What Happens When Lady Mags Start Using "Unladylike" Language?

12 comments

adeleMedia everywhere had a little bit of a problem when Graydon Sheppard first debuted his now-famous "S*** Girls Say" viral hit. How were we going to write headlines about the series? Sure, the websites that were comfortable with cursing up a storm didn't have a problem, but for the more conservative, "Poop Girls Say" just didn't have the same ring.

Which is exactly the problem The New York Times has as it discusses the prevailing trend of using more and more modern language in women's magazines. The paper itself can't swear, so the piece is rich with descriptive sentences like, "In the November 2012 issue there was an article, with a headline that included a vulgar word, about workouts to improve the derrière." The point of the piece is not to use colorful stand-ins, but to explain the increasing likelihood that a women's magazine, like Cosmo or Allure, would feature more heady language. "The culture has changed, so we’ve changed,” Glamour's EIC Cindy Leive told The Times. “It’s how our main staff, many who are under 30, talk. Certain words have gone from being shocking to being neutered.” On television, in music, and on film, women swear all the time; subbing in "drats" or "crud" just sounds archaic, these days.

The idea that cursing is an unattractive look for women feels beyond dated (case in point: Molly Weasley), but out of respect for the reportage, editors like Leive try to keep the cursing off the cover. It's worth noting that expressions of anger, intensity, and vulgarity certainly look different in print — but so do those tell-tale asterisks of censorship.

And, in case you were wondering, here's our own personal policy: Don't swear unless you absolutely must, and by all means, keep it PG-13. F-bombs are pretty much not allowed...but not because they are unladylike or feminine, but because next to life-affirming, sensitive, or charged topics, they just don't feel right. We have plenty of time to think out words when we write (unless, of course, we are posting on KimYe's baby at 2 a.m.), so why not pick the very best options available to us? (NY Times)

Photo: Courtesy of Cosmopolitan