Seventeen’s Kesha Cover Sends Wrong Message to Girls
The February issue of Seventeen magazine features singer-songwriter Kesha, who is known for her unrestrained image and party-loving lyrics. In her interview, Kesha says she stands up to bullies, finds motivation in criticism, and is attracted to people regardless of their gender. Kesha’s cover look, however, consists of a pink dress, flowers in her hair, and a fluffy kitten. The headline reads, “The Wild Child Finally Shows Her Softer Side.”
Her progressive views and colorful style might establish her as a role model for independent-minded young women who read the magazine. Instead, Seventeen sanitizes Kesha’s complex persona in favor of a Taylor Swift-like femininity.
According to a report published by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program for the Study of Media and Health, 12- and 13-year-old girls who regularly read teen magazines “used the magazines to formulate their concepts of femininity.” The mainstream media rarely displays the complexity of women's identities, and often outright refuses to include less traditional forms of femininity.
Jaclyn Friedman, founder of Women, Action & the Media (WAM!), said this kind of pigeonholing doesn’t just apply to those with "wild child" images like Kesha.
“As a culture we’re uncomfortable with women who claim their subjectivity, especially around sexuality,” Friedman told Campus Progress. Friedman said the image Kesha cultivates is one of agency and acting on desire, unlike Swift, who personifies chastity and romantic dependency.
“The idea of Kesha is much more fun,” said Friedman. “What’s fun for her.”
Seventeen''s presentation of Kesha softens her more contentious opinions, perhaps for easier marketing to the parents paying for subscriptions. The magazine acts out our cultural need to tame women’s wildness, and it privileges socially acceptable appearances over compelling discussion.
It's bad enough that 78 percent of girls in the U.S. are already “unhappy with their bodies” by age seventeen, according to the National Institute on Media and the Family. Let's not encourage them to be unhappy with their minds.
Molly Savard is a reporter for Campus Progress. You can follow her on Twitter @mollicules.
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