Although “Sex, Lies & Advertising” by Gloria Steinem, appears here in the book Our Unfree Press: 100 Years of Radical Media Criticism, this text originally appeared as an exposé in Ms. Magazine. This piece was featured in the book edited by McChesney and Scott to exemplify the stranglehold that advertising, the key aspect in the current financial structure of print media, has on both the consumer and the production companies themselves. While easy to take each word as it is written, it is important to reflect on why the article was written and who is the author and what experiences form her identity.
Gloria Steinem, although perhaps most widely known for her feminist activism, was a renown journalist prior to her acts to reform equality. She, in addition to co-founding Ms. Magazine, co-founded the New York Magazine and wrote a variety of best selling books including Revolution from Within, Moving Beyond Words and Marilyn: Norma Jean, among others. For her work as an author and journalist, Steinem has also received a multitude of honors including the Penney-Missouri Journalism Award, National Magazine awards, an Emmy Citation for excellence in television writing, and the Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. With credentials as decorated as these, it is clear that Steinem is an accomplished journalist and therefore is ethically sound as well as a professional in the craft of creating arguments and reporting opinionated pieces. This being noted, although the article is based off of real experiences, there is obviously a huge bias behind every word, as she is striving to not report facts but to make a point. Steinem has a reputation for standing behind causes she believes in 100%, as she once pointed out “If I were not a feminist I’d be a masculinist”. Through this all or nothing attitude, it is easy to interpret her writing with a certain skeptism, knowing that one side will be completely left out.
Steinem felt that often, magazines were overrun by the advertising that detracted or completely contradicted the little journalism that remained in the printed product. Also, in a time period when women were still fighting to obtain the rights that were now legally theirs, Steinem noticed, and therefore intended to fix, a system in which women were limited to the simple consumption of magazines. As a result, Steinem worked to co-found Ms. Magazine, produced by women, for women, without the help and consequently journalistic burden of nonsensical advertising. This proved to be harder than expected, and in the article “Sex, Lies & Advertising” she details the battles she faced. Because it is a personal account of a career of financial and social hardships, the article may read as a plea for readership for Ms. Magazine.
Keeping all of this in mind however, it is important to take away what Steinem is trying to say about the corruptness of an industry financially controlled by a force other than consumers, while realizing that this is not a verification piece but more a first hand exposé.