Earlier this month Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll, a business owner and mother of five, took to Facebook to drill in on the covers of Girls' Life and Boys' Life magazines and call people's attention to a pretty absurd thing she noticed. The post sparked another debate on the ways in which women's magazines are prone to diminishing women's interests and dialing them down to all things sex, fashion and beauty.
Her post addressed to the Girls life masthead reads here
Dear Karen, Chun, Kelsey, Brooke & Paulette, I address all of you for two reasons. First, you are all on the masthead of Girls' Life magazine. Secondly, even if you, in your capacity at the magazine do not have editorial control, you certainly have a voice and should be using it. I refer you to the attached photo, an image of the cover of your magazine contrasted with Boys' Life (unaffiliated but similarly named) magazine. I'll give you a minute to compare the two covers. ... Your cover has a lovely young lady with a full face of makeup and you invite your readers to 'steal her secrets'. The BOYS' LIFE cover has in bold letters: EXPLORE YOUR FUTURE surrounded by all kinds of awesome gear for different professions- doctor, explorer, pilot, chemist, engineer, etc. subheading -- HERE'S HOW TO BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE. Could there possibly be two more divergent messages? Let's explore further. Your Mag: Fashion (how to SLAY on the first day) Confessions: My first kiss Wake up Pretty Your Dream Hair You do at least mention doing well in school... even if it does come at the end of this: How to have fun, make friends... and get all A's. But, whatever will they do with all those A's since it is the boys who will be the Astronaut, Artist, Firefighter, Chef? You to girls: Be like this girl. Wake up gorgeous, steal a girl's secrets, slay on your first day, have fun, make friends... and kiss .. and get all A's. BOYS LIFE to boys: Be what YOU want to be. Here are some of your awesome choices! We'll show you how! Your true stories are: 'real girls smooch and spill' Boys' Life true stories are: True stories of firefighters in action. WHAT in the name of all that is and ever was good are you teaching girls?? Is this the message you want for your daughters?? You are women. Working, professional women. Is this the message you are proud of? Is this why you became publishers, writers, graphic designers? To tell girls they are the sum of their fashion, makeup and hair? I know that you are only one of many many magazines that contribute to this culture but I believe you can be part of changing all that is wrong here. You CAN fight the tide of objectification of girls. You CAN create covers and stories that treat girls as more than hair, lips and kisses. Until you do, I guess I'll sign us up to BOYS LIFE because the quiz I want for my girls isn't "Am I ready for a BF" its "What Do I Want To Be". -- update. I see this is being shared by many who feel as I do. So, I would like to ask all of you who feel the same, refuse to buy these magazines. Write letters to them asking them to respect your daughters and provide quality articles and information. We are the consumers. We can make the difference for our daughters. Signed, Shoshanna - mom of two girls and three boys - Keats Jaskoll
According to Refinery29, Karen Bokram, the publisher and founding editor of Girls' Life, gave a little insight into her take on the letter "Are we more than lip gloss and clothes? Of course," she told Refinery. She did note though, "it's okay to like lip gloss or be interested in fashion... I don't know how [the problem] became 'either you like lip gloss and clothes or you like being an astronaut.'" The editor also made note of concerns that Keats-Jaskoll's letter overlooked the content of the magazine, citing stories that were of girls' personal experiences and gave substantial insight.
Whatever side you stand on, there's no denying that Bokram's point is true, you can't judge a book by it's cover. The editors choice for what goes on a magazine isn't always indicative of the content inside. Print publications have used all kinds of headlines to attracts readers attention and draw them into picking up their issues and work. AND there's nothing wrong with beauty, fashion or sex. We love all three. Still, we're willing to bet plenty of women would want to buy into a magazine that focuses on education, technology and the future of girls in general.