Feminism lost in translation?

In a recent post on Imprint, the blog of Print Magazine, Steve Heller tipped me off to an interesting museum in the Netherlands, dedicated to visual design. The Graphic Design Museum has several exhibitions on display including their permanent exhibition 100 Years of Dutch Graphic Design, Connecting the Past and the Future, and UnCOVERing Women, an exhibition on women’s magazines with an blurb that makes me feel… suspicious:

The exhibition demonstrates selected images from women’s magazines within a timeline, showing the evolution of women. These images illustrate events from present and past, from the women’s’ right to vote to the first frozen dinner. This is the thread that runs through the exhibition. From a collection of 50.000 Dutch and international magazines, guest curator Margriet van der Linden, chief editor of Opzij, a large monthly magazine in the Netherlands, selected the designs together with the Graphic Design Museum.

Think about Chanel’s little black dress, the first lipsticks and the start of Libelle, a large weekly magazine in the Netherlands. See a lot of familiar, old and new advertising campaigns. Amaze yourself with skinny and plus size models who decorated the magazine covers through the years.

Excuse me?! I understand that these are important artifacts that reveal cultural biases and conventional notions of beauty but I do not get the sense that this exhibition covers those issues. I have not been to this museum nor seen this exhibit but I hate to think that the extent of female evolution or feminine visual culture is found within women’s magazines. Don’t these publications perpetuate a distorted view of what it means to be a woman? Does glorifying women’s magazines in a museum put them to good use?

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