Saturday, February 25, 2017

Stuff I Love: Politics & Lipgloss

When I was younger, I was an avid magazine reader. I mean, I was an avid reader of all things, but I really hit peak magazine reading between the ages of 12 and 19. My earliest non-Highlights magazine memories involve Bop, Teen Beat, and Tiger Beat. No 12 year old can ever have enough pictures of the Coreys, Christian Slater, or the boy band of my preteen existence, New Kids on the Block. Eventually, I would move onto movie magazines like Premiere and Entertainment Weekly, music magazines including but not limited to Rolling Stone, Spin, and Mojo (because imports are cool), and more political/social commentary magazines like Ms and Vanity Fair.

Seventeen magazine was the first magazine I ever subscribed to that I selected on my own. I was probably 14 or 15 at the time and enjoyed getting mail so a magazine seemed like a good investment. I was like most young women in my age group, trying to fit in and figure out to be pretty and fashionable. Seventeen promised fashion tips, what boys like, and the latest celebrity news. I can't say that I learned much about makeup or the world of dating from Seventeen but it did lead me to my deep commitment to fashion magazines. I can draw a very bold connecting line in the magazine web of my life from Seventeen to Vogue, Elle, and InStyle. I didn't renew my subscription and eventually moved onto music magazines and more lifestyle themed periodicals.

In college, I came to the crushing realization that magazines are freaking expensive. Subscriptions actually make more sense when you're on a budget; I've had several magazine subscriptions over the year; Rolling Stone, Southern Living, and Ms are my mainstays. My friends and I also started magazine swapping, a practice I continued as I moved into jobs that required lots of travel. When you co-worker likes Real Simple and Cosmo and you like Elle and Garden & Gun, you have a swap made in heaven. I like variety in my reading, both in books and periodicals, so I gravitate towards magazines that can give me that. This is why I started reading Vanity Fair; it's a perfect mix of fashion, politics, pop culture, and stuff rich people like. Jane was like that in its heyday but for the late teen/early 20s set just discovering feminism and dark eyeliner.

Magazines like Teen Vogue aren't new. There have always been magazines catering to young girls and women that mix fashion, celebrity gossip/news, and social commentary. In any given issue, you'll find an article on current fashion trends (but never the one that says skinny jeans are going away), the latest on whatever celebrity couple is popular, and a piece on a world event told from the lens of a teenager. I remember reading about campus sexual assault and identity theft and eating disorders in Seventeen. However, I always remember the articles being tame; informational but not controversial. I was in my teens when zines were popular but I never really got into those either (that would happen in college). Most adults consider magazines like Teen Vogue fluffy and don't put much stock in them.

Until now. Since last year, Teen Vogue has consistently lead the charge with hard-hitting news stories on a host topics: DAPL, feminism and the current election cycle, sexual harassment, multiculturalism, trans rights, the 45 and team's blatant disregard for the truth, Congress's inability to do its job. Teen Vogue has done more to put the current administration on blast that some of its more "important" and influential media siblings. Current editor Elaine Welteroth took over in May and with the start of her tenure, the magazine has taken a much more political stand, including a very sharp focus on teen activism. It's refreshing and it gives me hope for the future.

That's actually how I stumbled upon the journalism of Teen Vogue. Back in November, there was a great piece on the Dakota Access Pipeline and the protests taking place at Standing Rock. The article included video featuring two girls participating in the protest. The article doesn't simplify what's happening at Standing Rock but clarifies it and puts in the context of young Americans. For me, it was a look at teen activism in a way that I hadn't seen in a long time. I started falling Teen Vogue after reading this story and have not been disappointed. The article that brought a ton of attention on the magazine was Laura Duca's fierce piece entitled "Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America", published in early December. Duca, the current weekend editor for Teen Vogue, is an award-winning journalist and the piece on gas lighting was one of the best I've read on the topic. Duca also has the distinction of being a freaking boss on Fox News. She a strong voice on politics and social commentary AND she's funny to boot. Lily Herman gave us one of the clearest explanations of the impeachment process in a piece called "Presidential Impeachment, Explained". I retweeted five of their articles this week alone. (I also retweeted two animal photos, an article about an exhibit at the Hirshhorn, a tweet from Classic Alternative about The Smiths that involved a sight gag, and several HuffPo pieces about politics - a lot happens in my brain on Twitter.)

Why does it matter? We have a president who claims that the media is the enemy of the American people. This is the language of despots. It can't be the sole responsibility of CNN or Fox News or The Washington Post or The New York Times (or whatever legitimate news source you prefer) to report news and question the administration on their policies and actions. In light of this week's ban on some major news outlets from certain White House press briefings (it's like they write these posts for me), it's even more important to embrace magazines like Teen Vogue. I would be saying this regardless of who the is president so keep your "you're just mad your candidate didn't win" nonsense to yourself. The truth is being obscured: the term "alternative facts" is a thing now, and this administration has no idea how to run itself. Teen Vogue and magazines like it are important because they focus on an audience we only care about when trying to sell them stuff: teenage girls. This magazine speaks the language of teens. It sparks discussion in a way that doesn't speak down to them or exclude them. It promotes the good work teen activists are doing, hopefully inspiring more teens to get involved and be socially conscious. Teen Vogue balances being a good citizen with being a teenager (a fashionable one at that). You can be both. That's why Teen Vogue matters. And that is why it made to the list of "Stuff I Love."

Do yourself a favor: follow Teen Vogue on your preferred social media site or go out and buy an actual copy. It's worth the read.  Maybe buy the Sunday edition of The Washington Post or The New York Times while you're at it. And while you're completing the Sunday crossword in pen like the boss you are, check out Elaine Welteroth and Phillip Picardi on The Daily Show.

March is Women's History Month - woohoo a whole month to celebrate the achievements of women! The Island is bringing back "Women Who Rock" for this year's celebrations. Check it out starting next weekend!

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