For the first time in history, a woman is about to be on the ballot of the United States presidential election. Elsewhere in today’s news, you’ll see that an A-list celebrity couple that shall remain nameless is very consciously uncoupling, and the general consensus is that the wife is neither pitiful nor jilted, but a strong, caring, independent, politically engaged mom who will be just as happy standing on her own as she was when she was one half of Hollywood’s most revered couple.
Suffice it to say that the whole “what does it mean to be a woman in today’s society?” or, put more simply, “what will I be when I grow up?” conversation sounds a whole lot different to today’s little girls and boys than it did just a few decades prior. Which is why Amy Schumer, Blake Lively, Katie Holmes, Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll, a mother of five living in Israel and Facebook users worldwide are particularly peeved with the following image:
Girls’ Life magazine promises its tween audience tips on how to “wake up pretty!” and first kiss confessionals. Boys’ Life, meanwhile, encourages young men to explore their future: “Astronaut? Artist? Firefighter? Chef? Here’s how to be what you want to be.” Each glossy targets readers of a very impressionable age, each touts a drastically different message.
Back at the start of September, this side-by-side comparison of recent issues of Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life magazines went viral when Matt Frye, Kansas City native and father of three, noticed the anachronistic display at his local library and snapped a picture. “A sad microcosm of what our society says being a girl vs being a boy means,” he wrote in a Facebook post in which he shared the troubling photo. “With three girls to raise, this breaks my heart. I’ll fight like hell for my girls to not exist in this reality.”
In no time, the post had circled the globe and sparked the incredulity of thousands, including Keats-Jaskoll, who penned an open letter to the editors of Girls’ Life magazine. (Note: The publication is not affiliated with Boys’ Life.) We highly recommend reading the full letter, below, but the basic takeaway is: “WHAT in the name of all that is and ever was good are you teaching girls?? Is this the message you want for your daughters?? You are women. Working, professional women. Is this the message you are proud of? Is this why you became publishers, writers, graphic designers? To tell girls they are the sum of their fashion, makeup, and hair?”
The tumult surrounding was reignited yesterday when Schumer stumbled upon the photo. Not one to let incidents of sexism slide, the comedian voiced her disapproval on Instagram, her caption a simple but poignant: “No.” One hour later, Lively chimed in, “Wow. Amy Schumer, I second that emotion. Ladies, lets not let this happen anymore.” Not long after Lively’s post, Holmes joined in on the roast, adding “#thisneedstochange.”
In an interview with Refinery29 given on September 2, 2016 BS (Before Schumer), Karen Bokran, founding editor of Girls’ Life, argued her publication should not be judged by its cover: “Are we more than lip gloss and clothes? Of course,” she stated. “It’s OK to like lip gloss or be interested in fashion… I don’t know how [the problem] became either you like lip gloss and clothes or you like being an astronaut.”
Whether Bokran will consider rebranding Girls’ Life now that the Woman of the Year has spoken out against the glossy remains to be seen, but if she does, graphic artist Katherine Young is full of potential content and cover art ideas:
— Katherine Young (@Katersbonnevill) September 8, 2016
Granted, we’ve never picked up a copy of Girls’ Life so we can’t unequivocally judge the magazine. However, we do know this: It is the responsibility of the media, along with celebrities like Schumer, Holmes and Lively (who often appear on the covers of magazines meant for readers who value both substance and style…and tabloids that don’t) to fill the minds of future generations with inspiration, not inanity.