- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Myrna Blyth worked in women’s magazines for more than three decades and was editor of Ladies’ Home Journal from 1981 until her retirement last year.

Ms. Blyth’s new book, “Spin Sisters: How the Women of Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America,” criticizes women in media who she says are “wired for a liberal response to every issue.” She talked about her concerns in a telephone interview this week.

Q. A few years ago, Cosmopolitan featured this headline on its cover: “Sex Tricks Only Cosmo Would Know: 20 Earth-Quaking Moves That Will Make Him Plead for Mercy — and Beg for More.” Is this really what American women want to read month after month?

A. I think that’s a very interesting question. Cosmo is an example of how media filters out the attitudes and experiences of millions of women in this country. If you read Cosmo, the picture of a young American woman is that she is inevitably sexually active and never leaves home without a condom or an ice cube. This, of course, is not an accurate picture of young American women, many of whom don’t think hooking up is always a satisfying or appropriate experience.

That’s really the point of my book. Most of women’s media shows one-sided views of women’s experience, one-sided views about politics and social issues, and does not show, for example, conservative women’s opinions. … In women’s media, every young woman is sexually active, every working mother is stressed and cannot cope, every woman is beset by environmental and health threats that endanger her.

What women’s media tells them is that they are frazzled and frumpy and fearful. And this is not an accurate picture of American women today. For most women, our lives are always improving and are full of opportunity.

Q. Feminists once protested against Playboy and insisted that women should not be treated as sex objects. Women’s magazines now display half-nude supermodels on their covers, and the articles are mainly about how to be a better sex object. Is this what liberation looks like?

A. It is interesting that feminism has morphed into narcissism in much of women’s media. It’s as if you’re only yourself when you are pampering yourself or shopping. You should go out and buy, because you deserve it as a woman. You should pamper yourself and have that massage, because your life is so stressful as a woman.

All this pampering and shopping has very little to do with attracting men — let’s be honest, no man in the world has ever said, “You don’t have a pedicure, I’m out of here, baby.”

There’s nothing wrong with being attractive. Healthy animals groom themselves. … But it has been taken to an extreme. … It has very little to do with … the normal desire to look attractive. …a kind of “Sex and the City” notion. … Women have been told by media that they are only themselves when they are focused entirely on themselves: Taking the kids to the beach is work. Having a pedicure, well, that’s for you. Not having time for a pedicure — that’s stress. …

Women are made in media to compare themselves to actresses and models whose total job is looking great and who don’t even really look the way they look when they’re pictured in magazines, because the pictures have been airbrushed. So even they can’t compare to themselves in real life. And this is part of the messages women get. …

Q. What has been the reaction of your media colleagues, and of ordinary women, to the criticisms in your book?

A. I’m sorry that my media colleagues have not been able to respectfully disagree with what I said. I also am surprised that women in media, whose job is to analyze and criticize, seem so resentful when their actions are analyzed or criticized. However, I wrote this book for women, so that they would understand the messages they’re getting and to tell them to think for themselves.

So far, many women have had a very positive reaction. … [One reader said:] “At last somebody’s saying this.” The book is very entertaining. It’s a fun read, as well as an informative read. …

The Spin Sisters act like all women must agree with their liberal viewpoint, and if you don’t, you’re letting down the side as a woman. Men commentators don’t expect men to agree with them just because they’re men. And that’s part of the one-sided nature of women’s media. Women’s magazines are especially biased.

During the 2000 election, a [women’s] magazine would say, a vote for Gore is a vote for you, even though their own readers had told them, in their own polls, half of them were going to vote for George Bush.

Magazines had get-out-the-vote pieces written, in one magazine, by Christie Brinkley, a Democratic delegate, and in another, by Harvey Weinstein, a major Democratic fund-raiser. You never hear the opinions of conservatives in these magazines.

Q. Is this a red-state/blue-state issue? All the women’s magazines you criticize are headquartered in New York City. Would there be less bias if they moved their offices to Tulsa or Topeka?

A. Possibly. … You are seeing the reflection of the media elite. …

I have gone to media parties in New York where I have been the only Republican. I went to a shower that Hillary Clinton gave Lisa Caputo, and I said something about being the only Republican there, and somebody said, “Oh, you were invited despite that fact.” …

One thing I think is important: Media for women is far more influential than media for men. We may listen to Tom [Brokaw] and Peter [Jennings] and Dan [Rather], but we respect Katie [Couric] in the mornings. The Spin Sisters — like Katie or Diane Sawyer or Barbara Walters — are always on the list of the important women in America. … Women think of them as the most sophisticated girlfriends who come into their homes on almost a daily basis. Well, women want to agree with their girlfriends. So when Katie is always admiring of Hillary or Barbara Walters gushes over [Cuba’s Communist dictator Fidel] Castro or Diane cracks a nasty joke about Republican women, it has influence.

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