In yesterday’s New York Times, the paper presented irrefutable evidence that our culture is going to the dogs: women’s magazines have begun to use profanity. The horror! Or so they once thought.
After Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive printed “12 Ways to Get Your Sh*t Together” as a coverline on the November 2011 issue, and “Sh*t Girls Say About Clothes” on the September 2012 cover, she sat in her office and “waited for the angry letters to pour in. They never came”.
“It appeared I was the last person on planet Earth to care about it,” Leive explained. “It has not been an issue.” Well, not for Glamour at least. The Times won’t print the words themselves, substituting “a particular body part” or “a word unprintable here” in their article about curse words, which makes the whole thing seem a little silly — to say nothing of the inexplicable headline “50 Shades of Vulgarity”, a reference we had hoped we’d finally be rid of in 2013.
Readers haven’t always been so permissive, however. Recently-installed Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles said that after she published the word “ass” on the August 2006 cover of Marie Claire, she was accused of “cheapening things up” and was told that she couldn’t use such profanity. Real Simple‘s managing editor Kristin van Ogtrop clearly agrees. She stressed that she’d only allow a curse on a cover “if someone drugged me, and I lost all my faculties.”
Plenty of the shift towards a looser vocabulary in print has, of course, to do with the internet. Graydon Sheppard of the YouTube phenomenon “Sh*t Girls Say” says he has only received a single (albeit impassioned) complaint. “Complaining about swear words on the Internet is like complaining about sand in the desert,” he apologized sarcastically to the viewer.
Print, as per usual, is just playing catch-up.