I’ve thought about starting a magazine called “You’re Doing it All Wrong.” It would be filled with career advice, parenting tips, and warnings about fertility. And every month, it would have a new, fearmongering, battle-fomenting cover.
Then again, I’ve basically described half of the magazines left in America.
There’s another cover story out this week, aimed at stoking the flames: “Freeze Your Eggs, Free Your Career,” from Bloomberg Businessweek. As usual, it’s a tale of the elite. Any woman who has $10,000 to spend on egg extraction — an improving-but-imperfect technology — isn’t likely to be fretting about child care costs down the line.
This is how major magazines tend to handle working-motherhood issues, and it doesn’t exactly help advance the national debate. Nobody’s doing much to advance the national debate. This week Phyllis Schlafly emerged from an underground cave filled with corsets and doilies to declare that the pay gap is actually a good thing. Without a healthy dose of male superiority, she wrote, “simple arithmetic suggests that half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate.”
Don’t worry, Phyllis. Bloomberg Businessweek offers you this middle-aged woman in sensible pumps and a shapeless frock — too cold and career-focused to possibly nab a man, yet still capable of getting knocked up. Frozen eggs, donor sperm . . . population crisis solved! And once that’s taken care of, attachment parents can tell us how to feed our kids, high-ranking government officials can share work-balance wisdom they heard at dinner parties, and Sheryl Sandberg can excise unpleasant words from our vocabulary.
But see? This is what the magazines want me to do: Compare, contrast, fight. That’s why I’m so depressed over what they’ve become. Sure, the attention-grabbing headline has been an art form since well before the age of SEO; I’ve always been a little envious of tabloids that write them so gleefully.
The difference is that where the tabloid aims for your eyeballs, today’s magazines head directly for your gut. They hook you in by making you insecure. In the era of click-bait, that’s clearly the way to stay relevant, but it’s also an odd way to build an audience. As I see each new obnoxious cover whiz across the Internet, I’m less and less likely to bother clicking through. After all, if I want to feel bad about myself and everyone else I know, I can just spend 10 minutes on Facebook.Joanna Weiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaWeiss.