Blog: Seventeen Again?

The hypocrisy of Seventeen Magazine both amuses and disgusts me. Here's why.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an avid reader of Seventeen Magazine. Never mind the fact that I am currently 22 years old and still subscribing to a magazine aimed at pre-teen and teenage girls.

Interestingly, as I’ve grown more mature, so has its content.

Ever since I was fourteen, my favorite sections of the magazine have been the beauty spreads and the embarrassing stories. I also liked reading the “Life” section, which would feature articles about getting into college or gaining more confidence.

While these stories are still present in the magazine today, I feel as though the content is more risqué and at times, contradicts itself.

In the March 2012 issue, I browsed through an article called “The Drama With Guy Friends.” In addition to talking about current teenage dilemmas such as secretly wanting to be more than friends, or an actual relationship over casual hookups, it listed a table of “friendly” and “flirty” behaviors.

One of the “friendly” behaviors was “giving him detailed girl advice.” Conversely, one of the “flirty” behaviors was “giving him detailed sex advice.”

Wait…what?  This is coming from the same magazine that also tries to educate its impressionable readers about the rise of teen pregnancy?

The hypocrisy both amuses and disgusts me.

Growing up, I had always regarded Seventeen as a positive resource. It provided helpful guidelines for me to navigate the confusing world of being a teenage girl, but its messages did not dictate my life.

I did not believe that I needed to wear the most fashionable clothes, be stick skinny, or try out the latest makeup to be happy. On the contrary, I rarely followed the trends I read about.

In some aspects, the magazine still is a positive publication. Last year, Seventeen sponsored a contest called “Pretty Amazing,” in which readers could enter for a chance to be on the magazine’s cover and win a $20,000 scholarship. The girl who ended up winning the contest had grown up homeless, but is now a fashion designer. Reading her story was a refreshing break from reading another interview about yet another celebrity promoting her latest work.

But on the other hand, it provides contradictory messages left and right. It promotes the idea of being at peace with one’s body, regardless of weight. Despite this, a majority of the models featured in the magazine are slender, rather than curvy. One section encourages girls to see their own self-worth, and another will tell them how to pick up a guy over spring break.            

In he Gender and Communication course I took this quarter, we learned that magazines and other media are responsible for sexual socialization—where boys and girls learn how to be men and women by reading articles about what they are “supposed” to be interested in.

For teenage girls, this includes looking good, being irresistible to the opposite sex, possessing knowledge of all things regarding clothes and makeup and having an active social life, all without breaking a sweat. This haunts us well into adult life.

This is the part where I guiltily admit to reading the occasional issue of Allure and Cosmopolitan.

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Justin Cox (Editor) March 20, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Since I'm not an avid reader of this mag, I never thought about it. But you're totally right: The two dominant themes, based on the covers I see, are "empower yourself and accept who you are" right alongside "how to make him more likely to sleep with you."
Justin Cox (Editor) March 20, 2012 at 06:36 PM
"Sleep with you" might be too strong, but I think it's somewhat implied within the content.
dana dooley March 21, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Good reflection. That's why, as a pre-teen and teen, I was an avid reader of CosmoGirl -- despite it's affiliation with Cosmopolitan (which is its own beast), CG was all about empowerment, confidence, and meaningful messages. It featured models of all body shapes. It of course had articles about boys and college, but also about big issues like sexuality (both sex, and one's orientation), school shootings, abusive relationships, and the like. Too bad CG got axed in 2008 -- another victim of the recession. Anyway, all of this is to say that I totally think there needs to be an *entirely* positive magazine out there for teens. While it seems Seventeen is trying toward that, you highlight important hypocrisies that demonstrate otherwise. ...And hurray for Gender and Communication class!


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