What are teenage girls really thinking?

Women in journalism today held a conference to discuss the negative body image promoted by magazines for girls and young women, according to an article in The Guardian.

The conference, titled, ‘Am I Bothered? What are Teenage Girls Really Thinking?,’ concentrated specifically on the proliferation in websites associated with magazines, which encourage readers to post photographs of themselves to be rated by others surfing the web. Bliss magazine has been cited as one of the biggest culprits, with the ‘How Sexy Am I?’ feature of the website allowing viewers to rate teenage girls on the basis of their looks and ‘pulling-ability.’

Cherie Booth was chairing the meeting, providing a forum to discuss the extent to which female publications are being influenced by the ‘lad’s mag’ culture, as outlined in a recent report. Fiona Bawdon, the author of the investigation, is concerned about the influence this can have on the confidence and mental health of young women:

“Should a teen magazine really be encouraging young girls to think in terms of ‘hating’ their still developing bodies? It’s hard to see what possible purpose such a survey can serve, other than scoping the teen market for potential plastic surgery customers.”

Only a few days ago FHM was condemned by the Press Complaints Commission for publishing a photograph of a topless fourteen year old girl without her consent. What both these cases highlight is the power the media has on a woman’s interpretation of her own body and her own sexuality from a very young age. This is true to the extent that some girls only feel her attractiveness is validated by male approval.

Why magazines containing sexualised images of women are starting to influence the production of publications for women is a mystery. Maybe this is because, with the emphasis put on the readers, their bodies, and their photographs, they are much cheaper to produce than something that would actually require some effort and may be interesting to read. It’s not suprising that with this reductive and condesending attitude towards their readers that the print industry continues to be in decline.