Guest Post: What It Means to be Seventeen

by Krystie Yandoli, not 17 but way closer to it than anyone else in the Feministing crew
Jamie Keiles is the much talked about 18-year-old high school senior who started the Seventeen Magazine Project. She started blogging as a means of documenting her attempt at spending one month “living according to the gospel of Seventeen Magazine.”
Jamie claims that she doesn’t frequent the teen magazine genre, but prom season prompted her to glance over a few glossies. That’s what sparked her initial project idea, “I was surprised by, bluntly, how stupid most of these magazines were. I wondered if anybody my age actually followed these tips, and what happened if someone actually did follow all of these tips.” Wonder no more, because Jamie realized she could answer her own inquiry.
The Seventeen Magazine Project is a part of the new generation of self-experiment blogs, post Julie-Julia era, only this time around the issues are closer to home. Body image, beauty, and teenage culture are only a few of the subject matters addressed through Jamie’s research. It almost seems impossible to think that Jamie followed all diet and exercise suggestions, utilize all beauty tips, and consume all media recommended by Seventeen Magazine, but she did. Her reflections will aid those women of her generation and hopefully inspire audiences of older women’s mags to see the craziness that is “women’s publishing.”
The blog is a space for Jaime to share all of her daily recordings and analyses and is proving to raise many important questions regarding young women in the media: What are acceptable body image messages? Which beauty tips are necessary at all? What kind of substantial content can replace the already existing articles and messages in forums like Seventeen? Who’s responsible for answering these questions–the editors, writers, or readers?
Jamie’s done some amazing reflecting via her blog on some of her findings in Seventeen Magazine, which she describes as, “a hair and makeup instruction manual.”
Some important highlights:
* “I don’t think teenagers need to be protected from media, I just think that we’d benefit from being exposed to media that gave us a little more to think about.”
* “I’d love to see the magazine diversify some to include articles about current events, movies, books, crafts, and the arts, along with the standard fashion and beauty bits. They already have a captive audience hungry for content. Giving teenagers a future persona to strive for with a little more substance for wouldn’t kill the magazine.”
* “The amount of time that I spend getting dressed every day has gone from 20 minutes to an hour. That is, I wasted 1200 minutes this month doing my hair and putting on makeup.”
Jamie is accomplishing quite the opposite of wasting time. This project has the potential to reach lots of other young women who make the mistake of following tips from mags like Seventeen. While her daily make-up routine may seem mundane and frustrating, the exposed to the truths found in this experiment are invaluable.
What kind of advice does Jamie wish to give other girls who read 17? “Don’t.”

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    At what point does supposed entertainment become toxic? While it might be an individual issue, I think it has a negative influence across the board. And for every person able to see through it, there are many others who can’t discern that line.

  • ticker

    It’s really too bad, because Seventeen used to be a place for straight up info about sex, school, and other issues important to young women. It always had the other stuff too, of course, but Gloria Steinem wrote for them! Now it’s just –blugh.

  • jolenetara

    When I was in grades 6-8 I used to pour through all of those magazines- YM, Seventeen, Cosmogirl. And I remember how much of an outsider they always made me feel like- as a heavier teen girl, I couldn’t fit into the clothes they featured and advertised- even if I could, I couldn’t afford them. Looking back- I really don’t know what the appeal was, I think I liked the dating tips (which I never used).
    But I remember very distinctly the day I stopped reading teen girl magazines. I can’t remember which magazine it was- YM or Cosmogirl I think- and there was an article on how to be “popular”. Even the 14-year-old me thought the article was a farce- the advice was so superficial -buying new clothes, new makeup, getting a “makeover”. But number one on the list is was really grossed me out: “Convince your parents to move to a new city”. I couldn’t believe they were peddling that as advice to teen girls- ridiculous!! I never touched another one after that, minus one “prom” edition when I was shopping for my graduation dress (which wasn’t all that helpful either).

  • EndersGames

    truly inspiring. I’m impressed.

  • greeny1

    Too bad Sassy bit the dust those many years ago. It was a beacon of feminist-slanting sanity during my adolescent years…