Book Review: Spin Sisters by Myrna Blyth

Glossy, Loaded, and Aimed at Women

To read the tabloids is simply unthinkable since they lie. Nothing in their pages is trustworthy, so we ignore them. The next category are those magazines that are “beyond the pale” — meaning the periodicals that shun all decency and respectability, such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Marie Claire. Known for their rough-and-tumble style and naughty topics, it is easy to refrain from picking them up or allowing our daughters to read them, unless it’s for a quick makeup tip.

The third group, which has seemed innocuous to the minds of most women, contains what are considered the mainstream magazines — often read by our own mothers and grandmothers. These would include McCalls, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Better Homes and Gardens, and the magazine edited for years by the author of this recent “kiss and tell,” Ladies Home Journal. Myrna Blyth offers women a rollicking good read in her book, Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America (Saint Martin’s Press, 309 pp.), and with it may have severed all her personal ties to the elite sorority of women journalists, whom she has thoroughly raked over the coals.

This book offers an insider’s view of the mass media targeting women, and is written in a chatty, breezy style, dripping with anecdotes about countless celebrities. Interestingly, Blyth provides ample evidence of the revolving door between the pages of the glossy women’s magazines, the morning talk shows, and liberal politicians, and shows the machinations behind showcasing personalities (by doctoring images), winning interviews (getting “the get”), and promoting ideas (Political Correctness, 101). But her expose reveals an even more insidious strategy that readers may not grasp while flipping through the colorful pages.

The Machinery of Political Correctness

Blyth is clear that the media that cater to women incorporate a strategy with specific indoctrination techniques. Most women know that some airbrushing is used to fudge the pictures of most models, but what this veteran shows is the deliberate intent to create anxiety in women on a variety of levels. Visually, the reader knows she is not as attractive as the women in these magazines. Add the constant reminder that stress and lack of balance are sucking the life’s blood out of most women, create a backdrop of fear with a regular diet of horrific diseases, unsafe products, and questionable medical practitioners at every turn, and the audience is ready to tattoo “victim” on any available body part. Encourage whining about the unfairness of life, insecurity about her neighborhood and children’s safety, and suspicions about the stability and fidelity of the men in her life and dedicated readers are primed for solutions. Offer gentle voices on screen leaning sympathetically towards the vulnerable guest and the viewers are (they hope) putty in their hands.

The solutions are, like clockwork, more government programs, increased government regulation, safer and more effective birth control, friendlier divorce laws, better (and subsidized) daycare, access to abortion on demand, or — when all else seems just too bleak — empowerment through self-indulgence. Day spas seem to cure many ills and refresh the souls worn thin by life’s demands. Many of us would agree to a point, but ultimately we realize that the indulgences recommended (“you deserve it!”) run contrary to the Catholic premise that women will only find themselves through a true gift of self. Truth be told, a rosary, time spent in adoration, or spiritual reading would be a better answer to stress and the search for balance, and we’d have a better chance of finding our true selves than if we simply found ourselves in the closest sauna.

This would be a fun gift for most women of all backgrounds since it simply offers the testimony of someone who lived the life, promoted the methodology, and rubbed elbows with the celebrities of our day. Just as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, after his conversion, could credibly reveal the strategy of the abortion industry, Blyth’s ethos, after she carried the banner for so many years, is her greatest strength in revealing the end-game of those who seek to influence millions of modern-day women. While no one would think to blur the three categories mentioned at the outset, this author manages to show how the mainstream periodicals do lie for their own ends and simply promote naughtiness in more respectable terms.

Real Wounds Need Real Healing

But there are some weaknesses that Blyth is incapable of overcoming, since she readily admits that she has no religious faith, is “pro-choice” (though in a “conflicted way”), and cannot from her standpoint gauge the real damage of the sexual revolution.

Her response to the media’s attempts to create victims out of women is “rubbish.” She is an enthusiastic cheerleader for her sisters in the trenches and believes that with enough chutzpah and fortitude women can accomplish anything. What this belittles are the authentic wounds resulting from poor choices, broken homes, sexual abuse, and a generation of women who lacked true affirmation in childhood. Remember that the first generation of feminists is now comprised of grandmothers and the richness of motherhood has been diluted for years in countless homes throughout the West. While Blyth excoriates the “spin sisters” for “exaggerating the negative and ignoring the positive in women’s lives,” she errs herself by ignoring the victimhood of women stemming from utilitarian sex, no-fault divorce, and the lies surrounding motherhood. Each of these does strike at the essence of women and those who have not been offered the healing balm of Christian forgiveness and the theology of the body are less than whole.

We can agree with the author by seeing that something resonates in the questions posed by “the glossies”: Where is happiness? How can I keep my man? Where do I find balance? and Who will protect me any my loved ones? Obviously the target market is seeking answers, but we can agree to disagree on the answer. Blyth’s “You go, girl” pep talk falls short of the real truth that women need to hear: “Go to Christ, and He will set you free.”

© Copyright 2004 Catholic Exchange

Mrs. Kineke is the editor of Canticle Magazine the voice of Women of Grace.

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