Gossip rags aren’t generally known for sending positive messages to women who read them. Despite the fact that magazines like US Weekly are marketed to women, they often send messages quite toxic to their readers and to society in general. This week’s issue is no different, and as a regular reader I can say, especially egregious.
The first clue that this issue would be infuriating came with its cover, which identified the victims of a sex crime and described the abuse they were subject to by their brother as “creepy.” Jill and Jessa Duggar, two of their brother Josh’s victims, were shown on the cover instead of their brother. The victims of a sex crime were thus identified as “creepy” — not the perpetrator. There is an incredible stigma regarding sexual abuse, especially when it involves incest. Imagine how many young girls might see this cover on newsstands this week and internalize the message that any abuse they might be suffering at the hands of their male relative makes them “creepy.” In a perfect world — one where the Duggar family never publicly identified the victims — the saga the Duggars are currently embroiled in would lead to a healthy and productive national conversation on incest. Instead, liberal media outlets can barely contain their glee covering the incident.
Psychiatric Times describes the psychological impact of incest on victims,
Incomprehension, shame, loyalty conflicts, fear of retaliation, and the misperception that the child is to blame for what took place make revelation difficult. In fact, only about 30% of victims, mostly older children and adolescents, reveal their situations. In 43%, the revelation is accidental. The remainder are revealed by eyewitnesses and are inferred from vague or ambiguous comments.
By furthering the perception that the victims, not the perpetrator, are “creepy,” US Weekly has stigmatized the victims of incest, scaring untold numbers of them from considering coming forward.
Holly Madison, former Playboy centerfold and girlfriend of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner, is the magazine’s cover girl in the same issue. In the story on her upcoming book, Madison describes the “hell” that was life living inside the Playboy mansion as Hefner’s girlfriend. In this strange alternate universe Madison is somehow portrayed as a victim, despite choosing her living arrangements of her own free will, and profiting off of them to the tune of $1,000 a week — just for clothing.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse with toxic messages involving abuse, a story on page 1 on reality stars Shannon and David Beador of Real Housewives of Orange County doesn’t disappoint. In the story Shannon explains why she blames herself for her husband’s wandering eye,
The pair, wed for 14 years, fought about everything from sex to time spent together. “If I had been an amazing wife,” she said, “he wouldn’t have gone elsewhere.”
Feelings of guilt aren’t unique among women who have been cheated on, but the perpetuation of the idea that a cheated-on wife is to blame for a husband straying is incredibly unhealthy for women everywhere. With this kind of statement, US should have included another side, preferably from David expressing remorse and an explanation that he alone was responsible for his actions.
Throughout this entire issue of a magazine written for and marketed to women, the victims of sexual abuse and adultery were blamed, instead of the real perpetrators: the men at fault. The only woman given any sympathy is, strangely, a former Playboy bunny.