What Women's Magazines Are Teaching My Boys

Is this all we are?Is this all we are?I used to joke that when I looked at the public Twitter stream or the popular Instagram feed, I would lose a little faith in humanity.

Confession: I'm not interested in pop culture. I don't read People or gossip sites. I am what you may have suspected, a cranky old lady. OK, not really, but I am cranky about the difficulty many of us face as women, especially those of us who are raising children. And believe it or not, women's magazines can make parenting even more challenging.

Let me explain: I had subscriptions to all of the popular magazines as a teen. I idolized the models and read every article. These magazines made everything look ... perfect -- and still do. But now that I'm an adult with real responsibilities, I look at these magazines I used to cherish and roll my eyes.

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All I see on these covers are women marketing themselves as over-sexualized archetypes. Oh, and they happen to achieve a range of things:

  • manage a full-time career
  • have a happy (equally shared domestic responsibilities!) marriage
  • have orgasms in a movie scene-like setting
  • look constantly sexy in gravity-defying lingerie
  • raise 2.5 kids
  • make time for daily workouts
  • prepare organic meals
It's exhausting just thinking about it all! The glossy pictures hooked me on a lifestyle I thought I could achieve when I was younger, but now I know better. I've got plenty of "expert" advice on being a modern woman -- and I'm not finding my peers in these pages.

Lose, lose, lose -- we all lose.Lose, lose, lose -- we all lose.And that's when I turn to the Internet. Luckily, there are bloggers who post about what life is really like as a mom, a wife, and a businesswoman. These blogs and its articles tell the stories of our lives. They are a refuge in a storm of pretty glossies trying to sell women on a product or an aspiration.

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I couldn't imagine reading a blog post by a mother titled: "LOSE 30 POUNDS BY JANUARY." No one would pay attention because frankly, that's not what any of us want to read at the end of a long day of trying to do it all.

And women aren't the only ones looking at these glossy covers. Now that I am raising sons, I constantly worry about the magazines surrounding the checkout aisle at the grocery store. My boys look around and ask questions like:

"What is a naughty organism trick?" (Not knowing what the words meant, the question was asked loudly, from a few feet away.)

We worry we look bad, and magazines affirm we do look bad by telling us WHAT looks good.We worry we look bad, and magazines affirm we do look bad by telling us WHAT looks good.For me, as the mother of five boys, boys who will be future husbands, I fight those messages. I want my sons to view women in a healthy, realistic way.

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Aside from the messages young women are getting from these magazine covers, how about the messages young males are getting?

My hope is that I will be able to protect my boys from internalizing the concept of the over-sexualized, airbrushed woman they see on magazines, commercials and television.

Miracle 3-day workouts are better than living a healthy, more fit lifestyle...?Miracle 3-day workouts are better than living a healthy, more fit lifestyle...?I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. My friend Alison from Nummies chimed in on the conversation:
"I think the danger in those magazines, and all that objectification and sexualization of women and men, is that it teaches us that this is what we should be looking for in others and wishing for in ourselves."

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As women we want to feel loved and beautiful, but it's really hard to raise boys into men who will do that when they are surrounded by media that focuses on shape, rather than substance. I hope my boys will think brilliance is attractive, and humor, and talent, and find partners who look for the same things in them."

Being comfortable in your own skin, having a great mind, and making each other laugh, these are the qualities of the modern women.

- By Alli Worthington

For 35 things I learned in my 35 years, visit Babble!


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Alli Worthington is the Founder of Blissfully Domestic magazine, Co-Founder of Blissdom Conference. (US & Canada Canada), and will be launching Picha Global. She is a wife, a mom to 5 sons and step-mom to an awesome daughter. Words that describe Alli: believer, policy wonk, and adventurer. She loves social good, startups, photography, transmedia, tech, photography, gardening and ice cream. Check out her homepage at AlliWorthington.

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