Every Picture (Doesn’t) Tell A Story

 

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An infuriating, but not entirely accurate juxtaposition.

I saw this picture in my Facebook and Twitter feeds last week. It’s pretty powerful and tells a story that is true. At the same time however it’s not exactly accurate.

Oh great, now I’m going to come off like I’m mansplaining. Well, here goes.

I spend my life in the magazine world. For the past year I’ve had the really terrific privilege of working in the children’s category with a noted and well-respected children’s publisher.

I also used to be a Boy Scout and a subscriber to Boy’s Life Magazine. So I’ve kept an eye out for the magazine and watched their evolution for a long time.

So I get the anger that the picture and accompanying article is expressing. I get the point. It’s the 21st century. Why are we still telling girls to be pretty and cute and love pink and purple and wait for their prince instead of go out and have adventures?

This is a no brainer.

But the question I wanted to ask when I saw the picture was: Why the hell were those two magazines put side by side in that library? Don’t those librarians pay attention to content?

Boys Life Magazine is the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America. The magazine is about and for boys. Boy Scouts: Camping = rockets, experiments, social projects. Boys.

Girls Life Magazine is a publication that is run by a privately held company that publishes a consumer-oriented magazine aimed at girls aged 10 – 16 who are raised in what I guess some might consider consumer oriented families? On it’s web page it says without any apologies exactly what it is all about: “focusing on fun stuff like fashion, beauty, and celebs along with real information and advice on friends, family, school, tough stuff and more.”

So, yeah, there you have it. The publishers are very up-front about who and what they are. I’ll leave it to any reader who passes by to decide if they want to judge that.

The question, then is are there magazines that are aimed at pre-teen and teenaged girls that aren’t all about fashion and celebs and beauty?

The most obvious example is Discovery Girls. This publication considers their readers to be “curious, strong, and enthusiastic about becoming the very best they can be.”

Discovery Girls

Perhaps the best in the category.

And while some people aren’t thrilled with some of the consumer aspects aligned with its parent company, Mattel,  American Girl Magazine magazine says that “In a culture that tends to pressure girls to fast-forward through their childhood, American Girl tells its readers: “It’s great to be a girl!”

American Girl

It’s great to have a deep pocketed parent company.

I think that New Moon Girls Magazine is probably the closest thing to what the author is looking for. I would hope that the library where this was spotted carries the publication. New Moon was founded in 1992 as a magazine and on-line community for and about younger girls. The fact that it’s survived independently for 24 years says a lot about its editorial strength. I’ve read this magazine. It’s great.

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24 years? They’re doing something right don’t you think?

There’s a new entry into this category and I’m really excited about finding a copy in the wild.  Kazoo Magazine  is a brand new quarterly magazine for girls who want to “make some noise.” Regular features in this new magazine will include “…science experiments; comics; art projects; recipes; interviews with inspiring women from Olympic athletes to astronauts…”. Frankly, I think this may be the most interesting children’s magazine launch of the decade.

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Go make some noise! A lot of noise! And sell a lot of copies!

 

Interestingly, most magazine that are published for younger children, such as Highlights, Ranger Rick, Cricket and Ask are not sex specific.

What about atypical launches for adult women? There are always some really great new launches each year. Perhaps the most interesting one I’ve seen is the print version of “Misadventures Magazine,” a quarterly print publication that started life as a web site, sprouted an e-commerce store and then it’s first print edition a year ago.

MisAdventures Mag

Great cover. Great launch. Great niche.

So, yeah, here we are, well into the second decade of the 21st century. A decade that has seen “typical” social patterns, sexual stereotypes and the like shattered. It is both sad and upsetting to see that in a place of learning, a library where clearly the librarians should know better, that a “typical” boys magazine is placed next to a “typical” girls magazine and implies that they are equal. They’re not and this is especially true when the two magazine have next to nothing in common with the exception of some very old tropes.

A deeper look at the whole of the category shows that there is more out there, for girls at least, than celebs and mean girls. The durability of titles like Discovery Girls, New Moon Girls and the exciting launch of Kazoo shows us that.

So maybe the question should also be, “Where are the alternative niche boys magazines?”

 

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2 thoughts on “Every Picture (Doesn’t) Tell A Story

  1. I would challenge Boys Life magazines to show some non stereotypical professions on their cover. Fireman, policeman, scientist, Doctor, military. Why not chef, teacher, artists? Each magazine is grossly simplified and has no thought. What are the alternatives for boys? Cicada, Muse. Why not Nat’l Geo’s kids mags. Ranger Rick. I think by the time a boy or girl is 13 or 14 they’ve moved on from kids mags.

  2. I didn’t mention Nat Geo Kids because I think it scales a little younger and it’s not aimed at either sex. From what little I know these days about BL Mag, there’s no way that they would go for a less “masculine” occupation. That’s why it would be very cool if a new “boys” magazine would crop up and and challenge the status quo,

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