January 29th, 2007
As an agony aunt at an online teen magazine I’m always going to defend the right of teenagers to have their own media.
However, there are times when I despair of teenage magazines. If it’s not lads mags encouraging their readers to win their girlfriend a boob job it’s teen girls magazines running relationship features suggesting the best way to keep a boyfriend happy is to learn to like what he likes rather than having your own interests.
On their website at the moment you can join in rating the readers of Bliss magazine are in their ‘how sexy am I?’ online quiz. Readers are told: “Rate these girls on their looks and pull-ability. And if you’re brave enough to be judged yourself, send us a photo and you might make it on the list next week. Be nice!”
What follows is a list of different pictures submitted by girls who appear to be mostly aged in their mid teens (although some do look younger). They include a picture and a short description about the girl who you then rate out of ten. Presumably the winner is announced on a weekly basis.
In an era where girls are increasingly encouraged to fixate on their physical appearance, attractiveness and how thin they can be you’d have thought a responsible teen magazine would be challenging any activity that made girls obsess over their looks.
Not, it seems, in the case of Bliss.
I’d be completely in favour of girls submitting pictures and biographies where others could celebrate their talent for music, art, maths or science; where their athleticism or ability to dance could be appreciated; or where they could describe their values, hobbies or other talents.
At a time when bullying within schools is rife – and a lot of it centred around picking on people over their physical size or appearance – all this ‘quiz’ does is encourage girls to rate themselves and rate each other.
It’s not even that you’re rated on how clever you are, what a good friend you might be, or what you contribute to society. All Bliss is doing is reducing the role of girls to how they look, and whether they’re likely to ‘pull’. Given the target age group of the magazine is early teens (12-14) this feels more than a little distasteful.
There’s more to being a girl than just how you look and whether you can pull and it’s a real disappointment when magazines could focus on positive issues of femininity but instead encourage girls to be competitive around their physical appearance.Tweet