Sunday, June 29, 2008

How to Counter Harmful Tween & Teen Magazines - Part Two

My daughters are 27 now (twins) and never acquired the habit of relying on fashion magazines for advice about life. That's not to say that they never read them! In their early teens, they read Seventeen and similar publications even though we had started New Moon magazine as an alternative to the typical girls' mags.

At first, I agonized about whether or not to let them read those magazines because I knew firsthand how damaging they were. I'd been a girl who looked to Seventeen, Ingenue, and later Glamour for instruction on how to be prettier, more popular, more confident, and all around different from who I really was.

Of course, every time I read one of those magazines I ended up feeling worse about myself instead of better. Each copy was filled with contradictory propaganda and advice. The quizzes pinpointed my personality shortcomings and the fashion spreads showed clothes I knew I'd never own. I saw myself in the "fashion crimes" photos and faithfully tried each new diet (and faithfully failed at each one). One year, most of the money I earned babysitting was spent on a secret stash of new makeup products recommended each month that were touted as so much better than what I had bought the previous month. (And I barely ever used them as I could only put them on in the bathroom at school since my parents wouldn't let me wear makeup.)

Even the advice columns made me feel inadequate since I didn't have the problems (mostly about boyfriends and I didn't have one) they gave advice about! As a mom, I obviously didn't want my daughters to be subjected to the undermining propoganda in typical girls' magazines. But the magazines are everywhere and I knew that trying to prohibit them (the way my parents had tried to ban makeup) would just lead to sneaky reading.

So when they asked for the magazines I bought them. But I didn't stop there. I also read them and talked with my daughters about them. That's what led to these strategies about how to help girls resist the harmful influence of popular tween & teen magazines.

  • Ask her what she thinks is real and unreal in each issue. It can be a game to score how much fakery there is from month to month - is the magazine getting more fake or more real?
  • Are the photos altered? (Show her this example of how photo manipulation makes an average looking woman into the fake perfection we see in magazines.)
  • Count how many of the total pages are ads (often more than 50%). What are the ads selling?
  • In its subject matter, does the magazine leave out things that she cares about and that are on her mind? What are those things?
  • Ask her what effect she thinks an article or ad is trying to have on readers.
  • Ask her how she feels (different from what she thinks) after looking at or reading an article or ad. Listen without judging or arguing about what she says.
  • Tell her how you feel (give her your feelings - angry, sad, afraid, guilty - not your thoughts) after looking at or reading a different article or ad.
  • Express your opinions (thoughts) about the articles and ads.
  • Provide her with alternative magazines like New Moon and Teen Voices by subscribing and keeping them in the house all the time. Having them available is like having healthy food in the kitchen. Even if she might always want to eat pop tarts, it's not the only food we provide!

These resistance strategies helped me stay connected to and support my daughters as they learned for themselves that they didn't want the propoganda churned out by most teen girl mags. It was a happy day for me when I noticed that they had stopped asking me to buy the magazines. After a while, I asked them about it and Nia said, "Reading those magazines made me feel so depressed. I don't need that!"

Please let me know what bothers you most about the messages in teen & tween magazines by posting a comment.

Friday, June 27, 2008

How to Counter Harmful Tween & Teen Magazines - Part One

University of Minnesota research finds that teen girls "who frequently read magazine articles about dieting were more likely five years later [emphasis added] to practice extreme weight-loss measures ... than girls who never read such articles."

That's terrifying for parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, teachers and youth workers because we know most girls will read those magazines at some point. What to do? Here's Part One of how you can counter their harmful influence.
  • If she's not a tween yet, decide ahead of time at what age you will allow her to read which magazines.
  • Try to avoid censorship, which makes the magazines “forbidden fruit” she reads in secret—where you can’t discuss them with her.
  • Read her magazines yourself (yes, this is excruciatingly painful to do, but it's crucial) so you can converse casually (not lecture her!) about them.
  • Look critically at the magazines you read (both the articles and the ads). Do they objectify females or reduce them to body parts? How would you feel if it was your daughter in those photographs/stories?
  • Do your magazines make you judge your body? Do they make you crave certain clothes, cars, products, etc? Look for the parallels in her magazines.
  • Ask your daughter to identify her favorite article and ad in each issue. Listen for her underlying emotional need and think about other ways you can help her meet that need. Is she concerned about her body? Is she worried about fitting in or getting male attention?
  • Provide positive attention for ALL of who she is and she’ll have less desire for “appearance-only” attention from others.

To be continued tomorrow with Part Two ....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dear Myles Brand: Title IX is HOW old?

As a girl in the 1960's, I was a huge baseball fan, falling asleep on muggy summer nights listening to the Yankees on the radio. Mickey Mantle was the undisputed star but my favorite was the shortstop Tony Kubek. To this day, listening to a baseball game on the radio is guaranteed to relax and entertain me at the same time.

I loved playing catch with my dad, brother and cousins. Once I even manged to break my cousin Rich's nose with a hard throw! (I don't remember ever playing catch with another girl or a woman.) But I never thought of myself as an athlete and instead put my physical energy into modern dance, which I also loved.

When I was 18, Title IX - the federal law that illegalized gender discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funds - was born. I didn't hear anything about it at the time.

Well-known now for its dramatic effect on equalizing athletic opportunities for girls and young women, Title IX stayed totally off my radar screen until a good 20 years later when my friend Emily, a rabid hockey player who took up the sport in her twenties, started fighting for the creation of girls' hockey teams in Minnesota high schools. She and an equally passionate group of women made it happen, against many odds. And Title IX was the key they used to open the door of ice arenas all over the state to girls. Emily's daughter Laurel went on to play Division I hockey at Boston University, a great testament to her mom's vision.

So by the time Title IX turned 36 years old earlier this week (June 23), I had become a huge fan of it. That was a quick 1/3 of a century! The results of Title IX's ban on gender discrimination in education are all around us in girls' high school & college teams, and in the WNBA. Less well-known but just as important is how Title IX pried open the door for admission of many more women to medical schools, law schools, engineering schools, architecture school and traditionally male-dominated careers like auto mechanic and computer programmer.

While there's been resistance to Title IX in many educational institutions, the NCAA has become a strong supporter of Title IX under the leadership of Myles Brand. When the Bush administration mounted a full court press in 2003-05 to weaken Title IX, the NCAA joined the Women's Sports Foundation and many others to successfully defend Title IX.

So imagine my surprise and dismay when I saw this NCAA psa while watching the underdog Fresno State team win the College World Series. The PSA shows 10 athletes playing basketball, dressed as professionals ranging from doctor to judge to police officer, making the point that most NCAA athletes "go pro" in something other than sports. (Of course, that's especially true for women since there are still very few sports that even the most talented women can "go pro" in!)

The thing that irked me is that only 3 of the 10 athletes on the court in the PSA are women. The message that sends to both girls and boys is painfully clear - even 36 years after Title IX became law, things still aren't fair to female athletes and professionals. I have to admit that's reality, but I hate to see the NCAA present a powerful vision of inequality that will stick with both girls and boys sub-consciously. It's the subconscious "realities" and biases that are the toughest to change.

Mr. Brand, it's unworthy of the NCAA to create and air anything giving a message of inequality. I'm very disappointed and hope for better next year. I know you can make that happen.

Note: Readers can help by emailing Myles Brand with your Title IX stories and your suggestions for future NCAA PSAs.


Listen and you can hear it: the roar of airwaves buzzing, keyboards clicking, presses clattering, talk radio gasping and tv commentators shouting. Why?

Because some 14 and 15 year old girls in Massachusetts appear to have gotten pregnant on purpose and be happy about it.

Judging by the media furor, the fact that these girls chose to get pregnant means the world is going to end soon. Oh, and it means teen girls are certifiably insane. Oh, and it means that feminism is to blame. And celebrities and movies and the depressed economy of Glouscester, MA, etc., etc., etc.

One of the most thoughtful blogs I've seen on this is Courtney Macavinta's post at RespectRx that focuses on how self-respect and respect from others (and their lack) play such a critical role in the decisions that teens make.

Teen girls are confronted by lack of respect daily in the media. The media act like ocean waves eroding the already shaky self-respect of teen girls. In part, teens are susceptible to disrespecting themselves purely because of their developmentally normal confusion about who they are and where they belong. That's understandable.

What's NOT acceptable is the way media undermines girls' self-respect in countless ways.

What are the ways you see girls being disrespected in the media? Let me and other readers know by commenting. Let's start a list and then we will keep on working to make that list shorter.

Friday, June 20, 2008

When Do You Feel Beautiful?

Last night I saw a powerful and disturbing film America the Beautiful and met its amazing filmmaker, Darryl Roberts. Thanks to The Emily Program Foundation for bringing him to Minneapolis.

I can say a lot about both the film and Darryl. But the most important thing is, GO SEE IT! And TAKE ALL YOUR FRIENDS! (It's R-rated due to something Eve Ensler says in an interview but is far more appropriate for teens than any other R-rated movie I can think of.)

After getting home, I kept thinking about the film and what I can do to help pre-teen and teen girls believe in and honor their inner beauty and fight the popular media who hold their self-esteem hostage.

From my fan email to Darryl at 1.30 am this morning: Your film moved me so deeply – I’m very grateful that you’ve made such a powerful film and that your motivation for doing it is so personal and genuine. Your powerful spirit and conviction come through so strongly in the film and in person. Having heard about the film from my friend Carolyn Costin, I’ve been eagerly waiting to see it.

My personal passion and life mission is to help girls recognize the value of their own unique spirit and experience the power of their voices in the world. That’s why my twin daughters and I started New Moon Girl Media when they were 11 years old.

For 16 years at New Moon, we’ve pioneered and developed our Share the Power method with girls ages 8-15 as creative decisionmakers to create healthy media for girls. Our mission is Bringing Girls’ Voices to the World. We’ve done this with New Moon magazine and by creating opportunities for girls to be activists in the world. And on Sept. 1, we're launching a creative online community for girls ages 8-12 that will bring these opportunities to even more girls.

The issue of New Moon magazine that I gave you is a special annual issue called “25 Beautiful Girls,” that we’ve published since 1999. The idea for this annual issue was brainstormed by our Girls Editorial Board as an antidote to the malignant “beauty as physical perfection and material excess” culture that girls and women are being drowned out by every day.

Every issue of our magazine honors girls for their inner beauty – the beauty of compassion, action and creativity. We started the “Turn Beauty Inside Out” campaign to give girls and boys, women and men, tools and space to speak the truth to popular media about the great harm our culture’s narrow and exclusionary definition of beauty causes to us all. One of the things I particularly value about your work is the compelling way you show how this warped definition of beauty hurts boys and men just as much as it hurts girls and women.

I look forward to exploring how we can work together to bring the message of America the Beautiful and Turn Beauty Inside Out to tween and teen girls and inspire them to action on behalf of their inner beauty. I am excited to envision how we can help you spread this message to girls – it will be an honor!

Readers - please comment and share YOUR ideas for how we can all help each other, and especially girls and boys, in this critical work.

And please share with me when you feel beautiful -I want to make a long, long list of when women and girls feel beautiful for who we are and what we do - not for how we look or what we own!

I can't wait to hear from you about it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Girls growing New Moon

Here's a message from Julia for all girls & parents (see the end of the message if you're a parent or caring adult) who want to help New Moon reach more girls:

Hey girls,

You're the most important part of New Moon Girls and we want to invite you to be on the new Street Team that I'm coordinating-take a look at what this is about! At New Moon we want the world to hear from girls, respect girls, and support girls' dreams. The Street Team will help more and more girls everywhere use their voices, achieve their dreams, and work together in ways that matter.

You can use your voice and spread the word about New Moon Girls magazine and New Moon Girls online! Find out more about what the New Moon Girls Street Team is doing in June and all the fun ways YOU can get involved. New Moon plans are always centered on girls and their ideas so I want to hear from you!

Feel free to e-mail me and with questions and ideas, and I'll send you an application to join the team and get some street teamer goodies. Now you can share your love for New Moon while being an ambassador for girls and their dreams!

If you want to join the street team or if you've got thoughts on what Street Teamers could be doing...or even what we should name our street team, give me a shout!



For Parents & Other Adults: You can join the Street Team, too - email Julia for more info on what you can do to help.

Thanks for helping us reach more girls - they benefit from New Moon and you can get it to them.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bill Moyers Has Spoken!

Nancy Gruver and I are back at the National Conference for Media Reform today! I'm feeling tired but excited by--as Bill Moyers just said in his keynote speech--being surrounded by "kindred spirits."

Moyers' speech was of course excellent. He handed us the challenge and the power to insist on free media, accompanied by the inspiration and feeling of community to continue to do so. His words even brought a tear to my eye.

After his speech, Nancy Gruver and I agreed on what a great speech it was. And then Nancy said, "But out of all those quotes, examples, stories, and anecdotes he mentioned, not one involved a woman." That fact had slipped right past me, the feminist that I am, because I was listening to value of his words in my life and my work. And his words were incredibly valuable! But it's just worthy noting that yet again, female voices have been excluded from media, even at the Free Press conference for media *reform.* (There IS an awesome panel coming up today regarding how "there is no media reform without women" that I'm really looking forward to, and I hope they keep panels like this in the future and increase their number.)

I'm not criticizing Moyers for a personal oversight; his speech simply reflects the male-dominated history of media that continues up until today. When women's voices have been absent and silenced, their quotes and stories are much harder to find.

Our work at New Moon obviously addresses this issue - What else do you think we can do to help girls' and women's voices matter? What actions are you taking that you want to share? We're all together on this, and we'd love to hear your comments and ideas!

Friday, June 6, 2008

More from the NCMR

I'm done with sitting in on panels for the day, and my overall feeling is of inspiration. Many experts feel that we're at a cross-roads of change, and that calls for media reform and social change are stronger than they've been in a long time.

Also really important to me is the emphasis on collaboration I've been hearing. Events like this conference make the possibilities of the change that can happen with collaboration seem within reach. There are so many passionate, hard-working people here, gathered together to meet each other and work together. It's easy to become embittered or cynical when working alone, but remembering that each of us here today (and many others who aren't!) are out there, contributing to improving life on this planet, refreshes me and helps me keep going.

For now, I'm off to the art opening for Project Girl, a really exciting project where girls respond to negative media images with their own art and media pieces.

More tomorrow!

From the National Conference for Media Reform

Hi everyone! This is Julia again - I'm writing from the National Conference for Media Reform. So far we've heard some opening comments full of information, passion, and calls to action.

Everyone here has goals of shaping a free, tolerant society with open communication; this is the kind of world I want to help create for girls. The girls that I'm lucky enough to work with have the passion and energy to change things that frustrate them, and I hope that vigor never gets kicked out of them. When girls continue to speak out as they turn into women, it's much more likely that they will be future leaders in many industries as well as government. I'm really proud to be part of New Moon, where we help girls' voices stay strong!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Guest Post: Girl Media Maven Spreads the Word

Hi Girl Media Maven readers,

I'm Julia, an Online Editor at New Moon. I'm just dropping in to guest blog a bit about some of what I've been up to at New Moon.

I am really jazzed about and dedicated to New Moon's goals which help girls have confidence to realize their dreams. New Moon is growing these days to reach more and more girls and expand with its new online presence. As part of this process, I am working to help us have successful websites and blogs by spreading the word and my excitement for what we do at New Moon! I help to run our blog with girl teens, orb28, and I talk about New Moon with adults through blogs on many topics from media literacy to parenting to feminist news.

I'm excited to say that Girl Media Maven is now part of and, listings of blogs pertinent to the interests of moms and women in general. I hope that our listings in Alltop, along with,, and some others, will help parents (dads too!) and adults who care about girls to find our community.

And speaking of community, I'd love to invite you to join us on Facebook and MySpace if you haven't already! We're also on Twitter and FriendFeed, if you'd like to find us there! These communities are a good way to stay updated on New Moon happenings and share the work of New Moon with friends.

I also hope you love our spiffy new buttons on the left sidebar that will help you share this blog and subscribe to the Girl Media Maven blog feed! (I just discovered the magic of RSS feeds myself, and I definitely recommend getting yourself set up with a reader if you're not already. It makes staying up to date with news and articles so much easier than receiving tons of emails. I use Google Reader and there are lots of other good ones out there too!)

As you can tell, I'm really passionate about using the internet to help us come together to improve girls' and women's lives. And I'd love to connect with you! Please feel free to email me at with questions and comments. If you or anyone you know would like to become involved in guest posting, content sharing, or other forms of partnership with New Moon, feel free to email me as well.

So far in my web travels I have met many kind and interesting folks doing great work for girls, and I'm excited at what we can achieve if we work together. I'd love if you could help spread the word about New Moon, and hope to learn that you're interested in working collaboratively so we can help your valuable work as well. I look forward to hearing from you!