The 2016 presidential election has ushered in many "firsts," from the nomination of the first female major party candidate to the first time (at least in memory) that a presidential nominee has been recorded saying that he likes to "grab women by the pussy." In light of these firsts—and many, many others—a host of women's magazines not exactly known for taking sides in the political arena are now making their opinions heard loud and clear.
In mid-October, Vogue officially came out in support of Hillary Clinton—the first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate in the magazine's history. "In the past, Vogue has made every effort to profile Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, but our editors recognized that this election required a different approach," a spokesperson for the magazine said, adding that "the response has been tremendous."
Vogue's endorsement may not come as a surprise, considering that Vogue has been actively covering Clinton for decades (she's been profiled in the magazine a total of six times) and its editor in chief Anna Wintour is a well-known Democratic fundraiser, but there's no question that its treatment of the current election cycle is more robust than ever before. Online, Vogue.com has dutifully followed the ups and downs of the political cycle with headlines like "Donald Trump Is Not an Aberration: Your Nightmare Election Recap" and "Hillary Clinton Awesomely Defended Abortion Rights at the Debate"—not what you might think of as standard Vogue fare—and teamed up with celebrities, models and designers on a series of videos encouraging readers to vote.
Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive made her own first endorsement, also of Clinton, in the November editor's letter. "It never seemed at all appropriate before, but in this election cycle, I felt that the interests of young women were really clear," she said. "This is an election where, politics completely aside, one candidate has displayed respect for women and their interests and concerns, and the other has displayed a decades-long lack of respect for women. It felt like a very clear distinction to me, and as the election grew closer, I could see that our audience, for the most part, were with us."
The magazine isn't new to politics—it has featured interviews with candidates in every election cycle since 2004—but has ramped up its coverage this year, launching an initiative called the 51 Million (for the 51 million women under 45 who are eligible to vote in this year's election) and partnering with Facebook to host events at both the RNC and DNC. While Glamour as a brand has not made an official endorsement, its coverage, especially online, has been steadfastly pro-Clinton—or, in the case of its conservative columnist S.E. Cupp, at least anti-Trump.
Leive, who has interviewed both Republican and Democratic candidates in the past, firmly stands by her publication's objectivity. "We've looked at these two candidates, and one of them seems to us to be objectively better for women, and that's what many of our editors concluded," said Leive. "It's our job to represent the real discussions that are happening among women in this country, and at this moment, women in this country—especially young women—are not split 50-50 for Trump versus Clinton."
One of the more politically outspoken voices in the women's magazine world, Hearst chief content officer and former Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles, welcomes the industry's political activism. "I don't find it surprising that other women's magazines have endorsed Hillary, and it's not because she's a woman; it's because she's clearly the most suitable, experienced candidate for the job, and it's also clear that despite what he says, the Republican nominee has a frightening lack of respect for women," she said, adding, "We don't want a groper-in-chief."
Cosmopolitan made its own election season headlines in September for a Q&A with Ivanka Trump in which she cut short an interview after being asked about her father's remarks that pregnancy was "inconvenient" for his business. "I got flooded with people saying, 'I'm glad somebody's asking the hard questions,' which is a huge compliment to our brand because you don't ordinarily think of Cosmo as the faction that's going to be asking tough political questions," noted the magazine's new editor, Michele Promaulayko.
Other magazine brands are covering the political arena in much subtler ways. InStyle, for instance, has steered clear of commenting on politics but has still managed to share in the election season buzz with its October cover star Michelle Obama—the first non-actress or non-singer to grace the magazine's cover since Heidi Klum in 2010.
Looking ahead to the post-election era, if Hillary Clinton does succeed in becoming president, it will present a huge opportunity for women's magazines. "None of us is really talking about what it really means that we might be about to elect our first female president because we're so much in the thick of the political situation," said Leive. "But once we're out of that, I think it's going to be a very historic moment for all of us."
This story first appeared in the October 31, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.