Teen Vogue magazine began mysteriously arriving in our mail a couple of months ago (probably because I subscribe to Vogue proper and the algorithms know how old my children are), and I am doing my best to keep it away from my 13-year-old daughter.
I take a quick look through it and then tuck it a few layers into the recycling pile.
To be sure, Teen Vogue includes an occasional redeeming story, like this one about young philanthropist Yael Cohen, and her F***| Cancer organization, which has raised more than $1 million to fund education about the early detection of breast cancer.
Still, it doesn’t seem to counterbalance the dozens of stories about fashion and makeup and TV personalities that avalanche through on paper and on the magazine’s website: Ashley Greene in jeans showing that she has a huge space between her thighs! Fairy Tale Prom Dresses! Actress Emma Watson, looking oh-so-Twiggy, and her ‘Red Carpet Secrets!’ Kendall and Kylie Jenner, new ‘creative directors’ for Venus brand razors talking about why they never leave the house without shaving their legs! How they learned from their older sisters, like, how to shave and, like, the right way to do it with, like, shaving gel!
These are not the models of woman-hood I want Girlchik exposed to.
She is definitely growing into a teenager, and she is conscious of how her clothing, jewelry and hair look, but these things occupy a space in her life that feels reasonable. More of her time is spent on her her schoolwork, her athletic pursuits and her friendships. It’s a balance that feels healthy for a girl her age.
And I don’t want it to change too soon. It’s hard enough to screen the noise of cultural pressure to look a certain way and behave a certain way and dress a certain way and shop a certain way when you’re a fully-grown woman.
Working against me is the cultural current, as detailed in this New York Times piece about tweenagers going to salons for full-on makeup application instruction, and a new line of makeup, called GeoGirl, targeting this age group.
My Girlchik is on a cusp between childhood and what comes next. She has a toe still in girlhood, in silliness and fun and sweetness (real, not the faux-sweet affect of pop culture personas) and I want her to keep it there as long as she can, not pulled into adulthood too soon by the Kardashians or any other influence.
This video clip, of feminist writer Jean Kilbourne, illustrates the impact of that influence. I just showed it to Girlchik, who countered with this equally impressive Dove commercial, from a few years ago, showing the extreme degree of alteration imposed on a model to make her beautiful “enough” for public view. One of her friends had shown her the Dove video. That’s the kind of peer influence I like.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen is an award-winning journalist who covers philanthropy, religion, gender and other contemporary issues. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New York magazine, among many other publications. She authored the book “Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant.”
Why I Hide Teen Vogue From My Teen