Objectification is everywhere. It permeates our daily lives and there’s no way to escape it. One of the most worrying places it is oh so apparent is in the media, and it’s affecting children more than ever. Which is why, when I was listening to Radio 4’s Women’s Hour this morning, I heard something great. Bea Appleby, the editor of Girl Talk magazine (aimed at ‘tweenagers’ between the ages of 7 and 12), claimed the magazine was warmly embracing a new phase: Feminism.
Studies by Girl Guides and Ofsted have highlighted the way in which young girls have been influenced by the images of the female form in the media, claiming that when asked, girls’ main worry was not their wit or intelligence, but their bodies. When Girl Talk ran a similar survey, the results caused some concern. Girls mostly idolised celebrities (in the form of pop and TV stars) and sportswomen and writers, for example, were nowhere to be seen. When asked how they would like to be described by others, the top answer, depressingly, was ‘pretty’; braveness, cleverness and strength, were all sidelined.
With girls being taught their place in the ever-gendered world, these answers are hardly surprising. Women are bought pink clothes for their daughters before they’re even born, girls are bought toy ovens and Barbies for Christmas, and they’re taught to idolise women for their beauty, not their brains. Now of course I’m making a few generalisations here, but I think on a whole I’m not wrong. This is why Girl Talks brave new phase comes as a ray of light for young girls.
The word ‘feminism’ need not be a dirty word. Many women, despite the recent momentum, still shy away from describing themselves as a feminist, for fear of being judged a man-hating crazy lady. So advertising a children’s magazine as feminist is a bold move, one that I bet will put many narrow-minded parents off. Young girls should learn to love themselves and love their friends, not because they’re pretty, but because they are funny, intelligent, interesting and confident. Once they do this, hopefully they will realise that’s what feminism is all about. Promoting sisterhood and equality shouldn’t be seen as a controversial move, but something wonderfully healthy.
As Bea Appleby says, ‘yes, we’re still pink – we advertise dolls and give away nail stickers – but within the limits of this business we are trying to make a positive difference’. Girl Talk has introduced the ‘Girl Talk promise’, which includes ‘I will love myself the way I am’ and ‘I believe girls are equal to boys’, while it still may be a girly-girly magazine, it’s a constructive step in the right direction, and something I admire.
Follow the #girlsareamazing hashtag on Twitter for more info.