Skip to main content

Fashion magazines make girls feel ugly

Cecilia-Gran.jpgI recently watched a video that brought some startling facts about girls and body image into view. After three minutes of leafing through a fashion magazine:

  • 3 out of 4 girls feel depressed, ashamed, and guilty about themselves
  • 48% of young girls want to be as skinny as fashion models; and
  • 31% of young girls are starving themselves
  • Eight years old is the peak age for girls to have leadership ambitions. At that age, 44% of them want to be leaders, but the number drops as they get older.
What is happening?

This is from a well researched film called Miss Representation, made by a Sundance film maker. Watch the clip and help me think about how we adults can help create a realistic and loving world for our girls and for boys, too.

Having watched this clip, what is one thing you are going to do now?

Cecilia Gran, Youth Work Institute associate program director and state faculty member

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech - any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc. -- as well as spam.


  1. This is a fantastic wake up call, now we just need to have everyone who cares and can make this change do it.
    The larger social structure issues around this are deep in our culture. Two examples
    1) My household is without a TV. Every new person who comes into our lives offers us a TV and is continually confused why our living room is not focused on sitting on sofas and watching TV. It has become socially unacceptable and even mildly excluding to not focus your personal and free time around TV.
    2) I am in the process of planning my wedding and EVERYONE believes that it should be a fairy-tale day of my dreams ... not one person has made any such comment to my partner. The industry assaults you with unrealistic images of what a bride should be and what a wedding should be. Women are not all thin, tall, rich, focused on unimportant details and do not spend all their free time dreaming up their perfect day. Some do, but others don't.
    The reality is that we need to move in a direction that allows personal freedom and choices, especially for women and this is a message we need to teach our girls!

  2. That video sure makes an impact. Thank you for sharing! The suggestions for "rising about the stats" seems like great content for a youth program or curriculum. I am wondering, Cece, if you might offer some insight on how, specifically, we might prepare youth workers to address such a delicate topic on the ground with the young people. This message (valuing yourself) is not new. It is commonly encouraged, advocated and preached to young people. Personally, I can imagine designing a program that addresses these topics, but I wouldn't quite be sure how to prepare adult youth works. It is an important and vulnerable topic, that must be addressed with intentionality and attention to a young person's psychology. Therefore, what, specifically, does it require of caring adults in a youth program context to really help young people wrestle these complex and highly personal issues?

  3. I really love Laura's insights and Joanna's question. It makes think of Gloria Steinem who said 'we have spent years raising our girls to be different but we have done nothing to bring up boys differently.' Maybe it is finally time! If boys learned not to tease heavier- set, less pretty girls...if boys learned to appreciate girls and boys for their minds not their boys...if boys learned to respect girls for who they are and bring to the world...

  4. Wow! Thank you for sharing some really insightful comments about this truly complex issue.
    Laura, I agree with you that this is a larger, more insidious systems issue. I want to take a look at who is making money on this myth that beauty can only be defined as skinny, tiny bodies with long hair, and a large chests. Big money is being made, no doubt and we might start by calling out who these people and companies are. Congratulations to you on your upcoming wedding!
    Joanna, how do we help all young people to value themselves and their uniqueness more when everything around them expects them to conform - the American educational system, their communities, and their peers? It's not yet cool to stick out, is it? I agree with you that self-aware and caring adults who get this complex life that young people lead can really make a positive difference. A really good training program that gets at helping adults learn how to weave empathy and positive values into their practice with youth is the Youth Work Institute's Youth Work Matters curriculum.
    Dana, I like your comment about Gloria Steinem's take on the education of boys, although I think many young men are as confused as young women are about body image. There is way too much bullying going on out there targeting females and males. How do we engender respect in young people for themselves and for others when many have never experienced respect from others themselves?

  5. I like your concept of fashion magazine. The features of your magazine are very nice.Fashion is not just about look it is about to feel. Why we make boundaries of fashion warp around the look, hair style, clothing. its much much more than that.