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Mixed messages: What are magazines pushing?

Life with a View

October 29, 2011
Deb Pascoe ( , The Mining Journal

I have a bone to pick with Seventeen magazine. A turkey bone, to be exact.

I was flipping through my daughter's November issue of the magazine recently when I came across two articles that were so contradictory in their messages you'd swear they were intended as a lesson in irony.

First, let me tell you that Seventeen has been promoting a "Body Peace Treaty" for four years. It's meant to encourage girls to accept and love their bodies, whatever their size or shape.

The November issue hails the winners of Seventeen's Body Peace Awards - celebrities and everyday young women who have freed themselves from the pressure of pursuing stereotypical physical perfection. Reality star Kim Kardashian, actress Jennifer Lawrence and singer/actress Queen Latifah were honored for being at home in their heavier, curvier bodies and for being role models for young women everywhere. That was on page 84.

Cut to page 80, which offers a pageful of advice on how to eat "right" at Thanksgiving. Girls are advised to avoid the dark meat of the turkey, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, buttered biscuits and pecan pie.

And if that's not enough to suck the pleasure out of a sumptuous holiday dinner, here's another tip: "Too many starchy carbs can cause major bloat. So make stuffing with whole wheat bread instead, and ask Mom to cook it outside the turkey - it won't soak up all the grease!"

The article softens its deprivation message with helpful alternatives. Pumpkin pie instead of pecan. Stuffing (cooked outside the bird, girls!) instead of a buttered biscuit. Mashed potatoes, not candied sweet potatoes. Sauteed string beans, not green bean casserole.

Apparently, Seventeen wants girls to feel good about themselves, but not so good they shouldn't feel guilty about indulging in a once-a-year holiday feast.

For an additional dollop of irony, two of the magazine's cover stories promise: "Perfect Legs, Butt & Abs, No Workout Required!" and "Look Cute & Confident! Hair & Makeup Tricks That Make You Instantly Prettier!"

I have two daughters. I understand the girly arts of makeup, hairstyling and fashion. It's fun to get made up and dressed up; it feels good to receive compliments from friends and second looks from boys. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it's accompanied by a healthy dose of perspective.

Pretty, flirty, cute and shapely are not and should not be sold as the be all and end all of being a girl. Having grown up during the heyday of the women's liberation movement, I am disturbed - and enraged - at the idea of today's girls being sold this superficial, outdated model of young womanhood.

Being a teenage girl is hard enough: Transitioning from child to not-quite-adult, enduring hormonal riptides, negotiating the sometimes nasty politics of friendships, navigating boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.

You'd think a magazine like Seventeen would want to offer girls tools for developing a healthier self-image. Instead, it's adding fuel to the emotional and psychological fire, exhorting girls to love themselves as they are while sending an unspoken message: "You're perfect as you are - just not quite perfect enough."

It's up to us to counter that message with a strong message of our own: You don't need to be perfect, you only need to be you.

That's a true body - and soul - peace treaty.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by email to "Life With a View," a collection of her Mining Journal columns, is available at area bookstores. Read her blog online at



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