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Monday, July 14, 2008

And still they're blaming magazines

Monday morning is the time to put out your press release. They're so desperate they'll go big on anything. This morning the Girl Guides and the Mental Health Foundation have got some play out of a report that says "Teenage girls report pressure to live up to sexual ideals". Apparently the people to blame are magazines and websites.
Tracey Murray, trustee for Girlguiding UK, said young girls often found it difficult to cope with an increasing number of social pressures. "Young girls today often feel there is a growing checklist of ideals they have to adhere to. If they don't they often feel singled out and vulnerable to bullying." A significant number of respondents felt that images and advice given in magazines and online pushed them towards adult behaviour before they were ready, she added.
While it's true to say that girls do feel terrible pressure it's preposterous to blame it on magazines. The last ten years have seen the decline and in many cases the closure of the very teenage magazines that used to be criticised by publicity-seeking MPs for perverting the morals of adolescent girls. If they read anything at all now it's the celeb weeklies which are obsessed with the putting on and taking off of weight and are quite open about it. The whole question of body image is something they gleefully mine for stories of triumph'n'tragedy. At least all girls nowadays know it's An Issue.

If you've spent any time with teenagers (girls, particularly) you'll learn that their first response to any problem is to blame it on somebody else. Turn up with a clipboard and say "tell me about the things in your life that aren't fair" and they'll talk your ear off. You'll also learn that they cluster in small social groups, exert power by excluding each other and very often take a strange delight in hurting each other's feelings. I've raised boys and girls and I know which can turn ugliest.

And actually if you want to know what really distorts a teenage girls' view of the world it's television. It's here that the presenters of children's programmes are chosen as much for their eye-candy quality as for their talent. It's here that there are whole channels devoted to soaps, high school dramas and desert island shows in which the casts are always slighly better looking and slightly slimmer than they were the year before. It's here - just last night in fact - that two BBC newsreaders popped up on "Top Gear" flicking their hair and talking about who had the nicest arse.