I was flipping through the March digital issue of Seventeen magazine this morning over breakfast when I found myself appalled. It's amazing how a short little phrase can have such an effect on people, and that is precisely why people must be careful of what they write! I was so angered that I decided to do something I've never done before: I sent a response to Seventeen via e-mail. I doubt anything will ever come of it, but Seventeen need to realize the harm they're doing to the self-image of thousands of girls. Here is my letter in its entirety. It may not make a difference at Seventeen, but I hope it makes a difference to someone out there on the Internet.
I loved your magazine as a teenager, and I still enjoy picking it up now when I need a fresh, young perspective on things. However, I was incredibly disappointed when I read the letter from Ann in the recent March issue regarding the Pretty Amazing Contest.
Although I can tell you tried to put the emphasis of the contest on the entrants' accomplishments and personal stories, it was the way Ann wrote one phrase that left me completely appalled: "yes, you have to be pretty to be on the cover...." I would think that a girls' magazine that has been popular for as many years as Seventeen has would realize that ALL women are beautiful. I would think that the editor of such a magazine would also realize this. And while you may say that you believe it, a simple phrase such as the one I quoted above reinforces the idea that some women are pretty, and some are not.
One thing I've learned as I grew older and battled constant low self-esteem was that the very things that I thought made me ugly were some of my BEST assets. I want other girls to realize that they, too, are beautiful, and when a magazine implies that they'll be judging girls according to whether or not they are pretty, this implies that you have some criteria for what constitutes "pretty," which is the very reason that so many girls feel ugly to begin with.
Is a girl not pretty because she isn't "skinny?" Is she not pretty because her teeth are crooked? Is she not pretty because she has rosacea? Is a girl not pretty because she chooses to wear black clothing instead of the latest fads? Every girl who reads your magazine is now wondering what criteria you're using to judge how pretty they are, and they are despairing that they don't meet it.
Maybe you, as a girls' magazine, should be emphasizing things that make girls accept the beauty that they already have, instead of pitting us against one another in some ridiculous beauty contest. Then maybe there won't be another generation of girls who grow up ashamed to look in the mirror, trying desperate measures to change their appearance because they feel their face is too round or freckled, their hair too curly or mousy, or their arms too long or hairy.
ALL women are pretty. ALL women are beautiful in their own, unique way. Magazines should be celebrating this, instead of discouraging it. You can do better than this, Seventeen, and you owe it to women everywhere.