Alternative magazines promote ‘positive view’ of womanhood

Alternative magazines promote ‘positive view’ of womanhood

Sarah Means

While Jane magazine advises teenagers on `Sex, Sex, Sex,’ lesser-known publications are exploring `Sexual Harassment in School’ Teen Voices, Brio, Blue Jeans and similar magazines mix multiculturalism and politics in articles such as `Republican Women of Color,’ proving that some teens have more on their minds than makeup and diet fads.

Feminists and conservatives may be unlikely allies, but they are banding together to fight sexually explicit teen publications by creating their own magazines. Often written by teenage girls themselves, these magazines create an alternative feminism by avoiding articles on makeup, sex and dieting.

“We got tired of magazines that advertised 7-foot-tall, 90-pound drug-addicted models,” declares Tali Edut, the managing editor of Hues. “We wanted a magazine that promoted a positive view of womanhood.”

The new breed of publication, with titles such as Teen Voices, Brio and Blue Jeans, offers articles on “Republican Women of Color,” “Teen Motherhood” and “Sexual Harassment in Schools” and advocates multiculturalism, positive self-esteem and the empowerment of women. Ads cannot promote diet products or contain nudity.

While Seventeen, the feminist stepmother to these new teen magazines, refrains from overtly endorsing teen-age sex, the magazine displays provocative ads. The 54-year-old publication has changed drastically since the days when Helen Valentine founded the magazine in response to women’s changing role during World War II.

“Seventeen takes credit for defining what teen girls today are all about.” says publisher Lori Burgess, 37. “Before Seventeen came along, girls were children who turned into their mothers. The magazine has created the essence of the modern teen.”

But Jane magazine, a recent startup, is something else. Sample headlines: “Sex to Write Home About” and “Sex, Sex, Sex.” Articles give teen girls tips on how to have an orgasm and explain a “hands-on approach to oral sex.” In “Get What You Want,” teens are advised how to respond if their boyfriend suggests a menage a trois.

Alternatives to this fare have been around for nearly a decade. Alison Amoroso, 32, cofounded Teen Voices in 1988 while she was earning her doctorate in social work at Harvard. The magazine lets girls know they’re not alone, gives them the tools to prevent bad experiences and encourages them to be agents for social change. “We see the magazine where the girls can explore their growingup years,” says Amoroso. Teenagers submit most of the editorial content for Teen Voices, which has 42,000 readers in 37 countries.

In Colorado Springs, a religious organization that orchestrated a letter-writing campaign against Sassy magazine in the late 1980s went on to found Brio. With stories such as “Battle of an Anorexic,” “What’s Hell All About?” and “A Teen Girl’s Passage to India,” Brio encourages its 175,000 readers to incorporate personal faith into everyday life through sisterly advice.

“I didn’t want to point a finger in their face and say, `Don’t have sex, read your Bible,'” says founder and editor Susie Schellenberger. “We wanted to put our arm around them and whisper in their ears like a sister and say, `Let us guide you.'”

Still another teen magazine features editorials on the environment and social work. When feminist Sherry Handel launched Blue Jeans out of her home in Rochester, N.Y., two years ago, she wanted to give girls a place to speak their mind. And speak their mind they did! Penning articles such as “Nothin’ but the Earth” and “Ride into the Amazon,” the 14 teen editorial-board members and six teen correspondents produce 90 percent of the bimonthly magazine’s content. Though the magazine only has 30,000 readers around the world, it survives without ads and fashion tips.

Hues was established in 1992 on a Detroit campus by 19-year-old college twins. “Hues was born of a frustration with the mainstream women’s magazines,” cofounder Tali Edut says. Before she and her sister, Opheira Edut, both Israelis, and Dyann Logwood, who is black, started Hues with funds from the black student union, they seldom saw ethnic women in magazines. “We wanted to expand the definition of woman,” says Tali Edut. “Our purpose is to promote self-esteem and sisterhood among women of all sizes, ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles.

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