Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Do Women And Girls Read "Age-Appropriate" Magazines? Nah.

There's recently been some of hubbub regarding to Dakota Fanning's Cosmo cover. One glance at the 17-year-old hanging out next to headlines screaming "His Best Sex Ever" and "Um, Vagina, Are You Okay Down There?" explains why. However, I wonder if Cosmo isn't so much pushing boundaries as they are appealing to their actual demographic.

My first magazine subscription was to American Girl, and it was the highlight of my month. I painstakingly tried to make its recipes, got advice from the "Heart to Heart" section and wished I could write journals as cool as Amelia's. But around age 10, my friends and I started reading the harder stuff.

It started out innocently enough: a purchased Girl's Life here, a daring peek into the now-defunct YM there. But by the time I turned 11, none of us were buying (supposedly) age-appropriate material. We were now all about publications like Seventeen (which made us feel like hotshots since it had "teen" in the title).

Our parents would have had fits, and that's what made reading these magazines all the more appealing. Granted, they were really only slightly risqué, but the thought of "making out" and even the word "sexy" seemed dangerous and forbidden. I distinctly remember a number of times where we would secretly read Cosmo Girl in someone's basement, taking all the precautions of kids smoking weed.

I started reading Cosmopolitan in early high school, along with every other girl I knew. What had we been thinking, reading Seventeen? That was kid stuff -- this was clearly a magazine for sexy, mature women. And (as almost every outlet pandered to us) that's what we were supposed to become! Wouldn't we become so mature by reading it? So we eagerly devoured every issue, sexy spatula advice and all.

My interest in Cosmo faded during senior year as my identity and interests truly began to develop. A few friends read it for a bit longer, but soon none of us were interested. To this day, the only Cosmo readers I know are in high school. While I'm not here to provide a critique of the magazine, I think that says a lot about its message. Girls around Dakota's age are frantically trying to establish themselves as "real women" for a variety of reasons, and Cosmo waves from magazine racks, promising to deliver just that.

(My own post, originally published on Lovelyish)

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