A life less ordinary? Well, excuse us for fantasising ...

A report by the Social Affairs Unit widely quoted in the press last week, attacked women's magazines for being superficial and unrealistic. Bad, bad, bad, it says. Anna Corp, aged 22 and newly graduated, is a reader of women's magazines and finds them superficial and unrealistic. Good, good, good, says she.

Flick through any of today's glossy women's magazines and you will find "a completely unrecognisable portrait of the modern woman". So says Anne Applebaum in her essay "The British Woman Today". She criticises magazines such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and She for not mentioning the "real" issues that concern women today, and in particular is worried about the lack of articles relating to marriage and children.

And I have to agree with her. Women's magazines do appear to promote an irresponsible, materialistic, indulgent, even promiscuous lifestyle. Issues such as family-life, education, money management and morality do seem to be side-stepped in favour of frivolity and glamour. But is this really a bad thing?

Millions of women, including myself, buy these magazines every month and enjoy them simply because they do avoid "real" issues. The reason we love these magazines is for the same reason that we love watching Friends. The lifestyle depicted is not real, we know it never could be, but, oh, how we wish it was. I want a fantastic job making as much money as possible with the least possible effort, I want a gorgeous man who buys me flowers and whisks me off for expensive weekends in Venice, I want loads of friends with whom I can go on shopping sprees to New York and to lunch at the most fashionable restaurants, I want a big American Fifties-style fridge stocked with luxury food and wine standing in an industrial chrome fitted kitchen (are they still in?), I want to sip carrot and broccoli juice after a workout with my personal trainer in some exclusive gym, I want the shiny car, Hard Candy nail polish, figure like Liz Hurley's, Calvin Klein wardrobe, I want, I want, I want ...

And bang, I've fallen back to earth with a bump because I've just seen the red phone bill sitting on the table which should have been paid at least a fortnight ago. I can see it now: "20 ways to put off paying the phone bill". Well it beats "20 ways to ensure you orgasm every time", doesn't it, girls? Girls? Girls ... Oh never mind.

Those of us who read these magazines all have the sneaking suspicion that Rachel, 28, doctor, Tania, 25, scriptwriter, Laura, 30, advertising executive and Sophie, 23, PR, are purely figments of the feature editor's imagination. But do we care? Of course we don't. We love these fantasy women for their wild sex-games, trips to Goa, most embarrassing moments at the office party and all the other lovely snippets of their irrelevant, trivial lives that they feel the need to share with us.

Ms Applebaum compares these glossy magazines to pornography because they allow us to participate in fantasies that we have no real hope or even desire for in real life. And you see, that is the point. Never mind my "List of things I should do by the time I'm 30 or I might as well just lie down and die" as featured above, I have no genuine desire to lead this fantasy lifestyle of the "Cosmo woman". (Honest!) I even worry about winning the Lottery in case I get bored of going on holiday forever. I enjoy my nine-to-five job, most of the time I prefer my own cooking to some fancy restaurant, and I'd rather have a huge bar of Dairy Milk all to myself than some posh box of chocolates that you can only eat one at a time otherwise you'll be sick.

When we were little girls we played with Barbie. But we didn't grow up wanting to be Barbie (well, most of us didn't anyway). Playing with Barbie in her lovely big pink house with all her lovely pink furniture and her lovely pink horse was purely an escape from the real world of big brothers and sprouts. Even the most fertile imagination knows that horses aren't really pink.

And then we get too old to play with Barbie so we need another fantasy. And that is where glossy magazines step in. (I'd rather have a doll's house to play with but it looks cooler reading Cosmo on the bus.) But just because we lap up the contents of these magazines every month does not mean we cannot separate fantasy from reality.

In the same way, I would bet a large amount of money that every schoolboy in the land has at some time got his grubby little hands on a dirty magazine and enjoyed the fantasy that goes with it when he was supposed to be doing his algebra homework. That does not mean that every young boy who indulges in pornography grows up to be a rapist - although some would argue otherwise. Please give us some credit. The majority of people are not as stupid as society would have us believe.

This idea of people being sucked in by the media is not new. In the 19th century the government was terrified that the radical press could influence people to act in ways that were criminal or anti-social. Cinema was criticised because of the way it "Americanised" society and led to "copy-cat" villains. In more recent times computer games, comics and especially "video nasties" have all been blamed for teenage delinquency.

Well, it's better than blaming the parents and certainly better than blaming some poor little 14-year-old mugger from a broken home for his crime, isn't it? The idea that there is such a notion as free will seems to have gone out of the window.

My real life consists of spots, hairdryers that blow up, leaky taps, smelly bins, cleaning the toilet, washing-up, `flu and I DON'T WANT TO READ ABOUT IT. When I buy a lovely, shiny, sparkly magazine with a gorgeous woman with perfect white teeth in a glittery red dress on the front and captions that scream "60 Dazzling Fashion Finds", "Chanel and Champagne", "Hot Sex. For women who can't get it", and "Lingerie to Lust for", I get all tingly and excited because just for a little while I can escape from the real world and the "difficult choices that keep women awake at nights" and believe that I am wealthy and beautiful and intelligent and sexy because I answered mostly As in the quiz that told me so! I don't want to and I don't need to read about the mundane things in my life. They already take up too much time. Reading a glossy magazine does not mean I am going to ram-raid Harvey Nichols either.

Ms Applebaum also fails to mention that there are a lot of articles in these magazines that are informative and potentially life-saving. For a lot of women these magazines are their only source of factual information on sensitive issues such as breast examination, cervical smears, abortion, STDs, depression, etc etc. One could argue that such serious issues should not be sandwiched between men, sex, nail varnish, hair mascara, Kate Moss and Ralph Lauren. But how else do we learn? Who honestly would have had heard of chlamydia if it weren't for the likes of Cosmo, Elle et al?

The same point is missed with the on-going debate about teen magazines. People argue that these magazines are too sex-orientated, but for many young girls magazines are their only source of factual information. Families are not always the easiest of people to talk to, friends are unreliable and of those friends that are well-informed where do you think they get their wisdom from?

If modern woman really needs to turn to a magazine to find out how to juggle the school run, get her oven sparkling, do the week's shopping in less than an hour, while ensuring that her husband has his food on the table when he comes in from work every night, well, I'm sure there's one somewhere.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Marketing Account Manager / Client Liaison Manager

£25 - 32k DOE: Guru Careers: A digital-savvy Marketing Account Manager / Clien...

Business Development Manager / Sales Executive

£23-30k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking bright Business Developmen...

Senior Developer/Development Lead - C# ASP.NET. SQL

Circa £55,000: Ashdown Group: Lead Developer requirement - C#, ASP.NET, SQL - ...

DFA Ad Operations Manager

38,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: My client is an agency that handles the me...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain