Glossy Review: Girlfriend and teen love

Glossy Review: Girlfriend and teen love

There's a beautiful scene in the new Reese Witherspoon rom-com How Do You Know where Kathryn Hahn is told by her partner, just after giving birth to a baby, that he loves her constant worrying because it shows she has a big heart. What truer mark of genuine love that someone who can love you just as you are – with all your personality quirks? Imagine being able to do the same for yourself.  

Like most girls/women, I've struggled a lot in this department. And I had a major epiphany the other night when my Husband said to me, "I can't ever imagine apologising for being myself." He doesn't have tickets on himself, but he's 100% comfortable with who he is – back hair and all. What a wonderfully liberating way to live. If only more women had the same self-confidence. It's a work-in-progress for me.

Today, the beautiful Emily Jade O'Keefe has allowed me to step onto her Emily Everywhere blog to pen a note to my 16-year-old self containing the messages I wish I'd gleaned as a vulnerable teen. The amazing Regina Spektor (interviewed here by Daily Candy), says, "I'm not embarrassed of anything... If anything is, like, good and makes you happy, you should be, like, 'Cool, this makes me happy'." 

Teen magazines can't be all things to all teens, but they can give them room (permission, even) to explore their own personal tastes and values without being prescriptive or didactic about what equates to a valid existence (like this band, hate this band, wear this, do your hair this way...).

Treading the line between aspiration and self-acceptance is tricky territory – achieving a balance is key to conveying the message that teen girls, in particular, are all unique without losing cache in the pop culture, fashion, entertainment and beauty departments, which fund the magazine's pages.

For the most part, Girlfriend magazine achieves this with its 'Self Respect' campaign and 'Guru' pages and the variety of voices/columnists it features each month. It encourages positive social behaviours with its anti-bullying campaign messages and creativity with DIY projects, and shines a light on the underbelly of celebrity culture (see this month's 'Falling Stars' feature).

It addresses emotional and relational issues through stories on friends ('Unfriends Forever'), parents ('Rent Control') and being the new girl in school ("just be yourself" is the recommendation), and health (sexual or otherwise) in the 'Good Advice' and 'Guru' pages. The more sensational side of girls' lives are shared in 'GF Gets Real' ('My ex is dating my mum') and embarrassing moments are shared, as well as the interior thoughts and behaviours of boys.

While the February cover and "10-page guy crush special" might suggest love = being with a big spunk of a bloke like Luke Mitchell and there are oodles of pictures of glamorous celebrities (see 'Glamouriser'), which glorify pretty girls with all the fame in the world, there's also a fashion shoot titled 'No Boys Required', "real girls" modelling clothes, and a story for Valentine's Day cynics ('7 Things we'd rather do than celebrate Valentine's Day').

I'd love to see this mag – which has been at the forefront of body image campaigning – become more the Regina Spektor of the glossy world, showcasing even more of the ways girls are finding their own happiness and voices, their own way to live and dress and relate and give back to the world; no apologies necessary.

A glossy worth spending your pocket money on this month?

Girl With a Satchel 


Anonymous said...

its funny how you always praise Girlfriend but every now and then you will bully Dolly???!!! a little biased i think you are at times.

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Well, this is all about perspective - I thought I was fair in my appraisal and am also always fair with Dolly.

Penny said...

I completely agree with Anonymous. You're all about CLEO and Girlfriend (the biases are very, very obvious and it's easy to see why) but you never mention Cosmopolitan or Dolly. Fair enough if they're genuinely not your cup of tea, but you hardly even mention Cosmo, the biggest-selling magazine in the world. Bit unfair.

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

To all concerned,

Though it would be ideal. I can't possibly get to all the magazInes in any given day/week, so I concentrate on those titles that pique my interest (without doubt tied into my particular sensibilities) at that point of time on any given day.

Cosmo is on my radar (and I have written for Cosmo in the past, as well as CLEO, so I'm not sure where that accusation of bias comes from) and I'm fully aware of its reach and influence.

Re. Girlfriend - I haven't worked or written for the title for four years, so that claim is getting a bit old. But I still regard it as a positive influence in the magazine world. I have acknowledged DOLLY's positive work in the past, too.

A blog simply cannot be all things to all people with the limited resources I work with... and, believe me, they are limited. And often our perceptions are skewed by our personal biases, too – as much for me as for you.


Anonymous said...

I think we're all missing a major point here. That your letter to your 16 year old self is quite beautiful and I'm sure on some level everyone can relate.
Thanks, Erica!

Alison said...

Love his post Erica - rings clear and true!

Anonymous said...

I don't get what the fuss is about - this review doesn't seem too overly positive or gushing, so why the accusations of bias? I don't see any foundation for them.

Tania said...

I've been following your blog for quite some time and your style of writing is incredible. It inspires me to improve mine, you grip my attention with every word!