19 May 2007

Women’s Era, Femina and Savvy

I am a women's magazine regular. My folks had a magazine library membership and every evening there was a new one in our home. The Illustrated Weekly, Sunday, Imprint, Network. But what fascinated me were the Trimurti of women’s magazines – Women’s Era, Savvy and Femina.

Femina is of course very familiar to us. It has always been middle of the road answering questions like – how can I manage the home and my workspace? It brought the phrase “super mom” into our conversations and for a long time many working moms believed in that till they realized that the world was still unfair - super moms were constantly asked to step out their homes, they were venturing out into new fields (non aggressive things like teaching) while their husbands still did nothing more than what they had been doing 100 years ago. Mostly the advice was to find happiness in work etc. New fashion from London found its way to the pages once in a while. But one thing stood out – Femina drew the line on dowry – everything else was OK but if the guy asked for dowry – leave.

Women’s Era carried stories of newly wed brides and their problems with in-laws. Each issue had four or five stories centered around girls on the verge of marriage (or their sister’s about to get married) and the trials and tribulations they went through to find Mr. Perfect. The stories had words like “compromise”, “respect”, “commitment” etc. Initially the girl would be resistant to the guy or in love with the wrong person and then realize much later. The agony aunt column would always advice girls to “sort things out”, they would never advice them to go for a divorce instead they were to find solace in keeping their home and looking after their children. In all this advice for women, men did not have to anything to improve the situation.

Savvy was the spirited, feisty and bindaas one. It carried a story of a person (usually a high profile achiever) who had gone through the highs and lows of life (her husband beat her, her husband was an alcoholic, her husband was cheating on her, her husband was asking for too much dowry or all of the above). The story continued - how she felt guilty, then left her husband and now has found happiness. It was here where one learnt about the sordid details about the lives of our celebrities. Savvy’s advice was – when in doubt -leave. If nothing else you will be guaranteed a cover on our magazine. Again, since men were villains they could not help make the world a better place.

Of course men had no such choices. They had to make do with Debonair or Gentlemen that had a lot of skin show but no advice. Is it the case that we did not need any advice then? Or now for that matter?