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At Their Summit, I Saw How Glamour Magazine Can Broaden Its Appeal By Welcoming Right Women


Say goodbye to Glamour magazine on grocery store shelves. The outlet announced it will no longer print monthly print magazines starting in 2019. Glamour’s January print edition will be its last. Instead, the publication will focus on its digital brand. Launched in 1939, Glamour has amassed 9.7 million print readers, 11 million unique monthly users online, and 14 million followers across social media platforms. But that’s not enough to keep its print operation afloat.

Glamour is not the first women’s magazine to cut back or eliminate print editions in recent years. Seventeen cut its regular print magazines after the November/December 2018 issue. Teen Vogue no longer has a print edition either. 

As part of Glamour’s rebranding and retargeting effort, the magazine should expand its appeal from fashion and feelings to intellectual debates. Glamour showcases bathing suits for different body types. Why not also offer different policy ideas to its readers? After attending the Glamour Women of the Year Summit, I believe the magazine is positioned to be a leader in how women’s magazines engage with their audiences.

I run the Network of enlightened Women, known as NeW, an organization for conservative young women. In 2017, Glamour sent a reporter to write about our national conference in Washington, DC. She disclosed early in her article that she was a fish out of water:

As a 24-year-old liberal woman who cried watching Hillary Clinton lose the election live at New York’s Javits Center, this wasn’t a room I ever thought I’d find myself in, and my preconceived notions ran rampant—all I could think was that I didn’t have the right clothes, let alone the bandwidth for the mental gymnastics it would take to talk to women about Donald Trump without combusting.

She chatted with attendees over her “first ever” Chick-fil-A lunch, getting to know the women. She expected pearls, but instead noted the nose rings and hipster glasses. She concluded the women weren’t so bad after all:

On the train back to New York, I started thinking about this group of women that I’d known nothing about and, in some ways, judged unfairly….I started thinking about Hall’s ideal definition of feminism, and how she believes it should be a network of women supporting each other to run for office. Before the conference, I never really thought about wanting more Republican women in positions of power; I only focused on what was happening on the left. Now having met these women, and witnessing how tough-as-nails they are, I’ve never been more confident that the future of the Republican party is female—and in that way, they have my support.

It was the individual conversations that seemed to change her mind. Not someone shouting about politics, but hearing from these women on what they cared about and how they believed their policies would make the world better.

I had a similar experience attending the 2018 Glamour Women of the Year Summit in November. At the first session, it felt just as foreign to me as a New York liberal would feel at a NeW conference. On the first day, I was assigned to a feminist T-shirt-making session. As I looked around the room, feminist T-shirts adorned the walls from floor to ceiling: “Never underestimate the power of a woman,” “You are not the boss of v,” “1973,” and “77/100.” 

We each got to make a shirt. The group favorite was, “You See A Girl I See The Future.” Of course, girls and women are leaders. I see girls and women as empowered to be future leaders, so this shirt didn’t resonate with me. The second most popular option said, “WITCH,” an effort to take back the word for women.

After the T-shirt making was over, we had a vegan lunch. This was my first time eating at a vegan chain restaurant. (Shitake bacon just isn’t the same.) I sat with a mom and her adult daughter. They said they run a building management company. I mentioned I work for a group promoting conservative ideas. Immediately, the mom raised her hand to give me a high five, and the daughter smiled and said she had been keeping her head down. We became fast friends.

My big surprise was that the women at Glamour’s conference weren’t militant radical feminists. Yes, they overwhelmingly leaned liberal, but they were also intellectually curious about what I, as a conservative, had to say. Sometimes this curiosity was zoo curiosity— they hadn’t seen an animal like me. Other times, the women recognized the limits of what they had heard about an issue and wanted to learn more to decide for themselves. They didn’t just dismiss me when I mentioned the word conservative. They asked me questions.

During breakfast on the second day, for example, a woman who sat next to me said she was particularly interested in hearing the session on gun control and what the young women leaders on that panel had to say. I replied that I thought it was unfortunate that they didn’t have someone on the panel discussing why some people are against additional gun control legislation. She asked me, “Why are some people against it?” By the end of our discussion, she agreed with me that the panel would have been better with more intellectual diversity.

At lunch, I mentioned I attended the last hearing on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. I expected the women there to be 100 percent against Kavanaugh. But one of the women said the hearing didn’t sit right with her. She wasn’t sure why. She wanted my perspective. She was interested in talking about due process.

These were the types of conversations I had over and over, with smart women who cared about fashion and empowerment and making up their own mind.

Glamour isn’t afraid of tough, scary topics. The second day started with an interview of Karen Attiah, Jamal Khashoggi’s editor at The Washington Post before he was murdered. So why was there no debate or disagreement during the two days of programming? The biggest moment of conflict at the summit came when “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie compared her mom’s realism to the cheerleading of fellow co-anchor Hoda Kotb’s mom. That’s it.

Mainstream women’s magazines have a liberal bent. Some have tried going further left. Take Teen Vogue and its anti-Trump article headlines like, “Donald Trump Is Still Gaslighting America. I Really Care. Do u?” Some have tried to sex-up everything, including politics. As part of its 2014 midterm election participation, Cosmopolitan ran a contest asking students their plans to get their peers to vote, with the prize being a party bus to shuttle students to the polls full of “shirtless male models.”

Glamour could stand out by taking a different tack and actually encouraging its audience to think and understand different sides by offering a multitude of views. For its summit and digital stories, Glamour controls the invitations and topics. How about a debate about President Trump’s policy on trade and how that affects the cost of goods? A discussion of what state and federal laws discourage people starting businesses? Or a discussion on education reform?

That’s what the summit needed, and would make the brand more interesting to more people. Perhaps most of Glamour’s readers will still be liberal, but they will leave better off for having seen or read an actual debate. They might even become more confident in their position, learning how to anticipate arguments from the other side.

When I signed up for the Glamour Women of the Year Summit, I expected some fashion, and I got it. (Apparently bell bottoms are back in style.) I expected some liberalism, and I got that too. But what I didn’t expect was how thoughtful the attendees were.

The biggest compliment Glamour could pay its readers is to respect their intellect. Don’t just give them something to buy, nod in agreement to, or laugh at. Give them something to think about. Smart women want smart content.