The biggest surprise of being a young woman in my early 20s has been having a lot more respect for teenage girls than I ever had for them when I was one. When I entered my teenage years, the #MeToo movement was still years off, hating on things teen girls liked was popular sport, and all in all, teenage girls weren’t treated with respect anywhere — in the media, in politics, or in our day to day life.
When I was a teenage girl, I thought I was silly and unsophisticated for liking the things I liked — Taylor Swift, rom-coms, and occasionally painting my nails. You can bet I would not have been caught dead reading something like Teen Vogue.
Just as the times have changed for teen girls (though there is still a LONG way to go, especially for more marginalized girls), so has the media marketed to them. When I was a teenager, I don’t think I ever read Teen Vogue — it was about clothes, celebrities, crushes, and other “silly” things. At 23, I’m not at all embarrassed to share that I read Teen Vogue.
In fact, I know Teen Vogue is actually leading the way. It is one of the few outlets that celebrates teenage girls: their interests, their contributions, and their whole selves. It wasn’t always like that, though. When I was a teenager, it really was known pretty much exclusively for its style coverage. And while that doesn’t have to be “silly” and “dumb,” it also is not even a fraction of what teenage girls are interested in. Since the 2016 election, though, there has been a well documented change in Teen Vogue’s content. Depending on who you listen to, this change was simply reading the room for financial gain, continuing a long tradition of countercultural women’s media, or the work of pioneering editor Elaine Welteroth. Either way, everyone agrees… Teen Vogue got interesting. They now cover celebrity news, the latest style and beauty tips, political explainers, and activist stories in the same breath.
Not long ago, I wrote about how teenage girls are leaders in both climate activism and pop culture, and argued that we should give their complexity the respect it deserves, and also learn from their ability to seamlessly traverse spheres. Climate action needs to be popular after all!
Teen Vogue is leading the way on popularizing climate activism by respecting the intelligence and interests of their readers. In the past week alone, they wrote or published content about police violence toward Black and Indigenous land defenders at Fairy Creek (in Canada) who are putting bodies on the line to stop old growth logging on Indigenous land, the Sunrise Movement youth hunger striking outside the White House for the full suite of climate actions to be included in the reconciliation bill, and the incognito fossil fuel advertising by The New York Times and The Washington Post’s in house ad agencies.
These pieces run right alongside things like “Penn Badgely & Cardi B Had the Most Wonderfully Bizarre Twitter Interaction” and “26 Best Matching Sets to Lounge in This Fall.” And why shouldn’t they? Teen girls, women, people, for that matter, are complex. And while we know climate is a complex issue — it doesn’t have to be relegated to dour, serious, manly newspapers. Some of our pop culture magazines have the most exciting coverage around!
I’m all for anything that gets people thinking about climate change, and pop culture is one of them. So, if Teen Vogue is informing a new generation who came for the eyeliner tips and stayed for the activism explainers, I’m all for it. And you should be too.
If you’re trying to keep up in conversation with the young people in your life, try Teen Vogue. You just might find yourself better informed — on everything from TikTok to tax incentives.