Two weeks ago Girls’ Life magazine accidentally stirred up a very important conversation. The magazine, meant to provide important information and life advice for adolescent girls, was compared to a recent cover of Boys’ Life magazine. Articles from Girls’ Life titled, “Wake up Pretty!” and “Your Dream Hair,” were juxtaposed to the Boys’ Life call to action: “Explore your Future”.
In the words of my girl Amy Schumer, “no.”
The overall mission of Girls’ Life magazine- to promote comprehensive information about academic success, peer pressure, relationships, time-management, growing up as a girl- is a great one. However, as we clearly see in their latest cover, this advice has gone from catering to the specific needs of women and girls, to putting them in a box. A sexist, exclusive, gender stereotyping, probably off-beige colored box. If the premise of magazines like Girls’ Life is to give girls the resources to become thoughtful, successful women, then they’re missing some key information.
Reading about Girls’ Life had me thinking more and more about the ways in which we teach or “inspire” young girls to shoot for success. From the time I was a young nugget in kindergarten to my freshman year of high school, I was a member of my community’s local Girls Scout troop (squad #540). The organizational mission statement of the Girl Scouts of America– much like that of Girls’ Life magazine- is to build girls of “courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.” Because of girl scouts, I was able to attend job fairs, develop community service projects, participate in cultural consideration activities and work towards goals that I believed could “make the world a better place.” However, I still felt limited. My brother, a Boy Scout at the time, would come home from his weekly Monday meetings with an agenda quite different from mine. While I was working on completing a badge titled, “Science with a Sparkle!” my brother was earning the “Chemist” badge. While he was working with community members to build a new park near our church, I was on a trip at the Girl Scout Cookie making factory. While he was outside, camping in the wilderness, I was inside sleeping on top of an air mattress because the outdoors were too dangerous for a young girl.
Neither organization, Boy or Girl Scouts, are perfectly constructed. However there is a clear difference in the way that we are telling boys and girls to shoot for success. What both Girls’ Life and the Girl Scouts of America are missing is the fact that girls want to be chemists, build parks, go camping, and explore their futures- they just live in a society that tells them otherwise. Just ask yourself: where are the female role models in STEM fields? The television shows that follow the story of a woman and her career rather than a woman and her relationship? Who is spearheading the Leslie Knope troop of glorious female warriors- hear my womanly roar?!
We have got to readdress the ways in which we challenge and encourage girls to succeed on a collective and individual level. Collectively, we have to cut the frills when it comes to selling girls success. Instead of articles titled “Next Level Tips and Trends” why not “Next Level Planning and Goals”. Instead of cookie selling prizes like jewelry boxes and nail wraps how about offering outdoors or activity building prizes? Instead of pigeonholing girls into traditional roles we must instead give them choices that reflect their wide range of interests. The same sentiments must be relayed when readdressing the individual ways in which we inspire girls to aim for success. Don’t assume that a girl will always choose the craft over the outdoor activity. Instead, give them the choice to do both.
Girls’ Magazine and the Girl Scouts of America are both incredible foundations that have encouraged women and propelled them towards success. However, there is still, clearly, so much more both can be doing to even the playing field for men and women.