Of all the “how to’s” teen mags could be teaching girls, “How to make him like you” is among the least crucial.
I love snarking on magazines for women. They give weird dating advice, they promote materialism, and they airbrush models to the point of freakishness. Every six months or so, I buy one, and then I remember why I don’t buy them.
But what about magazines for teenage girls? Mags like Girl’s Life and Seventeen contain much of the same drivel that’s marketed at women, adapted for their younger audience. Every month, Cosmopolitan offers women sex tips (because, ladies, if you don’t try out all these circus tricks, your man is sure to leave you); Girls’ Life explains how not to be clingy (because, girls, if you show too much interest in your boy, he’ll leave you for that cheerleader! OK, that might actually be true, but nevertheless …)
As an adult, I have the capacity and sense of self to ignore the crap spouted by women’s magazines. But – having survived adolescence myself – I know that teen girls don’t necessarily have such wisdom. Many of them want to be perfect, and they think these magazines have all the answers.
The other day, I checked out the website for Girls’ Life. I used to read that magazine; I remember liking it for its hair and makeup tips and human interest stories. Now, Girls’ Life has a section on its website called “Get a BF.” It includes a page where readers can ask guys their boy questions, a page that explains “What guys think,” and pages of reader-submitted stories about guys who are “sweeties” or “meanies.”
Girl’s Life and other teen magazines teach young girls to change themselves for boys, to put boys’ interests before theirs, and to be afraid of being “too demanding.” I read one column in which a girl was upset that her boyfriend never called, and the columnist explained it away with a classic line about men’s poor communication skills. Um, no. If we’re dating, you better call me, or I’ll find someone else who will.
None of this “advice” is remotely helpful to teenage girls. It’s not healthy and it’s not fair. I’m not saying magazines shouldn’t have sections about girls’ love lives. But why don’t they offer advice that’s actually helpful?
Let’s kill the sections on “How to know if he likes you.” If you can’t figure it out, that’s why you have friends – to help you analyze the situation. Need to vent about what a “meanie” he is? Also, friends. Want to make him like you? Don’t bother – he likes you or he doesn’t. Dating is about being yourself and finding someone who finds your particular brand of crazy endearing.
What should magazines devote their pages to instead? One thing is communication. Teenage girls – and women for that matter – find themselves in comprising, difficult, and unwanted situations all the time because they didn’t know how to say no, how to stand up for themselves, or how to articulate their feelings. It has happened to me, it has happened to my friends.
I want to see articles that tell young women to stand up for themselves and to not feel bad about it. No mixed messages. No, “Boys have bad communications skills so maybe you’re sweating it too much, but hey, if you really feel bad, you can tell him to call you!” That’s a mixed message. That says, “You’re dumb and needy, but hey, if you’re really upset, tell him, but don’t say that we didn’t warn you.”
I also want to see more articles about safe sex. I don’t need to quote statistics on teenage STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Teenagers are having sex, and if they’re not having sex, they’re thinking about how to get it. I would love to see more articles that address the “politics of sex” – how to get him to wear a condom, how to avoid being pressured, and how to communicate effectively.
“How to make him like you”? How about how to like yourself, how to stand up for yourself, how to express yourself, how to protect yourself? That’s the kind of stuff we should be talking about.