Yep, once the 6th grade hit all the girls in my class started reading girlie magazines. The one I remember most clearly was Seventeen. It was a culture, the girls reading the magazines, and not unlike the feeling I’d had being the only atheist in kindergarden and wanting to wear the gold “T” or the star around my neck, I wanted to be part of the club.
I had friends who would read them literally cover to cover, and I tried to do that, looking for the hidden magic they seemed to be enthralled by, but ya know what, I never found it. I got irritated almost immediately with the same old “tips and tricks” that never worked unless you had flawless skin/hair/etc. to begin with, and sincerely annoyed at not only all the ads I had to rifle through and the vapid quizes, but with the titles that promised something great and then simply regurgitated everything from the last issue all over me. I also couldn’t figure out why I should want to dress like they told me to.
But about a month ago I was buying groceries, and decided to try these magazines again. I thought, hey, I was really young back then, maybe there is some worth to these magazines that I just didn’t see. So I bought one. Lucky June/July 2013. It features Christina Hendricks on the cover, whose traditionally womanly body and stunning face I obsess over. “Sexy All Summer: Your Head-to-Toe Guide”, it reads. (fyi, Lucky brands itself as the “magazine about shopping”)
Reader, I tried. I honestly did. I wanted the friendly voices in these magazines to become my friends. I wanted to enjoy some so-called “normal girl” activities. But it was like walking into a time machine. The entire thing was still a commercial telling me how I could learn to “be perfect” in all the same ways I read about over a decade ago, and all of the topics that could’ve been interesting were completely whitewashed over. As I’d remembered, zero diversity, zero creativity. Things that’ve changed: 1. I’m pretty sure the articles on the featured celebrity have gotten shorter, and 2. there are now article titles like “Tech Support”…which turns out not to be about women in technology, but minimalist fashion. Ugh.
Of course I could go on, but you already know what I’d say, so instead I’ll say this: while not all girlie magazines are created equal, the ones of the Lucky type need to go out of print, and the money that goes into producing all of their nonsense should be turned over to magazines, websites, even YouTube channels that actually provide usable, interesting advice to women.
Hell, even Jenna Marbles is more helpful than these magazines. I think young girls like her so much because she’s unguarded about being what she is: imperfect, vulnerable, and aware of the ways she buys into the girlie magazine’s pushing of perfection. She knows her cake makeup routine is extreme, and instead of justifying it she lets it be what it is. She jokes about it. She doesn’t tell you to be like her, she mostly makes fun of how she is, and though self-deprication is not something we need to be teaching our girls, in the end she clearly believes she’s a good person worthy of love.
What’s that, Jenna? Millions of young people have asked you to give them advice on how to be themselves? Gee, I wonder if something like a crap girl magazine is helping to keep them in the dark about that. *serious pondering face*
If you’re wondering if you’re gonna get an article on Jenna and MTV’s Girl Code soon…you are.
Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein received her MFA in poetry from The New School, and her BS in classical vocal performance and literature from Mannes Conservatory. She was selected by Matthea Harvey as The New School’s 2012 Chapbook Contest winner in poetry, and is the founding editor of SOUND, a daily literary magazine on contemporary musico-poetics. @Elkawildling