"If you’ve looked at a teen mag lately, I think you can guess what they found – images of girls have gotten more sexualized over time. The number of sexualizing characteristics of girls in Seventeentripled and the number of sexualizing characteristics in Girls’ Life multiplied by 15 – yikes! Most of these changes in sexualization were really recent—like in the 2000s, and a little in the 1990s. They also found that, especially in Girls’ Life, the number of images with “childlike characteristics” have decreased over time. Or in other words,these magazines show pictures of girls-as-women, not girls-as-children.
So what does this really mean? Over time, they found that the images of girls were more sexualized and in Girl’s Life there was less “girl” –as in things that are childlike—and more images of sexualized women. But what’s the big deal? Well, we know that at least 35% of teenage girls read magazines every day. That’s a lot of exposure to these types of images. And this can be really bad for girls. Here at SPARK, our mission is to “take sexy back,” but that doesn’t include bombarding girls with sexualized pictures. Constantly seeing images of older, sexualized girls can lead to girls thinking they need to look like those grown-up images in the magazines. The desire to fit into a narrow idealized version of femininity can lead girls to feeling ashamed of their bodies or becoming overly concerned with their appearance. We know that focusing too much on appearances (aka trying to “look sexy”) can get in the way of girls’ developing a healthy embodied sexuality that is rooted in feeling sexy. It’s just not good for girls to equate ‘being grown up’ with being sexualized.”
by Kimberly Belmonte