I subscribe to the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) newsletter, which includes daily calls for interview subjects and experts in various areas. Earlier this week, Girls Life put out a call titled, “Top teen mag looking for pro/celeb trainers for a bikini body Faceook chat.” When I went to the Girls Life website, I found an image of a barely pubescent girl in a pink bikini playing with a beach ball; her position makes her bikini top ride up so you can just see the underside of her new breasts; her hipbones jut out above her bikini bottom, and her ribs are visible. (So, too, are the ribs of the pubescent boy she’s playing with.)
Girls Life magazine is aimed at girls ages 10-16, but with the plethora of girls’ magazines on the market that cater specifically to the “teen” crowd (ages 13 +), it’s probably safe to assume that many of Girls Life readers skew on the younger side of the demographic. And I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of an 11-year-old worrying about her “bikini bod” to be a little troubling.
Something very crucial happens to girls’ bodies between the years of 10 and 16. Namely, they go through puberty. They gain significant weight, because for the first time they have breasts and hips, and because their body begins to store fat differently. This weight gain is normal and healthy–you can’t continue to weigh what you did before you had breasts after they develop–but it can still be pretty freaky. I remember being devastated when, over the summer between 5th and 6th grade, I gained 20 pounds. I was afraid that I’d suddenly gotten “fat.” I hadn’t. I’d just “developed,” as we used to say.
This is why anything aimed at girls this young advocating attaining some type of “perfect” body really distresses me. Statistics already tell us that 81% of ten-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. With this figure, it might be easy to say that Girls Life is just responding to what girls “want,” but I’m not buying it. We know that looking at magazines makes girls and women feel worse about themselves, so I feel that media like this is part of the problem, causing these alarmingly high statistics when it comes to body dissatisfaction, rather than helping girls address it in a healthy way.
Luckily, there is an alternative. Since 2002, I’ve worked in various capacities with New Moon Girl Media, a magazine and web community for girls ages 8 – 14. Right now, New Moon Girls’ 25 Beautiful Girls issue is on the newstand. The 25 Beautiful Girls issue highlights girls for their kindness, intelligence, bravery, and heart–the things that make them beautiful on the inside. Although it began as a protest to People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, it serves as an appropriate protest to Girls Life’s “bikini bod” obsession, too. Not only does New Moon Girls offer positive content that steers girls’ attention away from body-criticism, but it also helps girls see through “the sell” they become confronted with more and more in our society, the lie that tells them they must look and be a certain way to be “happy.” And in honor of New Moon’s 20th Anniversary, you can get 20% off new subscriptions in the month of May by using the promo code anniv20. If you, too, cringe at the thought of eleven-year-olds being preoccupied with their bodies or wondering “how to get a boyfriend” (another feature currently on the Girls Life homepage), New Moon Girls is for you and the girls you love.