Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Magazine cover questions gender roles

The most recent covers of “Girls’ Life” and “Boys’ Life” have sparked some controversy that caught comedian and actress Amy Schumer’s attention.“Girls’ Life” is a commercial magazine for young women growing up, whereas “Boys’ Life” is a magazine represented by the Boy Scouts of America.

The “Girls’ Life” issue showed headlines about makeup and fashion with headlines such as “Wake Up Pretty,” whereas the “Boys’ Life” edition had the headline “Explore Your Future,” with technology and science equipment surrounding it. On Sept. 20, Schumer brought the issue to attention when she Instagrammed a photo of the two covers side-by-side with the caption “no.”

Though the magazines are not associated with each other, other celebrities have shared their opinions on the magazine, such as Blake Lively who agreed with Schumer that there’s more to women than just looks.

The controversy brought up many issues on gender roles as Plattsburgh State students shared their opinions on the covers.

PSUC mathematics major and journalism minor Elaina Bertone agreed that the cover was unfortunate because it placed importance on beauty over brains for females.

“I love a good makeup or hair tip, but I don’t think that should be your sole focus as a female,” she said. “And we should be encouraged more to look into technology and engineering because there is a demand for women in that field even though we aren’t encouraged at a young age to pursue it.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but they are much less represented, particularly in science and engineering occupations. Other statistics from the report indicate that women represent 39 percent of chemists, 28 percent of environmental scientists and only 12 percent of civil engineers.

Bertone said she noticed a pattern in some of her math classes as well. She said her calculus class is pretty even for the most part in terms of the men to women ratio, but that there are significantly less females in some of her other classes.

She said that beside the lack of females in these courses, she does attribute this controversy to the way we’re raised as a society.

“You know when you go to Burger King, and they ask you if you’re a boy or a girl, and you get a stupid Barbie doll or a racecar, I just think it’s such a common thing in society,” Bertone said. “They probably don’t think twice about it, which is a mistake.”

She said in order for this divide to go away, the emphasis on gender roles have to stop. She said this instance reminded her of the Target controversy around labeling toys.

Target announced they will stop labeling purchases ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ in both the toys and bedding department to eliminate gender stereotypes back in August, according to a Washington Post article.

“People were freaking out about toys not being boy or girl separated. We should stop placing gender roles or gender tags on things,” Bertone said. “Why does there have to be a “Girls’ Life” and a “Boys’ Life.” Why not put it in one and make Kids’ Life?”

PSUC junior communications major Akel Martin agreed with this same sentiment. He said the “Girls’ Life” cover was trying to tell girls to look pretty, so the issue could go into makeup products further. However, he said that’s not where the problem lies. He said that boys also pay attention to their appearance, but the “Boys’ Life” issue was focusing more about future ambitions.

“Basically, don’t let anybody stop you. But for the girl magazine cover, it was only ‘be pretty.’ That’s it,” he said. “You shouldn’t worry about a future, you should worry more about just being pretty, which isn’t true.”

Martin said he doesn’t think the magazine was intentionally trying to offend women, but that it was simply reaching out to the audience on a more superficial level rather than a positive one.

“For men, they’re trying to reach out to them on a ‘this is how you make the most out of life’ level. Why can’t women have the most made out of life as well?” he said.

Martin said that this can impact young females in the future as well.

“Seeing that might make her think the only way to explore your life as a girl is to be pretty,” he said.

Martin said gender stereotypes definitely raise several issues. Besides having headlines focusing on looks, the magazine also had a headline honing in on relationships and friendships between young women.

Martin said that growing up, he was always a very emotional person. He said that as he got older, he noticed that men weren’t really allowed to be very expressive.

“So for me, I’ve always been told ‘why are you always showing so much emotion?’ but I never really let it bother me,” Martin said.

Martin said he would like to see more columns focusing on emotions in male magazines.

“I feel like the reason why they won’t put columns like that is because as a man, you’re supposed to be the one that has themselves figured out,” he said.

He said that it’s one reason why it’s hard to give men advice sometimes. He said many men are reluctant to take the advice, whereas women have been more socialized to be more open about their feelings.

“There are men and women who are open to advice and then there are men and women who aren’t open to advice,” he said.

Associate Professor and Chair of the Gender Women’s Studies Department, Susan Mody said this was not a shock to her when she saw the covers. She said with multiple controversies surrounding gender issues, this was not uncommon to see. Unfortunately, these stereotypes still exist, according to Mody.

“Boys are presented with opportunities and all these objects of engagement with the important tools of the world, and the girls are supposed stay pretty.”

Mody said these kind of covers can affect young women growing up. She said there is enough evidence surrounding magazine covers and body expectations that shows it can lead to a lack of confidence, eating disorders and feelings of inadequacy.

“So as I look at this cover, the cover girl is presented as a model with attention to her face and hair. The title is fashion, dream hair and wake up pretty,” she said. “We as women are bombarded with that all the time.”

Mody said this kind of cover is no different than having the boy’s and girl’s departments in stores. She said these gender roles have been embedded in our everyday lives. However, she said that she’s glad that people are starting to recognize these issues.

She also said she’s carefully looked at advertisements today and noticed that robotics and science fair ads will typically feature a male over a female. She also mentions the way women are sexualized in advertisments as well.

“We have Victoria Secret ads on the television. It’s the way that women’s bodies are used to do that advertising,” she said. “ It’s all around us all the time.”

She also mentioned presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has fat-shamed several women in the media. Mody said Trump did this from a commercial perspective, which is why the media are so powerful.

“On one hand, you have people wanting to fit into the world as if it’s an already constructed thing that puts out these headlines and pictures,” she said. “On the other hand, you want there to be new ways of thinking and looking, as well as new ways to look at problems.”

Since the magazine came out, the publisher and founding editor, Karen Bokran did an interview with Refinery 29 defending the magazine.

“Are we more than lip gloss and clothes? Of course,” she said in the interview. “It’s OK to like lip gloss or be interested in fashion. I don’t know how (the problem) became either you like lip gloss and clothes or you like being an astronaut.”

Bertone reacted to Bokran’s response saying she is still contradictory.

“If girls are more than cosmetics, why focus on beauty tips? It’s kind of a contradiction,” Bertone said.

Bertone said even though Bokran said that girls shouldn’t be focusing on beauty, the articles, and specifically the cover place a heavy emphasis on looks. Martin also agreed that there was a heavy emphasis of beauty on the cover.

“I’m sorry that this magazine feels that it has to push that girls need to look beautiful and not explore your future route,” Martin said. “But really, I feel sorry for the girl who is going to follow that and just buy all these products and not break out of her shell. Hopefully girls will say ‘ Maybe I can do just as much as any man can.’”

Email Kavita Singh at

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