Beyond Buying and Posing: Feminist Teen Magazines

Beyond Buying and Posing: Feminist Teen Magazines

At least once a day I hear myself saying some version of the following to my two daughters, ages ten and thirteen: “We didn’t have X when I was young.” Depending on the situation, the next sentence will be, “And we got along just fine without it” or “I sure wish I’d had that when I was your age.”

In the latter category are feminist magazines. As I remember them, the magazines of the fifties and early sixties aimed at girls were all about celebrities, looking good, being nice, and snaring a guy. My friends and I read them avidly. What would it have meant to receive a magazine that told me it was OK not to look like a movie star, that I could be a politician rather than a politician’s wife, that asked why boys could wear pants to school and girls couldn’t, a magazine that named—and questioned—a system so much a part of my life that it was as natural as the sunrise.

I had to wait until I was in my twenties for that experience, when I opened the premier issue of Ms. My daughters don’t have to wait that long. They live in a vastly different culture, one in which feminism has deeply influenced their lives but, as Mary Pipher describes in Reviving Ophelia, one in which both the backlash against feminism and the ever-present devaluation of women puts adolescent girls at risk in ways very different from the girls of my generation.