Thursday, February 29 2024

On June 27, 1693, the first women’s magazine in history was printed. It was
in 17th century England that the Ladies Mercury came onto the
scene. Its publication was a milestone in the history of written press,
becoming the first magazine dedicated entirely to women.

However, it wasn’t until 1944 that Helen Valentine, an American, founded
the first magazine made exclusively for teenage girls, Seventeen.
“It was time to treat children as adults”—this was the slogan that prompted
Valentine to reach out to this segment of the population that had
previously been neglected.

Nowadays, we can find a wide variety of magazines on newsstands all over
the world that are dedicated to beauty, love, and health. All these
magazines contain aggressive advertising where shopping and glamour
dominate most of the pages.

The publishers of these magazines tend to protect their sales by
maintaining certain social norms, since it is easier to maintain roles that
have been established for decades, perpetuating traditional stereotypes
that objectify women and take away their ambition.

Many magazines, which began with good intentions, offering various takes on
things like what books to read and movies to watch, have been pulled into
trends over time—instead, publishing more frivolous articles that seem to
sell better.

That’s why graphic designer Katherine Young’s 2016 initiative is
commendable. She took the cover of the American Girls’ Life
magazine and completely reworked it. Some of the radical changes were:

– Instead of placing a retouched, made-up actress Olivia Holt, known for
her roles on the Disney Channel, on the cover, she suggested featuring
Olivia Hallisey, winner of the last Google Science Fair Grand Prix.

– Instead of “The Hair of Your Dreams,” she suggested talking about “The
Career of Your Dreams.”

– Instead of talking about “100+ ways to make an impact on day one with
fall fashion,” she suggested “100+ ways to help others in your community.”

– Instead of a quiz on “how to get a boyfriend,” she presented a quiz on
“how to create an application that gets you into college.”

Girls’ Life
also featured titles such as “The First Kiss” and “Waking Up Beautiful,”
which were changed to “Waking Up and Eating a Healthy Breakfast” and “The
First Mistake and How to Recover.”

As can be expected, Katherine caused an uproar by going against the trend
of covering trivial topics. Knowing the value of the media in transmitting
values and beliefs, she made people think on a deeper level.

What did she hope to accomplish with her original women’s magazine? She
hoped to shake up readers’ critical thinking and influence public opinion.
Today, we feel comfortable and don’t think about whether something is
appropriate or not because we are surrounded by these sorts of things. It
all seems normal to us. But sometimes, we have to go against the grain.

It’s been six years since Young’s initiative, and it doesn’t seem like
things have changed, either in Girls’ Life or in other similar
magazines. And I wonder… is it that there is no interest in other topics,
or is it that the teenage girls who buy these magazines are specifically
looking for this kind of more “casual” content in order to free themselves
from their own problems and the busyness in their own lives?

It’s paradoxical, then, that with the prevailing feminist opinion, where
the goal is to break the norms of a patriarchal society, we continue to
consume this sort of content that tends to represent women as mere consumer
objects.

Perhaps the key to change lies in the Seventeen magazine’s
founder’s statement: “Treat children as adults.” Perhaps the solution lies
in respecting every stage of life; but at the same time, it may be a good
idea to be open-minded to publishing pieces on a wide range of topics that
are of real interest to women.

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