What happened to your body image and self-respect policies Girlfriend mag?
In the year 2013, I wrote the ‘Girl Mag Watch’ reviews for Generation Next, which were published on the website of the youth mental health social enterprise and in its newsletters to thousands of subscribers. I reviewed Girlfriend and Dolly (an example of a review can be found here).
After years of criticism the mag, leading up to my becoming a reviewer for Gen Next, I started to notice that Girlfriend was improving. I didn’t have as much cause to be critical. In fact, I found myself commending Girlfriend for publishing positive content to help girls navigate life’s challenges. Unexpectedly, on March 26, 2013, I received an email from then editor Sarah Tarca. She was “genuinely excited” to see a positive review in GF’s March issue.
Would I be interested in meeting? She said she would be pleased to hear my concerns face-to-face and that “I truly want Girlfriend to be a magazine that has a positive influence on teens”. Three months later, with Collective Shout’s chair and Body Matters Australasia co-director Sarah McMahon, I found myself in a café with Sarah Tarca and head of Pacific Magazines youth department Mychelle Vandbury. The meeting went well, and we were persuaded that GF had learnt from errors of the past and was genuine in its intention to be a good influence on girls, especially at a time of distressing mental health figures and growing body image dissatisfaction in girls.
But now, five years after this mutually beneficial exchange, things appear to have gone downhill at the teen mag. So much for the positive body image and diversity commitments. So much for the ‘Self-respect’ checklist. We’ve posted on this at Collective Shout (reprinted below). I am certain this would not have happened under Sarah Tarca’s watch. Girlfriend, surely our girls deserve better.
Girlfriend Magazine to teen girls: ‘Kourtney Kardashian poses butt naked on Instagram and we’re feeling it’
Girlfriend Magazine has published an article fawning over naked photos of Kourtney Kardashian published in men’s magazine GQ.
Girlfriend Magazine is described as “Australia’s number one teen magazine brand, with a brand community of over 2.3 million teens.” Its target market is teen girls aged 14-17, although we know anecdotally that the magazine is read by girls younger than this.
GQ on the other hand, is a sexist men’s magazine that routinely publishes sexualised photos of naked and near naked women.
The short article that Girlfriend promoted on social media presents Kardashian as a role model to look up to. Her posing naked for GQ is framed as an act of bravery and an example of the ideal woman.
Kourtney Kardashian is one hot mumma, and she’s not afraid to show it!
Kourtney ditched her clothing for an entirely stripped down photoshoot with GQ Mexico, and we’re completely obsessed.
What a woman.
Little sister Khloe had a major fangirl moment too, posting an unseen of Kourtney lying naked on the floor.
“♔ How do you look this fire Queen @kourtneykardash ?!?! You are stunning sister, especially in @gqmexico ! ♔” she wrote. (bold ours)
The article was published with a naked side profile photo of Kardashian cupping her breast and another photo of her lying on the ground.
Grooming girls for porn
In her TED talk titled “Growing up in a pornified culture” Dr Gail Dines spoke of a magazine called “Details.” The magazine, described as “like Cosmopolitan for men” featured an article titled “How Internet porn is changing teen sex?”
“They interviewed a pornographer called Joanna Angel, and she said, “The girls these days, they just seem to come to the set porn-ready.” What does that mean?“
“This culture is socializing our young girls to be ready for pornography whether they ever end up on a porn site or not. And the reason for that is that they are being taught to hypersexualize and pornify themselves.”
Teen girls are under enormous pressure from boys to send naked photos of themselves. We know this because this is what they tell us. The demand on girls to send sexual photos is a pressing social problem that puts young people at risk. The esafety office, developed to address online safety and image based abuse advises teens that “sexting can have serious social and legal consequences”.
What is Girlfriend saying about posing naked for men’s entertainment? “Go girl.”
What a betrayal.
The perpetuation of the body beautiful stereotype
Reading through the reviews I wrote back then, I came across a piece I published written by Erica Bartle, then editor of Girl With A Satchel and a former deputy editor of Girlfriend magazine – now rocking the world with the award-winning ethically sourced, environmentally friendly social enterprise Outland Denim launched by Erica and her husband Jim (and the favored jeans of the Duchess of Sussex).
‘Why I regret being a teen model judge and threw my women’s mags away’ explores teen girl mag culture and the message it perpetuates. I’d hate newer readers to miss it. So here’s an extract, but you really must read the whole thing.
But never in history has the “image”, of self and of others, been so intensely present, forcing us to compare, assess and validate ourselves by these externalities seen on the screen and in print. In turn, the selves projected out into the world are edited, controlled and Photoshopped, and one’s internal politics are governed increasingly by a conscience distorted.
There need to be options for girls. Most will simply never measure up to TV/celebrity/model standards, the prevailing benchmark for women in our culture, as far as their physicality is concerned (and we know it is a concern: the surveys continue to tell us, but you only have to sit back, listen and observe). These external pressures should not be reason for them to loathe themselves. What is the answer?
In consuming these images via television, the internet or in the magazines, though it might sound trite, we are participating, to an extent, in the perpetuation of the body-beautiful stereotype, as well as the idea that men can wear the same suit but stand-out because of their personalities, whereas women need to compete on physical points. In this act, their full personhood is essentially stripped of them, while at the same time we create and consume still more unattainable beauty benchmarks.
A failed body image code
Refresh yourself on the history of the National Body Image Advisory Group, the Body Image Code of Conduct, the body image positive tick, the Body Image Friendly awards scheme, in this piece I wrote in June 2011.
Ask yourself what happened to these (tax-payer funded) initiatives?
The Report of the National Advisory Group on Body Image, released a year ago  announced new initiatives to address negative body image in young people. The aim was to bring the beauty, fashion and advertising industries to the table, to get them on board in a ‘partnership’ to address the growing problem of body image dissatisfaction.
The Code of Conduct provided a list of “best practice principles to guide professionals in the media, advertising and fashion industries about body image”…
One of the report’s recommendations states: “If, after a sustained period of continued developments… there is a broad failure of industry to adopt good body image practices, the Australian Government should look to review the voluntary nature of the code.”
Industry has had long enough to cooperate. It hasn’t. It is now time to review the voluntary nature of the code.
As originally published on melindatankardreist.com