I used to subscribe to several women’s magazines — Fitness, Health, Women’s Health, Shape — and would occasionally buy others off the newsstand at the grocery store or airport. For a long time, I simply thought of those magazines as easy reading that had some good health tips. But I’ve changed my mind.
I keep a box of magazines in my classroom. I use them for various lessons, and my students can grab one to read if they’re done with an assignment and forgot their usual reading book. One day, I was packing up some magazines at home to add to my box at work. As I looked at the aforementioned magazines, I thought, ‘I’d better just recycle these. I don’t want my students reading them.”
Do you see a theme in these articles? Of course you do. “Be skinny and toned to be sexy. Lose body fat to be hot. Exercise to become gorgeous and desirable.” And, most disturbing at all, “Lose weight so you can love yourself.”
Now, I don’t have a problem with people working out for aesthetic reasons, and honestly, that’s probably one reason that most of us exercise. But I don’t want my vulnerable 15-year-old students to think that the only reason or the main reason to work out is to be “sexy.” I don’t want them to get the message that health is second to appearance. I want them to realize that health is important for its own sake.
And I want them to accept — to love — their own bodies, regardless of if they look like those in the magazines.
My kids already see such messages everywhere they look. I can’t stop them from being bombarded with such messages everywhere else, but it didn’t have to happen in my classroom. And that got me thinking:
If I don’t want my kids reading these articles and being told that “sexy” and “healthy” are the same thing, and we must be “sexy” to love our bodies, why was I subjecting myself to those messages? Sure, I’m an adult and can better filter those messages, but reading those articles and looking at those perfectly Photoshopped bikini bodies is not healthy for my perceptions, either.
I don’t need to read articles that suggest that to be happy, I, like Elizabeth Banks, need to be not just healthy, but “hot.” I don’t need to see hundreds of pictures of “sexy” bodies that mine will never look like. And so I cancelled my subscriptions to all those magazines.
I haven’t missed them at all. I don’t have much time to read magazines, so when I do, they need to be worthwhile. A magazine full of Photoshopped bodies and declarations, implied or explicit, that I need to be sexier are simply not worth my limited time.
What do you think of women’s health and fitness magazines? Do you read them?