Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Recently, there was a small furor about two covers of Girls Life magazine: one is the actual cover and one as created by designer rad designer Katherine Young. Women all over are praising the alternate cover and saying it’s a better message for ‘our daugthers’.
Unless the world has changed totally, it’s typically and still ‘girlish’ to want to be interested in fashion (not all girls, but many), interested in what a first kiss is all about (that’s rather sweet compared to what girls themselves post on FB and Instagram) and how to get your hair looking better. I don’t know ONE woman from 16–160 who isn’t still is interested in another better hair product.
I would just combine the two covers frankly.
To be feminine is not anti-feminist. To want to look good simply because it’s fun being 16 (not necessary to snag a guy) is legitimate. It’s part of the whole girls-becoming-women experience for many girls. To also offer preteen girls articles on self-confidence, careers and dream pursuit — also great.
I know that indignant irritation, look-what-message-we’re sending-to-our-girls always feels good and it seems like a noble mission to knock Girls’ Life magazine cover but the two covers are not as polar as you think.
Plus, if you actually survey girls/young women today, a broad spectrum of them, what feminism means to them -it’s a different experience than boomer women. It’s like shoving 70 and 80’s notions on an incredibly new and different generation of women who might feel differently and also, have yet other issues to deal with that we didn’t. Sure, they are who/what they are because of feminism’s foundations/ground work but ask THEM how they see that cover (the ‘bad’ one). The responses would vary widely. I don’t know for sure but my hunch is, for better or worse intentions, older women look at the younger counterparts and foist their gender polictics on them. We also seem to want a thank-you note from them for how we ‘paved the way’. Plus, as a sidenote, in all our affirmative action for ‘our’ girls, we made enemies of good men and forgot our sons in all that Take Your Daughter to Work Day of the 80’s. Someone forgot the boys but hey, they’re guys; they can deal.
Young women today are another generation born of another world. They are not….us. They are neither mini Gloria Steinem’s, or tomorrow’s Britney Spheres nor even another Malala Yousafzai (which is unfortunate because we could do with hundred fold these sort of special girl/human being).
Today’s girls are everything and everyone and despite our best cautions, maybe don’t just want to just look awesome in the new denim; some of them are all but naked on Instagram. A magazine that touts the best new look in denim to my daughter is kinda of tame. ‘Naked” is the new normal. Which also makes me question of the media and peer pressure (and that Warhohl 15 minutes thing) greater than the family values a kid is raised with.
Girls, (not all but a great majority) no matter if it is 1620 or 2016, will always want to look pretty. It’s not the only game in town but it’s a genetic thing. It’s a reality of our species and in its healthiest manifestations; it’s glorious, fun and lifts your spirits. Plus they also get the thing about education, self-esteem and creating a broader life or they will in time — as they go out into this world. Trust them a bit. Or at least, don’t pre-suppose everyone wants the pathway you deem a better one for them, as implied by the mock-up alter magazine cover. (Although I do agree the more natural looking girl on the right is more real and age appropriate to me)
Look at the women broadcasters on CNN, for example. They are gorgeous, bright, hold law and finance degrees or journalism and dress in the most fashion forward clothes ever. They work out, volunteer, marry and mother children. They have no problem reading about a better hair product along with how to follow their dreams. Or eat more and better (because less extra weight feels healthier -not prettier) features alongside how to report sexism on the job. It’s not one or the other anymore and it’s hardly gender specific unless we get into discussions of sexism at work, inequitable pay and sexual assaults on colleage campuses.
I would also like to add to this discussion by pointing out that Oprah Magazine, month to month, is all about anti-aging (why no pro aging?), inner self-improvement (why aren’t we fine as we are?), or finding a $500 wallet on Oprah’s highly materialistic O list and always a celebrity interview. Plus give or take a feature on inflammation, osteoporosis, thinning hair and weight loss and how to be victorious against it all.
WHAT does this say of the message we give each other and our peers? The message I get is that my generation of women are old, declining, pre-occupied with health, eating food as medicine, searching for better anti-aging make-up (I will never, ever wear foundation) and just waiting for back injuries, the onset of frail bones, inflamed muscles and the assumption we don’t care about outer beauty anywhere –it’s all inner beauty which is fine but a one-trick diet is not me. I prefer to read about technology that works for me, new music, and the host of us who are healthy, pretty, and smart and have wider interests than the pharmaceutical ads would have us believe. I would like to do my own alternate cover of Oprah wherein I see a working grandmother who’s beautiful, with a grandchild on one hip, balancing her yoga mat, smart phone, book club bag.
Magazines are run by advertisers who have products to sell — so that’s one thing. So they pander. But someone IS buying this stuff the same way some people buy Fifty Shades of Gray vs. reading Jane Austen or The Goldfinch. Wherever there’s a market, and a free one at that, someone will address it.
And there will be buyers for that product and that message.
To change messages, don’t just re-do a magazine cover (which is an inspiration and got me thinking) but get the ‘message’ at the medium’s heart: their pocket books: advertisers of products we might not need or want. Write the editors — write their advertisers, boycott their magazines or create your own or speak out in op ed’s and/or anywhere your voice will be heard.
But before I worry about what message we are telling our daughters we might also consider what we are telling each other and what peer messages there are out there.
P.S. I also wouldn’t worry what we’re teaching our daughters because I don’t know anyone under 20 who still reads magazines. Also, there is GQ magazine that is teaching ‘our sons’ all about looks and no one seems too worried.