Magazines And Body Image

Today I sat in on a public speaking competition that was on in the library during one of my study periods. As a veteran of comps myself, I always like to listen and see what others have to say (but it’s not as fun when I don’t get to win). There is one cliched speech, however, and it pops up in every competition, that just drives me insane. And that is the “Magazines are responsible for all of the body image problems in the world.” 

Stop. Just stop. 

The girl giving the speech today thought she was so high and mighty, and you could tell the only magazine she’d think about reading would be Frankie (side note: not completely generalising, she’s a friend of a friend). She spoke for eight minutes about the dangers magazines pose to our young and impressionable teenagers, and how even their best efforts are still failures. 

I will admit, I am biased in this regard, but I have seen how magazines are put together, I have spoken to numerous editors and art directors and writers, and when it comes to magazines aimed at teens, the last thing they want to do is encourage eating disorders or poor self image. Yes, I know in a recent post I stated that I felt magazines were in part responsible for issues with teenagers, but I was more writing about the idea that they make girls feel like they have to grow up quickly. Under no circumstances do I believe that they only want girls to be skinny. 
The girl who gave the speech today mentioned that she had spoken to numerous magazines, but only quoted “the PA of the Editor of a notable women’s magazine” who told her that “plus sized just means bigger than normal models”. Upon further questioning, that magazine turned out to be Madison, and she admitted to also talking to Dolly. Do you want to know why she didn’t quote Dolly in her speech? Because Dolly is all for positive self-image, and they would have told her that. If she’d asked Girlfriend, they would have told her the same thing. I am so over this belief that is held by members of the public when it comes to magazines. They are not these completely evil things encouraging girls to become anorexics – they can be the most useful and helpful things a girl has in her teen years. They’re like a bible for getting through teenage life successfully, and no one (especially someone who has probably never read an issue of a teen mag, or at least hasn’t in recent years) has a right to criticise them for promoting negative body image. 

We’re not talking about high fashion magazines here (and let me clear up that neither was this competitor), we’re talking about magazines aimed largely at twelve to sixteen year olds. They show real girls – heck, I’ve even been in a photoshoot for one of them, and if they can include me, they’re definitely not picky. I remember that in my first year or two of reading Girlfriend, then-editor Sarah Oakes put a ban on featuring certain celebrities who weren’t role model material. That was seven or eight years ago, and things have not gone backwards in anyway. 

People need to get off their anti-media high horse and do some proper research before they go spouting their unfair opinions to the world. Mainstream media can do good, and more often than not, it does an awful lot more good than harm. Maybe some aspects of the magazine industry do cause girls to want to change their body image, but at least it’s not like tumblr with it’s thousands of ‘thinspo’ blogs, because we all know that’s where the real damage can occur.

frangipani princess xoxo

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