Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo make a living poking fun at our deepest insecurities — and the magazines that feed them.
Newell and Pappalardo are the founding editors of Reductress, the year-old fake women's news magazine. Their site has been called "the feminist Onion," which is fine with them — Newell actually interned there.
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The staff writes articles like, "I lost weight by eating 500 tiny meals per day," "The 10 least powerful women in Hollywood" and "New ways to hate your butt this summer."
"The best diaper brands for bad mothers" is a hoot. So is "How to budget for pretending to like the things he likes." And I passed this gem along to more than one friend recently: "Before you do anything, think about what your friend's therapist will say."
They certainly don't have to worry about running out of material. Our deepest insecurities (and, again, the magazines that feed them) don't appear to be disappearing any time soon.
"When you consider how women's magazines operate and how they get money from advertisers by creating a culture where your readers feel inadequate so they keep coming back to you, it's not surprising they haven't changed their model," Newell told me Wednesday.
Not everyone gets what Reductress is going for, said Pappalardo. The complaints they hear most often are from people who don't know they're doing satire.
"One recent example is the post about the woman who had 50 plastic surgeries to look like a Cabbage Patch Kid," she said. "It gets shared on Facebook and taken out of context and you can see how it may seem real to some people."
Which sort of illustrates how desperately we need a site like Reductress. We live in a culture that has produced a human Barbie, after all.
The best satire, of course, doesn't just point fingers and call names. It forces us to examine our own role in a given dynamic. Magazines will never go broke telling us to hate our butts. But do we really have to listen?
Maybe we could just drown them out with laughter.