By Emma Di
Feminists over 18 who, like me, like a bit of fashion advice and actress interviews from oh so popular magazines every once in a while – I would like to take your Cosmo, Vogue, Cleo and Frankie and raise it to a Girlfriend.
Yesterday, I was chilling out in Southbank before a class for a good hour and decided to buy a mag to spend the time away. I walked into a newsagent and went for my usual choice: Cosmopolitan. But reading the headlines, I realised that nope, I really didn’t feel like reading about “what he feels about my make up” or how to have the best orgasm of my life. Cleo had much of the same stuff – and while the free nail polish that came with the mag was tempting – I turned my eyes to the neon pink cover of Girlfriend, complete with Emma Stone.
It wasn’t love at first sight. At 19 (oh yes! How mature am I at this age!), I usually think of Girlfriend as being Total Girl’s big sister. I felt as though I’d “upgraded” to the “adult girl” magazines of Cosmo and Cleo years ago.(I will have to excuse myself for not talking about Dolly: I was never a fan of Dolly and it wasn’t at this newsagent.) But having loads of free time, I decided to investigate the headlines on the cover.
And Ohmygawd. I swear Girlfriend wasn’t this girl-power, positive and utterly unconcerned with fashion and sexiness when I read it at 14. Maybe it was, and I just don’t remember. But that doesn’t really matter – because I am so happy that girls from in their tweens and into their twenties have a cheap ($8), mainstream magazine that tells them things that older feminists would probably like to tell their younger selves. You don’t to write those Dear Sixteen Year Old Me letters anymore – GF covers it all.
I’ll give you the current (August) cover’s most awesome highlights to show you what I mean. On the cover is a picture of Emma Stone laughing, from head to chest. At the bottom of the picture, there’s a little icon that says “self-respect reality check: this image was supplied to us already retouched, however we did change the colour of her top”. Girlfriend has a pretty good policy for body image: they use their own readers often as models in the fashion list parts, and even as evident in this issue, they are all of different body shapes, sizes and ethnicities. Other headlines include: “The Future Called…It Said “Don’t Stress”: The GR Career Spesh Is Here” (which is at least five pages of advice for school leavers), “The Sexy Myth and why you shouldn’t ACCEPT it”, and “Shy High: We Quiet Girls Can Come First.”
Isn’t this what we want to be reading in mainstream magazines?! Inside the magazine, there are two ads about pads and tampons (one: the carefree “discharge” ad is behind the cover! Two: Libra with facts like “yeah, menstrual bleeding doesn’t smell.”), and a couple of pages dedicated to asking successful women how they got their jobs. There’s also articles on how to deal when you know someone with ASD or when you lose someone to cancer. But my favourite piece in this issue of GF is an AWESOME article about how there is “no such thing as natural beauty” and this idea we get when guys says “I like girls who are naturally beautiful” is just making us even more self-conscious and insecure about our looks. The final line from GF on the article is:
“Here at GF, we think dressing up and wearing make up is fun – not mandatory, or something we do because we want to please others; it’s something we do because we want to. There’s nothing wrong with playing with your hair, make up and style if you want to, but do it for you, and not to please someone else or live up to someone else’s standards.”
Thank you, Girlfriend! Where has this article been on my life? (Probably on Jezebel where no teen can find it…)
And yeah, disbelievers, don’t worry. I’ll address your concerns. Girlfriend still has a focus on being “girly”: there’s heaps of pages to do with make up and fashion, and this issue came with a poster book with posters of One Direction and Justin Bieber (I’m keeping the poster of Josh Hutcherson, just to let you know.) The GF advice sealed section (their version of Dolly doctor) is still there, but the “how embarrassing!” section is only one page long. And yah. It’s still hetero-centric with a focus on “cute” boys (who apparently are almost as good as girls). There’s stuff that girls want to read: about what boys think cheating constitutes as, and how to do their hair, and what Emma Stone thinks of Andrew Garfield. Girlfriend isn’t the perfect feministy magazine.
But it’s so much more pro-woman/girl, positive and disinterested in beauty and sexual appeal than the other mainstream Australian magazines out there that I can’t help but tip my hat off to it.
Dear Girlfriend Magazine,
You are awesome.
~ Emma Di