"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Bit of Guerilla Activism

My bimonthly trip to the salon to get my hair cut is a rare treat, mostly because it seems to be the only time I come into contact with "women's magazines". You know the ones. Cosmo, US Weekly, Marie Claire, Vogue, In Style, Redbook, Glamour, etc. The magazines that never show a single image of a woman who's bigger than a size 4 unless it's a "before" picture in a weight-loss ad. I generally avoid opening these, preferring instead the book I always bring myself for the obligatory twenty minutes or so of "color setting" time under the dryer. (Last time, I raised the eyebrows of more than a few of my fellow salon-goers by proudly reading Inga Muscio's Cunt: A Declaration of Independence.) But something I just read inspired me to leave my own book at home this visit and take a look within the dreaded pages of these magazines for a change.

I will look at these magazines. I will allow myself to be filled with rage at the way women are targeted and objectified by advertisers and the way the models and celebrities are airbrushed thin, glowing, and completely pore-less. And I will calmly and quietly take out the subscription cards from these magazines and put them into my purse.

Those subscription cards are free for me to take. And, more importantly, they are free for me to send, due to the clearly marked "NO POSTAGE NECESSARY" and "POSTAGE WILL BE PAID BY ADDRESSEE" on each card. But I will not be filling them out with my address or checking the box to purchase a subscription. Instead, I will be giving them a piece of my mind. A little bit of guerilla activism inspired by famous advertising analyst Jean Kilbourne.

I'm not exactly sure yet what I'll write. It may be as simple as scrawling "Stop Exploiting Women," or "Feed Your Models," across the cards with a Sharpie. Or perhaps I might put down some statistics linking the women's fashion industry to the alarming rates of anorexia and bulimia among girls. Or I may get specific and air my grievances with the exact ads and articles that piss me off, filling the entire card with my response to them. It's free for me to do, and it costs them something like thirty cents for every one that gets sent back. Not only that, but it gets those annoying cards out of the way for everyone at the salon.

(Support progressive, independent booksellers. Buy Cunt at Feed Your Head Books.)


Anonymous said...

For years, I've been sending in the prepaid cards that fall from magazines without filling them in, not to make a statement except that the cards annoy me. So, to retaliate for the annoyance, I let them pay postage for naught. I like your suggestion to write in something about the misogyny of the magazines before mailing them back and will do that from now on. Thanks!

Tracey said...

It's funny you mention this. After I wrote this post, a friend of mine gently let me know that those subscription cards usually don't make it to anyone at the magazines themselves, but to employees of contracted companies who manage their subscriptions. I was a little disappointed (although I didn't necessarily believe my message would make it to the editor), but in my opinion it still can't hurt. If anyone sees the message and it makes them think for half a second that someone out there is challenging the status quo, it's a positive thing.