Images: Katherine Young, Angela Barnett
Dear Girl’s Life,
Teenagers think grown ups know nothing, and looking at some of your covers, perhaps they’re right.
It’s 2016. Girls can dream of flying planes as well as sitting in them; they can dream of mining for diamonds instead of wearing them; they can dream of designing clothes instead of buying them; they can dream of being an astronaut or an astrophysics lecturer or an apple grower or an activist or anything. They don’t dream of having perfect hair unless you tell them perfect hair’s a thing. And unless that’s hair you never have to wash or spend any time on then dream hair is not something to aspire to. It’s just extra work.
Writing stories that tell girls ‘how to wake up pretty’ is telling them that being pretty is all that’s important. Every month 10,000 girls ask Google if they’re pretty enough and the Internet is not always kind with its answers. How about telling girls how to wake up creative? Wake up determined? Wake up wanting to do whatever the hell they like?
Your brother magazine is bang on for the boys though. They wouldn’t dream of writing a story telling them how to wake up handsome.
Did anyone tell you that boys and girls can both dream big? I guess you weren't listening.
Dear Women’s Health,
I’m no nutrition expert but I do know that making women fret about whether they're hot enough is not the path to good health, or even good eating. In fact, it's the path to screwed-ups-ville. It leads to diets and obsessions. Yet here you are telling women that being thin and white and cutting triangles out of their togs makes them healthy.
Seven out of ten women hate their bodies because they’re not thin or white and they don’t look like that in their togs. That’s not healthy.
I'm not sure what your brother publication is telling the men. That eating stacks of bacon makes them big and healthy and getting lots of sex is the purpose of exercise?
Did anyone tell you that health is on the inside? I guess you weren't listening.
Dear Golf Magazine,
I see what you’re doing having men like Bubba Watson pose side on, with his left shoulder full of determination, like his unique left hand. You’re showing how natural it is for men to be good swingers. And boy, can Bubba swing. But I’m confused about the message for women.
Is wearing a nightie and looking coquettish all you need to be good at golf? Lexi Thompson was the youngest golfer ever to qualify in the US Women’s Open. At 12. Three years later she went professional. She’s broken records – she was the youngest-ever winner of an LPGA tournament.
It’s a shame you had to reduce all that she is to how hot she looks in clingy fabric.
Bubba is also a pro; he’s won the Masters twice and is now ranked 2nd in the world but you didn’t put him in a sexy outfit, you put him in golf gear in a stance of determination. We sense his energy.
Did anyone tell you that making women fret about whether they’re hot enough when they’re playing sport is not the path to a good swing? I guess you weren’t listening.
Filmmaker John Berger said in 1972 that, “a woman is always accompanied by her own image. From earliest childhood she is taught to survey herself. How she is conveyed is thought of as the success of her life.” That was nearly 50 years ago. Not much has changed.
The media, and its younger sibling social media, may not carry the blame singlehandedly, but they hardly help. Good looks get likes. For women, appearance becomes an ongoing project we never get to complete, which is not the path to fulfillment or happiness or achievement.
While a world obsessed with female appearance might not sound like a big issue, it leads to big issues. It leads to comparisons. It leads to feeling inadequate. Low self-esteem. Depression. Cutting. Starving. Yo-yo dieting. Anxiety. Plastic surgery. It can lead to a lifelong hatred of our bodies and faces for not measuring up.
Until we change the messages sent to girls and women that how they look is the most important thing about them then we'll continue to erode confidence and create fear.
How we look is not all that we are.