Thursday, September 15, 2005
True! In fact, growing up twenty years before the era of the Sassy girl, I would say that the teen magazines of the late 60's contributed to my being in therapy in the early 80's.
The impact it had can perhaps be gauged most accurately at this very moment: the girls who read Sassy are now at an age where what they're doing is a fairly good (and encouraging) indicator of where they're going. "If I had had Sassy as a teen I'm sure I would have turned out with a stronger moral fiber," Courtney Love has said, "but I probably wouldn't have started a band. I probably would be teaching retarded children." It's flip and it's overstated—it's Courtney Love—but it also holds a core of truth about the formative connection a young girl, given the opportunity, can make with her culture. It also forebodes the recrimination that can result when that connection gets frazzled.
Back then, in Seventeen and Ingenue and others that appealed to the junior high school girl, there was a recurring first-person account. It was usually some variation on this theme: "I was shy and alienated and smart and I didn't have a lot of friends and I read books at parties and then an older man seduced me and I got pregnant/got VD."
The moral that got picked up by the thirteen-year-old, geeky me? That if you're a smart girl, not only will you (rightfully!) endure the gibes of schoolmates, but if any guy ever does break through your wall of cooties to actually touch you, it will end in shame and disgrace.
This message imprinted on my cerebral cortex at this impressionable age and stayed there for the next fifteen years. Regardless of the fact that my conscious mind knew the scientific facts and that I could recite the effectiveness of every birth control method years before I would ever need the knowledge, deep down in the reptilian corners of my brain I knew that unwanted pregnancy and venereal diseases were caused by being an uppity bitch with her nose in a book.
This didn't stop me from learning or reading, but it did give me an almost fatalistic sense that I deserved any social fallout that landed on my head, even when the perpetrators were one psychosis short of being the Manson Family.
It can be argued that there are many influences in a young girl's life, and that by the time I was 13 I had already received some heavy-duty social conditioning by family, teachers, peers, and a lot of television. And this is true. Teen magazines did not influence me in a vacuum, any more than being an avid reader shut me off from the world outside the covers of a book.
What teen magazines did was reflect the culture of their time. And the culture of their time in 1968 said this to preadolescent females: Don't be alone, or the wolves will get you.