Rather My Daughters Not Consider the Latest Teenage Accessory

teen-vogue-240ds100609Call me a prude if you want, but I would prefer models on the cover of magazines bearing the word “teen” not be pregnant.

Before I learned about the pregnant teenage model on the cover of this month’s issue of Teen Vogue, I already wasn’t a big fan of this particular magazine. Jourdan Dunn, 19, was pregnant at the time of the cover shoot in which she appeared with fellow teen model, Chanel Iman. I was surprised that when Teen Vogue found out about the pregnancy, they went ahead and published the planned cover. For around ten whole seconds.

Jourdan Dunn, iconic enough at 19 to be referred to only by her first name, in an interview which can also be found in the November issue, recounts how difficult it was to tell her mother, her agency and her boyfriend about her “unplanned” pregnancy.

Was I hoping Teen Vogue would at least take the opportunity to talk about about birth control? Maybe. Would I have preferred the cover be pulled? Not necessarily. However I could have done without vogue.com’s headline when Dunn’s pregnancy was announced this past July:

Expecting in Style: What the Pregnant Jourdan Should Wear this Fall

I’m sure this young woman is absolutely lovely both inside and out. But she is a model. Clearly not a role model for 13 – 17 year old girls. Yeah, I know. The above article about rocking a stylish pregnancy was on the regular vogue.com. But seriously – would the Vogue reader really be missing out on anything at all if it wasn’t the teenage Jourdan who was featured?

In reaction to Jourdan talking about how her mother was blaming herself for giving birth to Jourdan at the same young age, Teen Vogue responded,

“It definitely won’t be easy, but Jourdan is also in a unique position for someone her age. Not many nineteen-year-olds have CK Calvin Klein campaigns to fall back on.”

Does the fact that Teen Vogue avoided a substantive issue like teen pregnancy, and turned it into one of financial/career success one surprise me? Never again.

It all sounds a little bit to me as if Teen Vogue is saying that it’s okay to don a baby bump as the latest accessory for two reasons only: because Dunn can afford it and Teen Vogue can’t afford not to.

In the same article the magazine effuses over her cover mate, Chanel Iman at age 18, having been named the youngest model in Victoria Secret’s history as if it were a Pulitzer or a degree in rocket science. Please. We all know Victoria’s Secret would be hiring models at 12, 13 and 14 if it were legal and culturally acceptable. At least culturally, I sometimes think we’re headed in that direction.

I would prefer my daughters not be confronted on a regular basis with taglines touting these young women’s unobtainable and rare confluence of genetic perfection: Teen supers Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn bring brains, beauty, mile-long legs and some much-needed diversity to the runways.

According to Teen Vogue’s current demographics, 46% of the magazine’s readership is 13-17 years old, 20% is 18-34, and 7% 3-12.

I’ve spent many years and much energy fighting what feels like an uphill cultural battle against the countless negative marketing messages aimed at my own teenage daughters. I taught them early on the concept behind commercial magazines: They stay in business by making you buy things. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

But not to worry! We can make you acceptable!  Maybe you’ll never look like Jourdan and Chanel here, but certainly you can get yourself closer to perfection. Since we’re BFFs and all, we’ll show you how with the right diet, clothes, makeup and hair products you can get as close as possible to it. You too can have a happy, magnificent, popular, skinny and well-dressed life.

And now add: And you can have a baby!

In this day and age of the ubiquitous erectile dysfunction commercials, I don’t ban my daughters from anything as far as their magazine and television choices. But I sure as heck check everything out. If I see or hear something disturbing, we talk about it.

You, my dear readers, probably don’t need to be told the following, because you are among the responsible parents out there, or perhaps your children are young and still under your thumb. Or perhaps you don’t have children at all, and as we all are, just trying to get over your own damage:

Just because the Kardashians feature their two youngest daughters at ages 10 and 12, on their E Channel reality show, doesn’t mean your younger sons or daughters should be watching it. Ditto for the plethora of other shows that are currently available that drive our nation’s female youth to that all-important aspiration of being a drunk, promiscuous and pregnant celebutante. Tell them it is most unlikely that the  “celebutante” part will happen. Remind them that this will leave them merely drunk, promiscuous and pregnant.

My favorite litmus test is to watch any show for 10 minutes while pretending your mother in law and a five year old are in the room with you.

And just because it’s on a magazine stand at the grocery store check out, and there’s someone who used to be on The Disney Channel on the cover doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. History says the kid just might be a train wreck.

Yeah, it’s a free country and we can turn the television off and no one is going to make us read, but they’re after our children and always have been. It makes me sad.


  1. susie says

    You are right on. Caught the Vogue thing last week was was appalled. And I thought it wass bad when they extolled the “Betty Grable” image in the 40s. Now it’s much, much worse. Kudos for trying to combat it with your girls.

  2. says

    It just makes me so mad. It’s a controversial issue that they went ahead with for no other reason than it would generate discussion and sell more magazines. I feel the same way about the Glamour large model cover shoot. I didn’t for one second think that it was to promote a healthier body image.

  3. says

    Ok, so let’s consider this from the marketing perspective – appealing to the pregnant teen cohort, which I assume the magazine editors must have factored in. Do we want pregnant teens modeling themselves after such a thin model? Yikes. It’s scary enough when our non-pregnant teens try to emulate the models on the magazine covers by starving themselves. But pregnant teens? Very scary.

  4. says

    You covered all the main issues here and mothers everywhere should take note. The messages are subtle and subversive to our youth. Parents need to be forever active and communicative.

  5. says

    Ugh. Oh, how they can glorify anything to make a buck. That’s exactly what we DON’T want–to give young girls the idea that you can be pregnant at 16 AND be lovely, AND be a successful model/singer/actress, AND wear expensive clothes that someone else buys, AND be all happy and carefree–just look at the photos! Nobody shows you the realities of teen pregnancy. I’m with you on this one and I think she should have been pulled from the cover.

  6. says

    I share your appalledness (word?)

    One huge frustration for parents is that line between “model” and “role model” has become so blurred. Indeed the two are almost synonymous at this point. Grr.

  7. says

    I so agree with Rosaria. You’re doing the right thing by being aware of what your daughter’s are subjected to in the media, not limiting their choices but making them aware of the great game of advertising.

    This is truly appaling!

  8. Guy says

    i find it upsetting that women have made such a big deal out of this.
    to start the model is 19, so its not like she is a young teen. she is also not saying its ok to go out and sleep around with multiple guys to have a good time, she was sexually active with her boyfriend. a 19 year old girl being sexually active with her boyfriend is NOT a big deal. if we were talking about a younger teen girl then it would be more of an issue.

    parents may find it shocking to know girls much younger are going out and being sexually active with MANY guys and they do it just for fun. ANY parents with a teenage girl from 13-19 should be talking about sex. please also do not just tell them abstinence abstinence abstinence! because that does not work. how many times are kids told they cant have a cookie only to find out later they try to sneak a cookie just because they were told no? its the same way with teenagers and sex. the more you tell them they should not be sexual at all the more they want to go out and do it just because they were told no. its no secret being sexual physically feels good, and aslong as that is the case teenagers are going to want to experiment with being sexual.
    all teenagers should be told everything there is about sex and given all the information they can get about sex in order to make their own decision. they should be told all the diseases and maybe bring in speakers for sex ed class that have had negative experiences with being sexual. basically scare them.
    you cant just NOT tell them about contraceptives because then WHEN they become sexually active they wont know properly how to use contraceptive and THAT is when they could end in trouble.

  9. says

    I have two daughters, now 21 and 24, and a son 19. I am very proud of the decisions they have made. I am appalled at the bombardment our culture is making on children these days.

    I think I was still playing with dolls when I was 12 and 13. I was a little backward socially–but it didn’t hurt me. Why are we pushing our youngsters to grow up so quickly?

    I cherish my childhood–when I speak of those times, I’m told it sounds like a fairytale. But it wasn’t–it was real and it was wonderful, despite the hardships we sometimes faced.

  10. says

    I so agree with you. If it were a different magazine that had a pregnant girl on the cover I might feel differently. If it was a magazine that actually inspired women to face life’s challenges and avoid cultural pressures. There is potential for a quality message in there, or a thought provoking article, but somehow Vogue doesn’t strike me as a company that can find that kind of depth. It’s mostly just about selling a product.

  11. says

    Such a weird, unclear message. I find myself vacillating between “show the girls the real world” and “shelter the girls from this unrealistic world.”

    But I suddenly find myself coming back to this: I can’t stand this kind of publication in the first place. Teen Vogue, Elle Girl, and the like. It’s the idea that the publishers of Vogue are going to put out something suitable for their eventual constituency, something that will edify them. I think not. Since when did Vogue send a good message to grown women about what choices are good? Their business is to sell magazines and to further the fashion industry, case closed.

    Which is why I was appalled when I found out my daughter was reading Elle Girl when she was 13. Not because I was appalled at the content. I knew the content would be awful. I was appalled that it was given to her by someone who should have better plans for the tween.

    None of it my house without an accompanying mandatory, long-winded, & highly opinionated commentary from me.

  12. says

    You are completely on the mark here! I’m glad you’re speaking out, I sometimes feel like I’m, swimming against the stream these days by limiting what my children do. I was considering some of the new shows/books coming out and how much I would’ve liked them, but we have that policy too about whether or not we would watch /read something … it makes me sad that the world is making our children into mini-adults.

  13. Margo says

    It’s a tough issue, and I thank all of you for your thoughtful insights. After giving it some more thought, and from my pov as mother to teenage girls, I think that the
    Vogue franchise should have probably just turned over the young adult, Jourdan, to the “grown-up” Vogue and made the graduation clear and complete keeping the whole thing off the pages of Teen Vogue – not as a means of judgment or punishment, but just because….

  14. says

    Just finally getting around to reading the POTW entries. Very well written post. I’m sadly not surprised, but still appalled that Teen Vogue would stoop so low. My compliments to you for your dedication in protecting your daughters from the influences of the mass media.

  15. says

    Well-said. I couldn’t agree more. I’m fighting an uphill battle with society in general at the moment with my 5-and-7-year-olds. Not only is the media pelting them, but their friends at school. Insanity if you ask me. No good end of this behavior.

  16. Anonymous says

    Not every teenager who gets pregnant ends up in trouble or a burden to society.

    Why can’t you focus on successful teen moms, like Diane Garnick?

    link removed by admin

    • Margo says

      This piece isn’t about what a burden pregnant teenagers are on society or how every pregnant teen gets into trouble. I didn’t judge anything or anyone except for the editorial decision of one magazine. I’d love to hear about Diane Garnick, but don’t know who she is. Please feel free to send me some information via email. TX!


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