'Girls' Life' Mag Responds to Sexism Controversy -- & It's a Reminder That Change Is Up to Us

A recent image of a Girls' Life magazine cover next to a Boys' Life cover is practically a ready-made sexist meme that got feminists everywhere all heated. But an exclusive conversation with the editor of Girls' Life convinced me that maybe it's not our daughters' magazines that need to change. Maybe it's us -- their parents.



Here's the image snapped by a dad named Matt Frye, who spotted the mags side by side at his local library:

"A sad microcosm of what our society says being a girl vs. being a boy means," Frye wrote. "With three girls to raise, this breaks my heart. I'll fight like hell for my girls to not exist in this reality."

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As a proud feminist mom, I will say that seeing those two covers staring back at me in my Facebook feed made me a little bit sick. It made me question if things will ever be equal for our girls and boys.

Then I talked to Girls' Life publisher and founding editor Karen Bokram. 

Bokram is taking a lot of heat this week for her publication, thanks to this viral photo. She said one person contacted her and said she was "worse than Donald Trump." Ouch.

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For anyone looking to shame Bokram for her work, don't waste your time. She says she's proud of the publication.

"I don't ever want to apologize for the fact that we have lip gloss," Bokram says. "I don't ever want to apologize that we have clothes." 

She goes on to explain that the letters, emails, tweets, and Snapchats she's received over the years are about a few very universal experiences for most 13-year-old girls: what to wear on the first day of school or who to sit with at lunch.

And whether we judge these experiences as silly or not, Bokran says, "They're real at the moment."

But, she adds, 85 percent of her magazine's circulation is from subscriptions, which it's pretty safe to assume are being paid for by parents. If we want our girls exposed to other media, it's pretty easy to simply buy another magazine.

"I'm not out there to determine how you should raise a child," Bokran says. "Ultimately it's for parents to decide."

For us to blame Girls' Life for the world our daughters inhabit is like blaming the existence of donuts for making you fat. We can't forget the role we all play as mothers in perpetuating a world where our girls are fed a constant diet of glitter.

That, my fellow parents, is on us.

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If girls' magazines with microscopes on the cover sold, the stands would be full of them. Magazines specifically, and media in general, are a reflection of what media companies understand to be the needs and interests of their readers. Not the other way around.

The magic happens at home.

It's probably also worth mentioning that the Boys' Life cover isn't for a consumer audience, like Girls' Life is. Boys' Life is published by the Boy Scouts and comes free with your membership.

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At the same time, let's not confuse expanding the definition of what it means to be a girl in this world to shaming them for their interests. Makeup and fashion are fun, and plenty of girls care about those things. Let's not just dismiss lip gloss as frivolous because it's "girlie." Our girls get to be interested in denim trends and robotics. And in my opinion, that should be the goal -- rather than raising girls to be more like the boys. Girls are cool. And we need to reinforce that with our daughters. But we have to remind them there's more to life than being a mute beauty queen, too. It's a delicate dance.

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If you don't think there's a double standard, ask yourself why people aren't furious that Boys' Life doesn't address its male readers with an interest in fashion. Don't all our kids deserve permission to be liberated from gender stereotypes?

It's all about opening up the world of possibility for all of our kids.

So, yes, let's yell and scream and get irate about media for girls. It's narrow and constantly tells them there's only a tiny, tired path that's acceptable for them. As their mothers, we should raise holy hell to bring about change. It's our responsibility to loudly call out sexism wherever we see it.

But we can't ever forget our kids' most important influencers: their parents. Magazines and media are a reflection of who we are. And while the media can always do better and aim higher, the fact remains that it won't change until the market it serves does first. No amount of lip gloss can change that.

So let's get busy.



Image via Matt Frye/Facebook



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