Shopping, shopping, shopping.
I don’t know about you, but this time of year requires quite a bit of Santa magic. You know, making lists, checking it twice, figuring out who’s been naughty or nice. Or a little of both.
As I checked items off my list last week, I happened to glance at the magazines beckoning me with their headlines. I immediately noticed how awful these women appeared on the covers; these are glamous professional women. Then I glanced at the famously attractive men; their appearance reflected kindness and, well, handsomeness.
Then I read the headlines that accompanied the photos. “What the heck?!” I thought. Actually those may not have been my exact words, but you get the point.
Then I took a picture.
Perpetuating sexist stereotypes
The women, who adorn only two of the five magazines, are:
- Multiple personalities
- Fight dirty
The sub-headlines about other female celebs describe them as…
The men, who are featured on the cover of three of the five magazines, are:
- Missing their children
- Living life fully
Seriously. That’s it.
Imagine this: An 8- or 10-year-old child is shopping with their parent. They glance over to these magazines, which are hard to miss at eye level to the child. Immediately, they staring into the angry faces of First Ladies accompanied by negative text. Their eyes then slide down to the quiet smile of Brad Pitt. They learn that he is lonely and sad and misses his kids because his mean ‘ol ex-wife won’t let him see them.
I don’t know Brad or Angelina. I don’t know what their marital story is – it’s none of my business – but I’m pretty sure the writer doesn’t know the true story, either. Yet the narrative on the covers of these magazines make it very clear: Women are not nice people and men are suffering because of this.
We often talk about how society views women vs. men and how these perspectives become engrained within societial norms. These magazine covers reflect how impactful media can be when defining gender attributes, consciously or subconsciously. In fact, these labels follow men and women into the real world. For example, women in professional positions of power are often labeled “bi*ch” where as men in similar positions of power are viewed as “confident”.
Media: Talk about it
According to the magazine covers, men are nice, women are not. However, as adults, we understand that all humans have good days and bad. These magazine covers are merely trying to sell copies.
It is important to dialogue about how different forms of media affect people’s views about all kinds of topics, not just sexist labeling. Here are some conversation starters you can use with your child as you wait in the endless grocery store lines. Be sure to adapt the conversations in an age appropriate manner.
- Do you think these individuals gave permission to have these photos on the cover or have these articles written about them? How would you feel if they were writing about you? Would you want people who’ve never met you to write about your personal life and share it with the world?
- Social media is another example of people sharing photos and stories about others without permission. We must be careful what we share and post online. Give examples of social media platforms and problems such as sexting and bullying. (Again, be age appropriate.)
- What kind of facial expressions do you see on the men? The women? What does that photo tell you about this person? Is that a fair message? Have you felt angry? Sad? Grateful? Does a person’s feelings have anything to do with being male/female/non-conforming (use the word that reflects your child’s identity).
- What kinds of messages are these magazines sending by using these photos and headlines? How might that impact people who read these magazines?
- Why do you think magazines feature photos such as these?
As adults, we understand these magazines are designed to entertain, not inform with accurate information. Yet, whether we realize it or not, when we read the headlines – often out of boredom – the messages are subliminally seeping into our minds.
Let’s help our children become media literate and prevent the subliminal seepage of misinformation into their curious minds.