Girl-Powered Media: Real and Relevant
By Ariel Beccia--As the great Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, we should all read Teen Vogue. OK, these might not have been her exact words per se, but the advice is certainly in line with Adichie's belief in the importance of feminism. Hold up, you may be thinking – Teen Vogue? Inspiring social activism? Yup, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Last week, the magazine published an op-ed titled “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,” in which author Lauren Duca details the president-elect’s tactic of confounding reality and subsequently labeling it media bias when his claims were contested. The piece went viral, and journalists expressed their disbelief on Twitter that such smart, politically-charged writing could come from a publication targeting teen girls. But Duca’s piece isn’t an anomaly. More and more, magazines like Teen Vogue are covering serious issues. This week alone saw a piece on LGBTQ activism from Nylon, a critique of Ivanka Trump’s potential roles from Elle, and coverage of the Electoral College vote from Seventeen.
These stories appear to stand in stark contrast to the “usual” content of teen magazines: makeup tips, celebrity news, and advice on how to get the guy. It has been suggested that this uptick in social and political coverage is due, in part, to the fact that these publications are free to publish content without fear of retribution. The same cannot be said of larger publications, for which politically-charged pieces may result in restricted access to the events and people who drive their stories. Changing leadership has also been highlighted as a positive influence; Elaine Welteroth was recently appointed Teen Vogue’s first black Editor-in-Chief, which coincided with the diversification of the magazine’s content.
I’m not so concerned with why teen magazines are publishing what they are. Rather, I want to know why these aforementioned stories are such a revelation. Why is it always a shock when smart reporting comes from female-dominated publications? It’s hard for me to believe that the surprise stems solely from the (seeming) incongruities between politics and fashion, as there is a long history of relegating women’s magazines to a lesser-status. The writers and editors of such publications understand the multiplicity of teen girls’ interests, their maturity, and their power, and thus deliver the smart, socially-aware journalism they are deserving of. It is time that the rest of the field acknowledges and respects this.
Thankfully, there is a growing assortment of intelligent, girl-powered media. In response to the growing role of the Internet and social media in news delivery, a crop of online magazines is covering important issues in relevant and relatable ways. There’s Lenny Letter, an online weekly newsletter created by Lena Dunham and Jennifer Konner; Clover Letter, a daily compilation of news, interviews, and cool-girl profiles; and Rookie, the online magazine and yearly-print yearbook featuring reader-submitted writing, artwork, and photography. By showcasing the voice of their readerships, these platforms create media that is representative of the diverse lives of teen girls and young adult women.
I’ve mentioned before that, at 24 years of age, I am still a loyal teen magazine reader. No apologies, and no plans of unsubscribing anytime soon. Sure, I’ve broadened my reading material to include more “mature” news sources, and in doing so, I’ve noticed one thing: “girl” media is just as real as the rest.
Header image courtesy of Teen Vogue