Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Girlie magazines destroy teenage girls self-esteem

We have all done it. Scanned through popular “girlie” mags to search for the perfect ’do, the top 10 ways to catch his eye or the fab five diets of the year to lose 10 pounds in a week.

Are we better for them? Have they helped us get the man of our dreams or have the sexiest physique? Why has the self-esteem of young girls plummeted enough in the last five years to increase the rate of eating disorders among teens by 15 percent, according to Olin Health Center?

Because teen mags like YM, Sassy and Mademoiselle plant images into young girls’ brains that they have to be blonde, not too athletic and no more than 120 pounds, girls turn into insecure females.

I admit, I bought into the whole idea of the perfect white female. In the last five years, I highlighted my hair blonde, bought a tanning package, purchased a whole new wardrobe from Express and started Weight Watchers, even though I am 5 feet 8 inches and weigh 130 pounds.

Where has it landed me? With a $100 hair bill every two months, a good possibility of acquiring skin cancer, a large monthly credit card statement and a guilt complex if I even look the wrong way at a piece of cheesecake.

And for what? Because the teen magazines said that is what guys will like. Well, do any of the articles write about why girls should accept and learn to love their own bodies? We are supposed to love our bodies and respect ourselves, while we look at 110-pound, flawless-faced white female models with bleached-white teeth in expensive clothing. And forget about seeing black or Hispanic girls in the magazines, because you won’t see any. There may be the one light-skinned black girl, still 110 pounds and flawless, wearing expensive clothing, but that’s it.

According to mags, these are the important issues to write about. These articles want you to learn and accept the way you look, but give pointers on how to change everything about yourself.

Maybe Young and Modern’s title should be changed to Catch-22.

There are often guides instructing girls how to “catch a guy,” and 10 supersexy steps on how to make him want you. What happens to the girl who reads the articles, takes the advice and has the guys all over her? Is there any follow-up article on how to defend yourself against rape or sexual harassment?

No. There never is.

And there is always the issue of being fat. Is a fat girl pretty? Do you see them in the mags? Yah, maybe in the before-and-after pictures. It is so dismaying to see pictures of stick models in workout clothes promoting a three-day diet that she clearly does not need to be on.

In the words of female essayist Anastasia Higginbotham, teen mags promote one thing: “Be happy with yourself, but not if you’re fat, ugly, poor, gay, disabled, antisocial or can’t at least pass as white.”

Editors and writers of teen mags have argued people’s opinions like mine for decades, claiming that they write articles and stories that girls want to read. For example, what the best hairdo for the dance is, the new and popular low-fat foods to scarf down, the best places to be kissed and what lipstick would match every outfit. That is a bunch of bunk that is useless for girls, or anyone for that matter.

To say that young girls thrive on this type of information is foolish, condescending and naive. Young girls, during such a crucial point of growing up, need to know about real things, events that matter.

They need to know the consequences of following the 10 steps to make him want you, how to handle themselves in a situation that requires self defense or standing up for themselves. They need to know what happens when they don’t get an adequate amount of fat and calories in their daily diets. Above all, they need to know that people will still love and accept them if they are not blonde, have flawed skin, don’t have expensive clothes, weigh more than 120 pounds and are not white.

Each and every one of them is still beautiful.

So next time you are in your local grocery store, standing in the checkout lane observing two teens giggling about survey results that claimed they would be rough riders in bed, do them a favor and slap a copy of Newsweek in their hands.

They’ll thank you for it later.

Amanda Clapp, State News East Lansing reporter, can be reached at clappama@msu.edu.

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