Yesterday, one business owner and mother of five, Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll, took to Facebook to point out an alarming difference between the covers of Girls' Life and Boys' Life magazines. She addressed her post, written as a letter, to five of members of the Girls' Life masthead, directing their attention to a photo she posted as well. The photo shows a copy of Girl's Life next to a copy of Boys' Life — and the differences are jarring.
"Your cover has a lovely young lady with a full face of makeup and you invite your readers to 'steal her secrets,'" Keats-Jaskoll writes. "The BOYS' LIFE cover has in bold letters: EXPLORE YOUR FUTURE surrounded by all kinds of awesome gear for different professions — doctor, explorer, pilot, chemist, engineer, etc. subheading — HERE'S HOW TO BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE." She continued, pointing out examples from the covers: "You to girls: Be like this girl. Wake up gorgeous, steal a girl's secrets, slay on your first day, have fun, make friends...and kiss...and get all A's. BOYS LIFE to boys: Be what YOU want to be. Here are some of your awesome choices! We'll show you how!" As Keats-Jaskoll drew her letter to a close, she reminded the women she addressed that the power is in their hands to change the way Girls' Life speaks to its readers: "You are women. Working, professional women. Is this the message you are proud of? Is this why you became publishers, writers, graphic designers? To tell girls they are the sum of their fashion, makeup and hair? You CAN fight the tide of objectification of girls. You CAN create covers and stories that treat girls as more than hair, lips, and kisses." And she ended with her decision to take her business elsewhere: "I guess I'll sign us up to BOYS LIFE because the quiz I want for my girls isn't 'Am I ready for a BF' — [it's] 'What Do I Want To Be.'" Keats-Jaskoll also e-mailed her letter to the Girls' Life editorial staff, she shared with Refinery29. We have reached out for further comment but have yet to hear back. Refinery29 spoke with Karen Bokram, publisher and founding editor of Girls' Life, to get her take. "Are we more than lip gloss and clothes? Of course," she told us. But, Bokram added, "it's okay to like lip gloss or be interested in fashion... I don't know how [the problem] became 'either you like lip gloss and clothes or you like being an astronaut.'" Bokram also expressed concerns that Keats-Jaskoll's letter belittles the content of the magazine. She said she wishes readers would wait to comment on the magazine until after they've read what's inside, citing more substantive stories on girls' friendships and personal experiences. To be fair, what the editors choose as cover lines is not always indicative of the entire package. Countless other women's print publications are known for using the headlines most likely to compel readers to pick up their issues, and sure, there's nothing wrong with liking fashion or beauty. But it is worth asking why there isn't more of an emphasis on girls' futures. Regardless of whose side you're taking in this debate, Keats-Jaskoll's critique of mainstream girls' media is also part of a larger trend — Kazoo, a magazine for girls that leads with feminist principles, exceeded its Kickstarter goal this past May. Clearly, parents are searching for — and willing to put their money behind — media that send their daughters powerful, you-can-do-anything-you-put-your-mind-to messages. Check out the covers, and let us know what you think.