A Double Standard

How many times have you seen magazine blurbs reading “Get The Hot Body You’ve Always Wanted,” or “Six Moves To A Great Butt,” or “Flat Abs By The New Year!”?

Probably a lot. Right? Every month, fitness magazines, fashion magazines, even men’s magazines, tout the best ways to get the trimmest, slimmest bodies.

Ideally, those magazines should be meant for adults who can responsibly care for their bodies and are aware of the risks of over-exercising, under-eating, or doing anything that could lead to a disordered habit (Note: I am not saying all adults are immune to that, but we are more aware that such habits exist). That’s not always the case.

When I was walking through CVS the other day past the magazine section, I actually stopped in my tracks when I saw the latest issue of Seventeen. On the cover was Pretty Little Liar’s star Troian Bellisario, who many girls find to be a role model – and she, in my opinion, is a good one. So why was I so flustered by the cover?

Seventeen cover

Look at the words right below Troian’s cover blurb: “Get An Insane Body! It’s Hard Work But You’ll Look Hot!”

Okay, you’re most likely thinking, “that’s nothing new, Angela, Seventeen always has a section about fitness and looking hot.” You’re right, they do. I’ve read Seventeen for years.

Here’s what the big deal is: Troian Bellisario battled an eating disorder. Thousands of girls will read this magazine, in which Troian talks about her negative relationship with food and self-harm. She opens up in this magazine and on their website, saying, “I started self-harming when I was a junior. I would withhold food or withhold going out with my friends, based on how well I did that day in school” (Source: Troian Bellisario Exclusive Interview – Troian Bellisario Quotes – Seventeen).

Troian talks about her eating disorder and self-harm in an effort to let teen girls know that to be happy, you don’t have to do those harmful things. Later in the interview, she talks about how friends and family make her most happy now. Like I’ve read on other blog so many times, having a great body can only bring you so much happiness. It’s the small moments in life that make it full.

And Seventeen felt it necessary to write: “Get An Insane Body! It’s Hard Work But You’ll Look Hot!” I don’t understand that. The girls who are reading the magazine are receiving mixed messages: “It’s okay if you just want to be happy,and you don’t need to be skinny to be happy!” alongside “But you’ll feel so much better if you look hot!”

As a teen, I felt the pressure to be thin. I really did, and part of it came from magazines like Seventeen. The beautiful girls inside, modeling clothes with their great bodies, and the workout sections featuring thin models in sports bras – they had an effect on me. When I first heard that Troian Bellisario was opening up about her disordered eating inside the magazine, my first thought was, “Great! Finally, a beautiful star who can share her struggles and how she overcame them. Maybe magazines are finally realizing that disordered habits are a widespread problem, and these celebrities can try to help.” They have the power to send out such positive messages. When I saw the cover, all I can say is that I felt complete disappointment.

I’ll leave you with this: the magazine industry, specifically magazines that reach a young audience, have the power to influence; I hope that in the future, those organizations won’t find it necessary to advertise the “hot body,” especially alongside a woman who has struggled with disordered habits. It’s a double-standard.

Question of the Day:
>>What are your thoughts on this?

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36 comments

  1. Why can’t all teens just read Nutty for Life?!?! I think it’s virtually impossible to avoid those kinds of messages growing up. It’s awful and I wish I had the power to change the industry. There’s nothing inherently wrong with working out (duh!) but if only we could promote this message in terms of health and not “having an insane body” because it’s precisely that…insane.

    1. Aw thanks Davida. That means a whole lot. I agree that it’s the cool thing to do to read those magazines, and I wish I had the power to change that too. The fact is that I don’t, and while I understand the whole concept of cover blurbs, etc., I think this one especially could have been done in a more tasteful way, given the content inside. I really loved your last point in the comment.

  2. Ditto to what Davida said about reading NFL ^^ I’m all for including exercise in your life, but to be HEALTHY and not to be thin. Sure, everyone wants to look good, but being thin doesn’t feel great if you’re killing yourself to be that way. Undereating, overexercising, missing out on good times with friends… Not exactly my idea of a good time. I wish people would realize that there’s so much more to life than what size of pants you wear…

    1. Thank you, Amanda. I appreciate that. Side note: I also like the abbreviation of my website. Okay now to the regularly scheduled comment – I think that that is exactly where these types of media go wrong. There is always an edge of appearance when it comes to their positioning for exercise and eating right. Missing out on life’s greatest moments because you didn’t want to look less than perfect is no way to live. I wish people would realize that too, in their own time, just like I had to learn that on my own and honestly still have to remind myself sometimes, probably because we are constantly bombarded with those messages.

  3. I’ve been working hard lately on trying to overcome some disordered thinking, and I’ve decided to pretty much give up my magazine subscriptions. I get just as many healthy living tips, recipes, and workout suggestions from blogs and pinterest as I could get reading magazines. And this way I won’t fall (as) easily for the double talk that permeates the media. As an adult, I have to cut these mixed messages out of my life consciously; I can only vaguely remember what they do to a teenager! If nothing else, it’s painting a picture that there’s this very fine line, this very small space that you can live in-be obsessed with your health but don’t be obsessive, eat healthy but also eat what you want, work out but don’t do too much or too little. It projects such a narrow area of happiness that it’s no wonder teens get depressed.

    1. Yes, I think that you’ve made a great point here. While blogs may be a less appearance is most important-saturated medium, it’s still not immune to that kind of talk. I think that cutting out the magazines and advertising media is a great place to start. Like I said in my post, I was affected by those messages as much as the next girl. It took me a long time to realize that obsession over anything, really, is not good. I wish you the best of luck in overcoming your disordered thinking! Remember that there are always people hoping for your success.

  4. I absolutely love this! I have a subscription to Seventeen so I’m sure this issue will be coming… ugh, I hate the double standard so much! Society tells us that we shouldn’t worry about our bodies so much, but then there are so many weight loss and diet programs out there! I think the reason that magazines do this is because people want both – they want to learn about Troian yet they like seeing a workout. I agree with Amanda and Davida, girls should just read this!

    1. Thanks for you kind words! You’re right, people do want both. If only we lived in a perfect world though, where no one was personally affected by the beauty standard. It’s especially difficult for adolescent girls to sift through those messages too, and when “insane bod” is shoved in their face, it becomes more of a necessity to them than it should be.

  5. Powerful post Ang and you are so right but sadly I don’t think this will change as deep down society does not have the best interest of the people at heart… especially young girls. Seventeen and other magazines/media outlets have one thing in mind: money. And in order to make money they need to appeal to the masses. Sad but reality.

    1. Thank you Amy. I know what you mean – it really won’t change. Society is about selling copies, products, etc. And the thing is I want to go into the marketing field. So I do get the big picture, but it’s hard because I also wish that there was a little more sensitivity, like to the content in this particular issue versus the cover blurbs. Thanks for the insight!

  6. So well said. I stopped reading a lot of magazines as much because of this reason. It’s so ridiculous to see the meal palms and fitness plans especially when they post about these celebrities that struggled with eating disorders. I wish there was a solution to this problem but because teens keep buying them, the media will continue profiting off of it. Such a tough bind.

    1. My mind was completely blown when I saw that blurb specifically because of Troian’s disordered eating past. I just don’t get who thought that blurb was a good idea. And honestly, mags like this were probably part of the reason I thought that the happiest girls were the skinniest girls. It is a tough bind. Thanks for the nice comment!

  7. One of the first things I had to due when recovering was throw away/unsubscribe from a lot of magazines ranging from InStyle to Fitness magazine. I ran xc and track but was constantly berating myself for not cutting out enough fats/carbs/sugar/calories. Put too much focus on slimming your body and your energy/relationships/health begin to waste away. I definitely agree with what Laura commented.

    1. I like that sentence: Put too much focus on slimming your body and your energy/relationships/health begin to waste away. It’s perfectly said. And very true. I have been thinking about it a lot lately, and when we are not at peace with ourselves, other areas in our life start to go awry. I don’t blame you for throwing away those mags – I know they can be a source of discontent.

  8. This sort of thing frustrates me SO MUCH. Any self-reflecting a teenager has from reading the interview is immediately contradicted and questioned as soon as they see a meal plan/workout plan designed to help them lose weight. Can we just have any teen girl that buys that magazine read this post first as a requirement?

    1. That’s right – it is definitely contradicting. I would love it if any girl who buys the mag could read this first. It would really touch my heart. I think that the number of media out there quite outweighs my little space though.

  9. Oh girl, I wish I had answers. This is exactly what’s wrong with our world. I don’t know why everything has to be focused on looking skinny and hot. That has nothing to do with who you are in life. Ok, if you are overweight and unhappy because of it, then losing weight could help. However, this magazine irritates me. Maybe if the article wasn’t about an ED it would be different for that topic, but they definitely should never have been put together. I applaud her for coming out and talking about it. I know there are so many more celebs who should talk about theirs, but this is a start and exactly what teens need to hear as they face these challenges. Ugh, I’ll just stop, haha I’ll leave you with excellent points, and I think Seventeen should read your blog about this one 😉

    1. Thank you for that comment, you’re too sweet. I think that the placement/inclusion of the “hot insane bod” thing was just pretty distasteful considering the other content. I wouldn’t have a problem with it if it was something like “get healthy, get happy” you know? But the focus on appearance changes the whole tone. I think it’s great she’s talked about her past, too. I think we are used to reading that kind of thing though, so we appreciate the honesty even more than most:)

  10. Ugh, that annoys me so badly. I used to read Seventeen all the time, though when I did I don’t think I paid attention to those things the way I do now. Magazines will do anything, literally anything, to sell. Like helloooooo, write a message on your cover that actually goes along with the interview instead of a contradicting one. *shakes head*
    ps-I like your new blog layout 🙂 Gray+pink=good color combo

    1. Thank you! The layout won’t be this way forever once I save up some cash to get a real design, but it’ll do for now 🙂 And yeah, I mean they do tease her piece but the fact is the content inside is just so not on the same wavelength. It is all about the money, and I get it, I do. But I just think there needs to be more thought behind those things.

  11. I honestly don’t even know how magazines stay in business because it is the same type of cover with different wording. How many different tricks/tips/secrets can there be to look hot? Just eat whole foods and exercise, right?! I see your point and really happy that you are making use of your voice.

    1. Actually there are some funny images and examples if you look online where magazines have literally used the exact same template, words, and designs for multiple issues and only change the cover star! Isn’t that crazy? Thanks for the comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts.

  12. I completely agree and I really don’t think that this is limited to Teen Mags. I know plenty of adults who have an incredibly warped vision of healthy eating and fitness from adult fitness magazines. No matter what the message inside the feature (usually “love your body”) There’s something on the cover about 10 lbs in 10 days and it really messes with people and their grasp on healthy choices becoming a lifestyle and not a temporary detox.

    1. You make a really good point. I often see meal plans with restrictive calorie counts in other mags too. I think that the demographic 17 reaches is just so impressionable that it’s even more serious. It is true though, the story really could be about loving your body the way it is and the blurb will still be something like “be hot!”

  13. I used to be a HUGE fan of Women’s Health, Runner’s World and Glamour, but lately I find that all the content is about how to lose weight. “Eat xx calories a day to be bikini ready” or whatever, and it’s starting to bug me. In one breath we’re told to be happy with who we are, and the next we’re told we aren’t good enough. It really frustrates me.

    1. I find that of all the magazines I am most impressed with Glamour recently. They are usually pretty good about keeping things real, imo. It’s truly a one-breath thing. That’s a great expression to use. Sadly it probably won’t ever change, but that’s why media literacy is really important for our society. We need to know how to understand what we take in.

  14. It’s really a double standard…wait till you hear this.

    My friend works for one of our trash magazines here (she’s not some Devil wears prada biatch though lol) and she told me this which absolutely fired me up- Beyond Blue (a depression/eating disorder organisation) do a page long feature in their magazine and have hinted for their not to be so much diet/lose weight/etc information near their awareness campaign BUT their CEO and Editors know that anything ‘diet’ or ‘quick fix’ brings in all the money and refused make amends- even though it clearly shows a double standard. \

    Great post, buddy. And great to see YOU writing on here and sharing your experience.

    1. Wow. That is crazy. I bet they wouldn’t be too happy that that info is now on the web 😉 I’m glad you liked the post. I really tried to open up a little more. I was very affected by the messages coming at me when I was a teen, and I also thought that if I worked for one of those mags, I would live a perfect, beautiful life. Well I probably won’t work for them now that I wrote this, but I still live a beautiful life. One that won’t be controlled by the way I look.

  15. I read the magazine article and there was so much I could relate to. I know what it is like to have an eating disorder and to self harm. Sad but true. I felt inspired by her article, because I see her as an amazing role model.

    On the other hand, I know that pretty much every issue of Seventeen comes with a little exercise routine. They’re helpful, but it was contradictory in this issue. I’m glad they are promoting exercise, but instead of putting it in those terms, the editors should rephrase it.

    There is so much pressure to be “skinny.” It’s unreal. How about we start promoting more inspirational and motivating terms?

    You were spot on in this post.

    1. See, I am glad that Troian’s article did exactly what it was intended to do – reach someone and connect with them. I do know that 17 has exercise portions in every issue, but as they featured such a powerful voice who was speaking out on something so personal, the cover was just tasteless in my opinion. I wish that the media would be more inspirational! There are hints of it, but I don’t know if it will ever fully change. Thank you for the comment, sharing your experience, and your kind words.

  16. That seriously is the worst copy for a magazine cover and that copywriter should be fired because they’re clueless. First of all, it’s dumb to do exercise to look “hot”. I mean duh, all girls want to be hot, but you should be exercising to be HEALTHY and live longer and feel good, not just to look good in a bikini. That’s an added benefit. Also a lot of girls who struggle with ED struggle with exercise addiction. Lastly, most magazines are targeted at a demographic 5-years younger than they say they are (i.e. Seventeen is targeted to 12-year olds, Cosmo is targeted to 16-17 year olds – because honestly, who else cares about Ariana Grande?).

    This chick was on Live with Kelly & Michael this a.m. She was kind of pretentious, I’m over her.

    1. I saw her on Kelly & Michael, too. Haha you crack me up.
      There is definitely an appeal to being hot, but I just wish that the media would focus more on the health aspect rather than appearance. But sex sells, right? So it probably won’t change for a long while. I’ve seen hints of change but nothing that is solid. And that’s very true about the demo, it’s way younger than “17 years old.” That age,for me at least, was really impressionable but now I know better. Not sure if all teens do, though.

  17. I agree with Davidas comment about them reading your blog!

    I used to be an avid reader of all magazines particularly fitness ones but then I realized how much crap they are filled with like the article you described. I think it is particularly terrible the editor didnt pick up on this mixed message as Troians story of overcoming her eating disorder sounds like a great one and a much more positive message to be portraying to people. I think so often the media feeds people’s obsession with body and thinking that thin = happiness which is just so not the case.

    Love love love this post!

    1. Thank you Jan! That’s sweet. I do think that an editor should have caught the extreme mixed messages within the mag. I am used to seeing those kinds of messages on mags, but honestly never when they are advertising how open a star is about an eating disorder. I was stunned to say the least.

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