Wednesday, 11 June 2014

'Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide To The Media'

The enthusiasm of Vagenda creators Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter cannot be denied. I’ve heard these women speak, and the passion for their favoured topic of pointing out the stupidity of the women’s magazine market is rampant. But after reading a whole book in ‘Vagenda-speak’ (ie shouty hyperbole, gleeful and self-referential yoof phrases, and droll asides) I felt both exhausted and old (I’m only 36).

On every level, I agree with their points that the women’s magazine industry is an advertising-led, manipulative, contradictory, shallow and deceitful one. And I say this as someone who spent most of her 20s working for a lot of the magazines ripped to shreds in the Vagenda book, and recognising pretty much every stereotyped media character brought to life in its pages.

But even though this was a book I agreed with and supported the stance of, I was left feeling deadened – not by the force of Cosslett and Baxter’s arguments, but by the volume of their language. While I appreciate every writer needs to have a voice, I think there’s a distinction between being overly chummy and between good writing practice. More importantly, I think the tone and language used in a short blog post needs to be tempered for a full-length non-fiction book.

Maybe I’m showing my age, but I don’t think I’m that much older than the authors. However, the Vagenda book wasn’t speaking to me. It was speaking about a culture I worked in until recently, and an industry I still buy into (heck yes, I know women’s magazines are evil but I still something trashy to read in the bath, but please don’t make me feel bad about that, Vagenda ladies), but I couldn’t get my head around the volume of noise coming off the printed page.


Perhaps a little more time in an editor’s hands would have helped, but as it is, sadly the Vagenda book reads like one that was rushed out to cash in on a successful blog and a pleasantly buoyant demand for young feminist literature. But at the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned school report, Cosslett and Baxter are capable of producing a much better book than this.

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