Girls Deserve A Better Life… Better Than The Inane Stereotyped Version Marketed To Them

AdvertisingGenderGirlsMedia 56 Comments

By Michele Yulo – I came across this photo on Facebook taken by a person at a local county library that shows REAL covers of both the Girls’ Life and Boys’ Life magazines.* (Warning: if you have high blood pressure, look away!) My head spun, my blood boiled and my jaw just about hit the floor. Here I am thinking that we had changed, that the inane stereotypes that inundate kids was beginning to dissipate and boys and girls were genuinely starting to see each other as equals because companies were starting to recognize that gender stereotypes really don’t work. And then…this. You can read the copy and pretty much figure out that according to this magazine—a girl’s top priority is to “Wake Up Pretty”, and a boy’s is to “Explore Your Future.” For lack of a better way to put it: WTF!

I immediately thought about a blog post I had written years ago about baby rattles and the beginning of gender stereotyping. Some thought I was exaggerating—how could a rattle have ANY effect on a teeny tiny infant? Because it’s NOT just about the rattle. The physical thing isn’t it. Get it?


It’s not only about what it (whatever “it” is) represents, but what comes next. And guess what? It gets worse. There will be a litany of media, images and messages that reinforce the idea that girls’ lives are less serious than boys’ who, unlike their female counterparts, are constantly being encouraged to explore and learn.

And then, coincidentally, I came across an article from entitled, “Why Women Who Want To Be Leaders Should Dye Their Hair Blonde, According to Science.” Seriously, I thought this was The Onion, but it’s not. The author cites these depressing statistics:

“Only 2 percent of the world’s population has naturally blond hair. If you narrow your sample to white people in the United States, that percentage goes up, but only to 5 percent. But look at women in leadership positions and you’ll see a lot of golden tresses. More than a third of female senators–35 percent–are blonde. And though the sample size for female CEOs of S&P 500 companies is admittedly small, 48 percent–nearly half–are blonde.”

The worst part? In the final analysis, the author goes on to suggest that you “make that appointment with your hairdresser” summing it up this way: “We may want to change the world. But first we have to reach the positions that will let us do it.” You know because there’s no better way to succeed than to simply give in to the sexism that holds us back in the first place. (I would hope Sheryl Sandberg would not agree to this kind of “leaning in.”).

Here I am thinking that we had changed, that the inane stereotypes that inundate kids was beginning to dissipate…

So I ask you—is it any surprise? We have pink diamond ring rattles, magazines for girls that focus only on superficial things like hair and jeans, and then scientific proof that looks matter more than anything for girls and women.

There is simply no good way to wind this up. To neatly summarize the conglomeration of everything in our society that makes this okay. I just don’t know how any group of people could publish such garbage and feel good about themselves. I can only implore the publishers of the magazine to rethink their mission and think about how their magazine could actually be a positive force for girls. But I will say that in the eight years I have been an activist in this space trying my best to upend these stereotypes by blogging while trying to create more options for girls, I sometimes find myself completely at a loss.  Today is one of those days.

*Boys’ Life and Girls’ Life Magazines are published by different publishers and are NOT connected. They are however positioned next to each other and therefore highlight the very stark contrast between the two.

Photo credit: Matt Frye

About The Author

mich_yuloMichele Yulo is the founder of Princess Free Zone, Inc., a brand and blog that offers an alternative to all things princess for little girls by addressing issues of gender and gender stereotyping. She is also the author of the children’s book Super TooLula: The Kind Warrior. In continuing her mission to create more options for girls, Michele just launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for SUIT HER, a clothing line she’s developing with the aim of offering hip, unique, ready-to-wear suits for girls age five to twelve that are full of fun detail and made to fit a girl’s body.

You can follow Michele on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Angelina Phillips

    Please don’t give up. I won’t let my daughter read a magazine like that. We focus on science and math. The girl loves to shop and makeup but I don’t let that define her. I have opened her mind and no one will ever shut it.

    • Bobbie Lee Godsil

      Yes Angelina,

      Science and math,
      the rest is fun and fluff.
      Your daughter will be more realistic and prepared due to her intellectual nurturing.

  • Jessi Clayton

    Boys life the official magazine of the Boy Scouts It is not from the same publisher in fact they get a free subscription, Girls life would be a full on for profit magazine. Not that it excuses it but I’m just saying that it is not the same publisher pulling the double standard. The article is a tiny bit misleading.

    • Queenie

      It literally says that at the end of the article. Nothing misleading whatsoever.

      • Jessi Clayton

        What are you talking about? Of course it matters. One is FOR PROFIT the other is to keep boys engaged in the scouts, the purposes are entirely different. Yes pop culture wants to sell this crap girls , Seventeen and other pop culture crap magazines are no different. There is a big difference then just citing the publisher. For Profit seeks to exploit and Sell

        Promise Magazine and Boys Life are equivalent, if you want to make a fair comparison,

        • SRB

          Or Queenie’s comment. Cutting and pasting your comment over and over again doesn’t make it any more correct.

    • Alex B

      Based on your comment, I have to assume you did not read the article because the author’s point is very clear and goes well beyond these two magazines. She also noted, “Boys’ Life and Girls’ Life Magazines are published by different publishers and are NOT connected.”

      • Jessi Clayton

        What are you talking about? Of course it matters. One is FOR PROFIT the other is to keep boys engaged in the scouts, the purposes are entirely different. Yes pop culture wants to sell this crap girls , Seventeen and other pop culture crap magazines are no different. There is a big difference then just citing the publisher. For Profit seeks to exploit and Sell

        Promise Magazine and Boys Life are equivalent, if you want to make a fair comparison

        • SRB

          Based on your comment, I have to assume you also didn’t read Alex B’s comment as well as not reading the article.

      • Duke_of_Zork

        If the author’s point is so clear and simple why are you unable to express it yourself?

        The point is clear, but wrong. The claim is that girl’s magazines are about fashion and fluff, while boy’s magazines are about serious stuff. But the point is made dishonestly by comparing a serious scouting magazine to a supermarket tabloid and telling you that they’re flip sides of the same coin. You fall for it because the actual names of the magazines are similar and you stop thinking at that point.

    • Jessi Clayton

      What are you talking about? Of course it matters. One is FOR PROFIT the other is to keep boys engaged in the scouts, the purposes are entirely different. Yes pop culture wants to sell this crap girls , Seventeen and other pup culture crap magazines are no different. There is a big difference then just citing the publisher. For Profit seeks to exploit and Sell

      Promise Magazine and Boys Life are equivalent, if you want to make a fair comparison .

    • a tiny bit ? i’d say its constrcted, any one got a copy of nun’s life or dogs life so we can compare ?

    • Troy Eckhardt

      I agree that comparing to two is ridiculous, but Boys’ Life is NOT free to Boy Scouts. We pay additional money for it. Receiving it is optional.

  • Jessi Clayton

    Boys life the official magazine of the Boy Scouts It is not from the same publisher in fact they get a free subscription, Girls life would be a full on for profit magazine. Not that it excuses it but I’m just saying that it is not the same publisher pulling the double standard. This article is somewhat misleading.

    Also deleting this proves that you are unethical in your writing , you undermine feminism and make us like like fools if you don’t check yourself.

  • mjayace

    Absolute crap, take a look at schools, which have been completely reconstructed to best meet a girl’s needs, and facilitate their success while cutting all the things that help boys be successful. PE, Recess, Technical programs, etc all gone or minimized. This goes all the way to college where girls are now graduating at a much larger percentage than boys. This is what pisses everyone off about political correctness. What’s WRONG with emphasizing traditional things that girls and boys like? No one is dissuading either sex from exploring others things. If anything I feel terrible for boys today who are constantly told by many facets of society that they are scum, they are sexist, they are dumb. White boys get it even worse as they are constantly bombarded by all the rest of society that they are responsible for ALL the world’s woes. No wonder three quarters of them are on anxiety meds.

    • Susan Graham

      How could schools possibly facilitate girls’ needs by cutting PE, Recess, and technical programs??? Sorry, but you are sexist. All kids need exercise and the intellectual stimulation and encouragement to explore sciences and technology! What’s wrong with emphasizing traditional things is that is stunts and shortchanges everyone — boys and girls. People are not born in little pink and blue boxes…we build those jails for them, and that’s just plain wrong. All kids should be encouraged to grow and learn and meet their own highest and happiest potential. Sexism does nothing to further that goal. And where did you read that three quarters of white boys are on anxiety meds? That’s pure fiction.

    • SRB

      I remember reading that paper in Nature where it discussed how 75% of boys are on mediciation for anxiety. Oh wait never happened. There is absolutely no evidence for anything you just wrote there, just your own preconceptions.

    • Celeste

      As a teacher, I firmly disagree. Most public school systems have changed hardly AT ALL in the past century- when schools where created to teach only men. I recognize that there needs to be change in how society treats boys, and that girls are outperforming boys in school, bit that’s because of larger social expectations- not because of the outrageous notion that schools have been completely reconstructed in the last 30 years to serve girls.

      • mjayace

        What?! Are you kidding me? Assuming your are 40 or 50ish, if you can’t see the difference between when you went to school and today you are blind. To be fair a lot of changes have impacted both sexes–but girls as a whole have benefited far more than boys–I see this in my own daughter who excels, vs. my sons who are incredibly smart but are expected to sit on their butts for seven hours with 20 minutes to burn some energy. They along with many boys–struggle to stay focused that long. There are far too many instances, where we have softened education, increased regulations/requirements, etc. all in the name of “fairness” etc, and that environment has created helicopter parenting, taken all authority away from teachers to discipline kids (and what sex does lack of discipline affect the most?) . Far too much emphasis on standardized tests, so kids today aren’t really learning anything anymore but how to take tests. Clear reductions in shop, physical fitness, home econ (for both sexes), art, creative writing, etc. I remember my fifth grader having to do like 2+ hours of homework a night. Other than rarely, I didn’t do two hours of homework a night till the complex math and science classes in High School. They have far too much homework teaching to these tests so kids are stressed out and not getting the after school activities they once had to exercise, socialize, and learn hard lessons in life. Minimal emphasis on after school activities in school budgets which has forced privatization among many activities/athletics which prices many kids out. I have three college degrees from bachelors to professional degree and have done well with a lot less homework than my kids have to do today–and I grew up with more street smarts/common sense. But this article is sexist as a whole, look at the example above with the diamond rattle vs. the hammer. I COULD (but will not) make the argument that those kinds of toys (hammer, screw driver, etc) are continuing the stereotype that boys are “expected” to take care of traditional “manly things” around the house, etc . Some things are biological, but we as a society continue to try to make gender irrelevant. I treat the women in my life with the utmost most respect but I have no problem buying my daughter “girly” things like a doll, a pretty dress, or my wife a beautiful ring, or a trip to the spa, while at the same time, encouraging my daughter to explore her interest in medicine, or my wife in starting a business. We are parents and partners in life and want the absolute best for our kids and each other–but at the same time, don’t feel like society is still outright sexist or racist, etc.

        • When someone corrects you on your conceptions about the industry they’re working in, and about which they probably know way better than you ever will, maybe, just maybe, you should listen a bit. They’re not necessarily right, and it’s totally ok to challenge them. But answering “Are you kidding me?” and “you are blind” just peg you as a stubborn and narrow minded. A bit of humility about your ideas goes a long way in making you appear smarter, and also actually making you smarter.

          You’re probably gonna dismiss this and answer aggressively instead of taking something from it, but eh, a man’s gotta try.

          • mjayace

            Far from narrow minded, but irritated that when the responder (who clearly is narrow minded and viewing this clearly through a feminist prism) puts out a sentence like “Most public school systems have changed hardly AT ALL in the past century- when schools were created to teach only men” and thus why in my response I gave probably 15 examples (that I think would be hard to deny) HAVE changed in the public school systems. I even acknowledged that some of the changes have clearly impacted BOTH sexes, but the majority of the impact has been on the success rate of boys–again, its pretty easy to find statistics that support out all of this…. That was what irritated me more than anything, And I have been involved with the school system for the last fifteen years from a business perspective, and a parents perspective, and the 22 years before that as a student myself. I have talked to hundreds of teachers over the years, who say, yes, their authority and independence has been stripped over the years, boys struggle the most, teaching to the test, and now common core, looks good on paper, but does little for creating independent thinkers who are more likely to succeed. So the format has changed, and changed quite considerably.

          • mjayace

            and btw, I was being “some” what sarcastic in my first post–not about schools being completely changed to “equalize” everything, but in the whiteboys blamed for everything part, and the meds comment–but I didn’t think I needed to say that. There is far too many people on anxiety and depression meds and the causation for that, but that is another topic for another day.

          • Peter Zezima

            There *are far too many…

            You have too much testosterone built up in your system, leading to classic dumb-male syndrome. I’d recommend wearing a skirt the next time you are out to get some balance in your life.

  • Pingback: Every Picture (Doesn’t) Tell A Story | From the Foredeck of the Titanic()

  • Duke_of_Zork

    It’s a nonsense argument. They’re comparing a Scouting magazine with a supermarket tabloid. An accurate comparison would be comparing Girls Life to Maxim. People fall for it because they’re trained not to think. They see the similarity of the titles and their minds switch off like a light bulb at that point.

  • Pingback: Why There’s a Place for Mindless Tween Magazines (No, Seriously) | Parents Info()

  • kathrynjbain

    The issue isn’t a magazine issue. Magazines our out to make money. The problem is women buy Cosmo-type magazines which in turn their daughters read/see, so they want their own, just like Mom’s. You can’t change publishers or men until WOMEN stop buying into the whole looks issue. We, as women, need to expect more and not spend our money until we get it.

  • i do agree 100% its quite a travesty what modern culture does to women though i also want to say that it does also horrid thing to its men, we are taught to always be strong always provide never be that beautiful or vaurable and always be the one whom solves it all for the “women folk”. I think this has damages to both sexes much as the above also damages boys, yet i see far better articles about girls suffering, is that due to them being the only ones or is it due to men not being raised to express them selfs and that there feelings are less valid ?

    • Debbie Caudill

      As a woman, I have lowered my expectation of men because most of them (I have encountered) are not what I have been raised to believe that they should be, strong, dependable, loyal, supportive. Women that I know are finding that we have to learn to fix things for ourselves, because men are not always around, able and willing to do that for you. We are learning that we are mostly on our own when it comes to keeping house and raising the kids…even in supporting the kids financially, in a lot of cases. The men in our lives often become like additional children that we have to care for and coddle and support. It hardly seems worth the effort. If the woman’s job is to care for the children, cook and clean, and work outside the home, it is not too much to expect provide security, emotional support, and occasionally muscle. Often what we get is doubt, desertion, emotional distance, lack of communication, so we feel like we are in the relationship alone, that it wouldn’t even exist at all if we didn’t nurture it, hold our tongues and look the other way. Relationships are meant to be partnerships where both give, and both receive. Relationships become strained when one person does all of the giving and the bending, and the other person seems to be the one that reaps all of the rewards. I’m fortunate that I have reached a point in my life where I no longer feel the need for romance. Now if my 30 yr old son will just get a job and start pulling his weight around here, my life will be perfect. Yes, I love him, but I have been carrying him for 2 years, since he was laid off. He resentfully struggles through the 2 online college classes that I force him to take each semester, in order to keep living here, but he won’t take any initiative to do anything. I still have to tell him everything that I need him to do…wash the dishes…do the laundry…or it won’t get done. Do you now see how that would irritate a woman to have to hold everything together all the time? Before you say anything, I realize that my post has crossed a line and it is now just a venting session, but damn it all! Let me vent! I deserve it. LOL…

      • No worries its a bit of a rant but your feelings are valid and related as what you describe is the man child if you look at boys life its all about toys, take a look at how men are showen in popular movies, they are basily bigger teen ages, with there life being about mostly violence but don’t worry becase a woman will be there to take care of the litlte things like kids, medical and food needs and everything else that lets you go out there and do tough guy manly stuffs, because that is your role and don’t devite from that role because then you won’t get the prize at the end and thats a beutiful woman more commited to serving you then she was before… well thats just my take on every action movie i have seen

        and yet there are very very few articals discussing mens problems, because hey if you’d like to have a thought every once in a while and not you know go off to war to die then you don’t really fit in that model, but hey you still like women though because of near complet lack of disscussion they are programmed to want men of the model or at least close to it, and when you don’t fit into that model you tend to feel lost and left out, maybe like your son. so you do nothing because everything you want todo is no manly and there for girly and there for not for you…

        well i don’t know if that applys to you or if its just my rant, i’d say deal with him the way i deal with messy flat mates. all dirt in there room and no dinner till dishes are done, a few times i cooked just for me and the message got in there

        • mjayace

          Men, are not allowed to have problems remember? We only cause them. We are blamed for all and are supposed just suck it up and take it.

      • venting is fine, i do want to solve all your problems but all i can say is send the son to me he can stay on my couch and i’ll make sure he pulls his waight, he’ll learn cooking and gardening

  • Sherry

    Let’s try to discuss the real issue, not over which rag is a for-profit and which is not-for profit. Show me a boy’s magazine (for-profit or not) that says “Here’s how to attract girls! This is how you should act, what you should wear, the latest styling gel for your hair, how to trim your beard just so, how to deal with that new pubic hair, how to bath and scent yourself so that nobody finds you repulsive, here is a sweet list of appropriate jobs your sex can do well….” Because that is precisely what that (for profit) girl’s magazine is all about. And there is no equivalent boy’s magazine. The point is that girls are being programmed and trained to be a certain way that does not open up pathways to make the most of their native abilities and interests. I was lucky to get into engineering in the 70s. You would not believe how difficult it was swimming upstream with all those stereotypes pushing me back downstream. Yes, we’ve come a long way baby! But we are so NOT there yet. I agree with the author’s conclusion.

    • Joey

      Why do you think people read GQ and Esquire ?

      • Sherry

        GQ and Esquire are read mostly by adults, not impressionable children who are just forming their identities.

    • mjayace

      Because BOYS at that age aren’t interested in that. They are more interested in video games or sports and there are a hundred magazines that target that. Girls mature faster and start to get interested in looks, boys, at an earlier age. These for profit magazines target what SELLS, bottom line. The same reason those teen bop gossip rags with all the teen boy stars have been on the shelf for forty years.

      • Celeste

        Some of what sells, sells only because of how society, sexism, patriarchy, religion, and media, have conditioned us to think, what we should believe and how we should identify as being either feminine or masculine. If those social forces were not around, girls WOULD NOT being buying this crap. But just because social expectations and forces of oppression have been around for millennia, centuries or decades, DOESN’T mean it’s natural or what it means to be human or female. If we want to make real social change, we need to challenge media outlets and publishers, challenge leaders and challenge ourselves, to RAISE the bar in how we expect young boys and girls to be treated and what they are capable of. The comparison here is not sufficient or sound enough to become a scientific article, but it DOES make good social commentary. Which is simply saying: we still have work to do to achieve gender equality. If that makes you uncomfortable, maybe it’s time to really investigate why your uncomfortable and your implicit bias.

        • mjayace

          So let me ask you? Does the hammer toy above bother you that it implies boys have to like tools?

          • I don’t know for him/her, but I’d suppose yes. It definitely bothers me. Why wouldn’t it?

      • Jaq

        Are boys not interested, or are they told they shouldn’t be? If a boy is interested hairstyles and makeup, how does society respond to that?

      • obyd

        Boy’s Life is not a for-profit magazine. It is published by the Boy Scouts of America and the publish the same wholesome, moral things they always have.

        • mjayace

          Yes. I know that.. My comments were referencing the girl’s life magazine which is a for profit vs. comparable for profit magazines for boys–they assume and market the same way–to things they think boys are interested in.

  • itsy_bitsy

    We seem to have slipped into a society that looks at young girls as hooker material rather than young women on their way to their calling in life, whether it be professional or home and family oriented!

  • Joey

    There is a lot going on here. First thing first Boy’s Life and Girl’s Life are not made by the same people. Next you used a sample size of ONE. What does that mean, it means that you judged this whole publication on ONE cover. They very well could have other covers showing young ladies shooting for their dreams.

  • Pingback: Girls, Boys and Magazine Covers | Jennifer Jensen, Author()

  • rosalyre

    Sigh. I knew I shouldn’t look at the comments. I knew I would see the whining of a thousand whiny men with their fingers in their ears, not listening, but complaining and explaining.

    • Troy Eckhardt

      THIS “whiny man” has a sure-fire way to make sure Girls’ Life doesn’t affect his daughters. Ditto for the unwanted effects of Justin Beaver, Bouncie, and all of the other influences I don’t want in my house. There are hundreds of detrimental influences I keep from my boys as well.

      Regardless, comparing these two magazines says NOTHING about any disparity in societal expectations regarding the sexes any more than would comparing Bear Grylls to that female, orange-hued, trashy reality TV personality from New Jersey whose name (intentionally) escapes me.

      • mjayace

        Great point. Lets whine about all the stuff out there that is a “bad” influence vs. simply saying, hey, as a parent, if I think its a bad influence it isn’t going to be in my house.

  • Troy Eckhardt

    I understand the outrage. I do. American girls deserve better.

    BUT comparing Boys’ Life and Girls’ Life magazines is like comparing apples to road apples. BL was first published in 1911 and is the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. It has NEVER been anything but wholesome and educational. GL is a worldly rag published for its own sake starting in 1994. The ONLY similarity is that GL played off of BL’s name. That’s it.

    Let’s not act like the two together are any kind of reflection of the values and mores of our society in any way.

    You don’t compare National Geographic to National Lampoon, do you?

  • AMC

    Great mags for girls that treat them as young humans as opposed to mannequins are Kazoo and New Moon. Both are avail as print and PDF, and include a membership to the site. Kazoo just started and is a quarterly mag, you can buy single issue or subscribe.… New Moon for Girls has been around awhile, and you can buy back issues too h

  • Pingback: Girls Need Better Magazines - Movie Mom()

  • Pingback: Girls Need Better Magazines | 101.5 WKKG101.5 WKKG()

  • Rose

    Yes, that may be the bottom line for toy companies and magazines, but still. If all parents WERE bothered by this, toy companies would have to change their bottom line. So start being bothered and things may change for the better. Things are the way they are, only because we let them be.

  • Pingback: Anything you want to be… | Starling Dreams()

  • Ayatollah Obama

    Girl stuff is inane and is all about fashion and boys while boy stuff is actually about doing things because BOYS AND GIRLS ARE DIFFERENT. It’s not stereotypes that put them into those categories. It’s nature. I’m sorry, but prenatal testosterone causes REAL UNDERLYING DIFFERENCES between the sexes. If girls were actually interested in things instead of girly nonsense, they are free to buy The Economist or Wired or Scientific American instead of Cosmopolitan. It’s not like there’s a law against buying male stuff if you’re not male.

  • Ernesto

    Huh, you removed my comment. What terrible thing did I say? Just pointed out that after a whole article blasting of the pushing of female stereotypes such as concern for beauty, there’s the picture of the author nicely dressed with her long blond hair trying to look pretty. You know, following typical stereotypes for how a female should look and dress to be beautiful.

    Was that comment really worthy of being censured? Was that something so terrible others shouldn’t see it? I didn’t attack anyone. Didn’t use bad language.