I’d rather my daughter smoke weed than read Seventeen
(submitted by seth@OOC)
We originally posted this in May of 2011. While the specificity of Ann’s hypocricy has since passed, we think the breadth of Seventeen’s hypocrisy continues. Be who you are – but don’t pretend to be something else.
Our daughter’s a year older…but nothing has changed enough to cause us to change our title, premise, nor belief. (5.3.12. and again on 4.2.13)
This is Ann Shoket, Seventeen magazine’s editor. I hear she’s very nice. But I also think this picture, which is (note: it was) her twitter profile pic, is a ridunkulous display of hypocrisy and moral convenience. I don’t think you get to bitchslap the pressure to be perfect in a profile pic AT THE SAME TIME you’re yelling “PERFECT HAIR all summer” on your magazine’s cover, and promoting a “bonus mag” that screams: “BODY“, “Makeover“; Flat Abs! A great butt! Amazing legs! Yummy Recipes!“. That’s. Just. Not. Cool.
Maybe it’s just me, but you just shouldn’t get to position yourself as part of the solution when you’re still an on-going part of the problem.
And Seventeen’s a part of the problem. In my opinion, they’re a big part of the problem. In my opinion, they have a lot to do with the fact that 7 out of 10 girls feel they’re not “good enough”. I think they’ve been and are a prime-mover in the epidemic crisis of confidence infecting so many young girls – and the women they grow up to be. (If you want more data, and to be absolutely horrified about the state of self-esteem among girls, check out Dove’s Real Girls, Real Pressures study here.)
But here’s the thing, we’re all complicit until we do something more about it. This crisis of confidence is our individual and collective responsibility (and it’s not just girls facing the crisis). Until Seventeen’s the only available choice or voice, the tragic state of self-esteem among young women is as much about the decisions we – all of us – do and don’t make as parents, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors, teachers, consumers, viewers, readers, ticket buyers, and the sellers of same, as it is the ones Seventeen and Ann make.
And like Ann, a lot of us have complicated relationships with conscience and commerce, and with the business of popular culture and the so-called standards, norms and ideals it creates and promotes (and the ones it doesn’t too). Hollywood, as I’ve said in this space before, built our house, is paying for our kids’ education, the laptop this is being written on, and this very site (thank you, Hollywood). I love me some popular culture AND the industry(s) that make it.
But the industry and its players – ones including Ann and Seventeen – can do so much more good. They just have to choose to.
I’m not saying Seventeen’s all bad. In fact, I’ve got friends that like the magazine and think Ann’s swell. Seventeen’s content isn’t 100% inaccessible aspiration and fantasy, ideals and expectations, just largely. They slip in the right words, and there’s always an article or 2 about embracing the beauty of differences and relishing imperfections. To me, however, that’s a defensive posture, the equivalent of McDonald’s telling you to watch your caloric intake, and the editorial equivalent of tokenism. Don’t get me wrong, I like inaccessible aspiration and fantasy as much as anyone. Aspirations, imagination, experimentation, it’s all good. I love Harry Potter. I too want to be thinner and healthier and “never have frizzy hair ever again.” Really I do, and sometimes it really all is in good fun.
But sometime’s it’s not – it’s just business as usual. Seventeen does good business, and Ann does a good job as their editor, maybe even a great one. But why not choose to be a more active part of the solution and a less active part of the problem? Be a little more like Ryan Murphy and Glee or Ellen or Oprah or Dan Savage and It Gets Better or Lady Gaga (whose message is frequently – and understandably – overshadowed by her meat dress). Do just a little less evil, to paraphrase Google’s line about doing no evil at all.
But until then, Ann, we think you should change your picture. You can’t sell beauty (and a very slim picture of its possibilities), make overs, dreams, and fantasies and then position yourself as an ally in the fight against the very pressures to be perfect that you helped create in the first place. Unless you’re ok with talking out of both sides of your mouth.
I don’t think you are – but you should still change your picture. Like I said before, I hear you’re really nice – but you should change your picture. In my opinion, of course. But then again, I’d rather my daughter smoke weed than read Seventeen. I think weed’s less dangerous to her health and happiness than Seventeen, and I think I’d really prefer she be under the influence of the former then the latter, especially since she shouldn’t be driving with either. She’s only 5, but you get my point.
Love is indeed louder than the pressure to be perfect (which is Demi Lovato’s excellent campaign), though it may not be louder than Seventeen. If you agree that maybe Ann’s trying to have it both ways championing a solution to problems she helps create, join in and all together now we’ll chant “Change your picture! Change your picture! Change your picture!” It’s not as catchy a chant as I’d like, but it gets to the point. Maybe she’ll change her picture. I mean a picture’s easy…we’re not suggesting they change the entirety of the magazine, just acknowledge your responsibility.
Ann’s changing her picture won’t mean much in and of itself but maybe it’ll mean something, and that would be “pretty amazing”.
If you don’t agree, or have anything to add, as always please tell us, we want to know. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe you love or loved Seventeen and have wildly healthy body-confidence, self-esteem…and great hair too. Maybe your daughter reads it, loves it and is happy and healthy and good. I hope so. I’d love to be wrong, because I really don’t want ER smoking weed either.
But if you agree with the premise, let’s see if together we can convince Ann to change her picture – by showing her there are enough people who think she should. You can RT our tweet to Ann here. Let’s get our social media on and #changeit, shall we?
For my daughter (and son) and all the other girls (and boys) out there, thanks for thinking about it, seth.
P.S. A good editor, like Ann, would have done wonders for this piece, so if you know of any hit us at TalkToUs@OffOurChests.com