional views on politics and ethics. Articles in women's magazines were mostly on topics like how to get your man, and how to keep him happy once you've got him. But a look at today's magazines reveals a whole new array of chic ideas. Harper's Bazaar carries an article called "Gender Defender," a profile of a feisty pro-choice lawyer. Vogue has an article called "A Few Nice Men," about sexual harassment in the military. Glamour features a sympathetic article on gay men. Mademoiselle has one on "Young Lesbians," which starts out, "They're fresh, they're proud, and they're comfortable with their sexuality." Redbook features an article about rampant sexual fantasies in the office, illustrated with a photo of a women in skimpy underwear standing beside a male co-worker's desk. Glamour does a profile on a topless dancer; Vogue offers an intimate portrait of a prostitute. From the glossy pages a picture emerges of the modern Fashionable Woman: She's into abortion rights, gay rights, and most of all she's sexually emancipated. These are the up-to-date attitudes women are learning today, along with the new shades of make-up and the correct accessories. If sociologists are right when they say there's a culture war going on, then surely one of the battle sites are women's magazine. There all the elite attitudes are on display; there the social pressure is put on women to live up to a certain image. But Christian women-and men, too, for that matter-need to stand against that kind of pressure. Our concern should be to cultivate the inner beauty of a good and generous spirit, which is not only biblical but also protects us from being swayed by every new wind of fashion. Whether in clothes or in ideas.


Chuck Colson


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