Category Archives: self-esteem

Maura Kelly: Heavy People Shouldn’t Kiss on TV

By editorial intern Lauren Castner

On October 25, Marie Claire posted an entry from blogger Maura Kelly about finding overweight people on TV “aesthetically displeasing.”  Kelly spends a large portion of her post railing on overweight people featured on shows like the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly.  In her mind, heavy people should not be intimate with each other on television.

The blog post has caused such a stir that not only has Kelly updated it to add an apology for the tone, but Marie Claire has started a series of response posts from other editors and bloggers discussing the issue.  One of the responses comes from Fatshionista, a blogger independent from Marie Claire.  The responses bring up many valid points about the lack of full-figured television characters that look like the rest of us.

Many websites and blogs are weighing in too, including Jezebel and the Huffington Post.  The integrity of the editors who allowed the post to be published has been called in to question – people want to know who thought the post was a good idea to publish in the first place.  While I was reading the original post, at least 35 more comments were posted about it on Marie Claire’s site.  Many women have publicly declared that they are cancelling their subscriptions and are calling for others to join them in doing so.

Body image and self-esteem issues run rampant, and fashion magazines such as Marie Claire play a role in perpetuating these issues.  Instead of appreciating our bodies and all that they can do for us, we focus on being too fat or too thin.  Let’s praise the fact that there is some diversity of size and shape on TV, not shove it into a corner. Being healthy, no matter what your size, is much more important than being thin.

What do you think about Maura Kelly’s post?  Does it change the way you think about Marie Claire? Tell us what you think!

The Case for Unaltered Celebrity Photos

By Sarah Binning
As unaltered photographs of Jennifer Aniston hit the Internet, airbrushing has again made headlines. The original photo shows Aniston’s freckled, lined face, while the magazine cover of Australia Madison indicates perfect skin sans freckles and wrinkles.
Most of the viewing public knows media images are edited. A recent study by the Good Surgeon Guide, indicates that nearly 90 percent of teen girls are aware celebrity images are edited. This leads us to an important question: If people know that these photos are unrealistic, why do is there so much interest in Photoshopped images?
Do you think celebrities would be less famous if media portrayed the “unedited” versions of them? The Merrriam-Webster definition of “celebrity” is the “state of being celebrated.”So what are we actually celebrating? Their talents? Accomplishments? Looks? It’s easy to focus on “celebrating” so much that we forget they are human. We all age, get wrinkles, and sport the occasional dreaded pimple!
Maybe if we all saw more unedited photos of these celebs, we could recognize them as “normal” and create a newer, more positive standard of beauty. And isn’t it possible that their flaws would make them more likable to us, not less?
Teens may understand that media images are unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean the images don’t affect their self-esteem. This summer, Teen Voices’ teen editors spent an entire week discussing and analyzing media representations of women. The teen editors also uncovered the types of females who are represented in film and TV, and, more importantly, which types are left out. Our girls discussed how easy it is to feel your self-esteem lowered, and to feel like a failure when you can’t reach impossible beauty. These standards might be unrealistic, but they can still deeply impact the way teens view themselves.
We’re always happy to see groups taking steps toward combating false representations of women., a top plus-sized retailer, will showcase only plus-sized models during their show at New York Fashion Week. The retailer is taking a lot of heat for participating in Fashion Week – but we’re looking forward to seeing these curvy women in the show!

Using Humor and Mannequins to Talk Sex with Teens

By Teen Voices editorial intern Kimya Kavehkar

Navigating the different and sometimes confusing messages about sex from your parents, the media, or friends can be frustrating. Filmmaker Kari Nevil wants to make the process a little easier for teens by giving websites with accurate facts to answer questions and provide guidance.

Nevil, of JuneBug Films Inc., was tongue-tied about how to speak to her own pre-teen daughter about sex, so she decided to get together a group of mothers from California’s Bay Area to create a YouTube PSA called “Mannequins: Teen Sex Education with A Twist.”

“I made a film with twisted humor and a place to take action for responsibility of self. I asked my daughter to help me write and edit the PSA and we had the discussion in an organic way as a result,” Nevil tells Teen Voices. “I still gave her the speech. When it was over she said, ‘Are you done with the lecture now, mom?’ Evidence that lecturing is the last thing teens want.”

“Mannequins” steers away from clichéd sex talk and gives straight facts about what sex is. It also dispels a few rumors in the process. The video is visually appealing, with humorous and historical photographs to accompany the no-nonsense voiceover, which directs viewers to websites for reliable information on sex, STD risks and contraception. These sites include,, and Teen

According to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), less than half of teen girls and only 35 percent of teen boys get advice on methods of birth control from their parents. Because teens primarily digest information on sex from the media, this media portrayal of sex, including contraception, can deceive and confuse teens.

“Mannequins” emphasizes each person’s right to choose their own sexual path—which includes actively seeking the facts for themselves.

“The media is loaded with sexy images, songs and advertising campaigns. They [media aimed at teens] have a tendency to show that sexy equals cool, but do young people understand that sexy means something different to each of us?” Nevil asks. “You are the one who gets to decide when — or if — it is time to share your definition of sex/sexy, including if it means no sex at all. I just want youth to know what is what. Knowledge is power.”

Girl Scouts Is Ensuring Healthier Media for Girls!

By Teen Voices guest blogger Stephanie Harig

Stephanie Harig is an intern at Girl Scouts of the USA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office.

Every day we are bombarded by unhealthy media images of girls and women.  Even though we know that these depictions are not based in reality, many of us still define our self-worth by how we measure up to them.

A 2010 survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute found that 60 percent of girls compare their bodies to fashion models and 47 percent say fashion models give them a body to strive for. And only 46 percent of girls believe that the fashion industry does a good job of representing people of all races and ethnicities.

The problem is not only what girls think – it’s also what they do. The same survey found that more than half of girls admit to going on a diet to try to lose weight and 31 percent admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat. Moreover, 42 percent of girls say they know someone their age who has forced themselves to throw up after eating, while 37 percent know someone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

We are smart and powerful, but there is no doubt that unhealthy images negatively influence our body image and self-esteem. So is there anything we can do about it?

The answer is YES!

Girl Scouts is taking steps to ensure that healthier media images of girls and women become a reality. First, our newest program, It’s Your Story, Tell It!, will be released this winter.  It will empower girls to use the media as an agent of change and vehicle for self-expression, effectively helping them build their self-esteem.

Girl Scouts also supports The Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925), which was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).  The bill addresses unhealthy media images of girls and women through three avenues:

  • grants to support media literacy programs;
  • research on how depictions of women and girls in the media affect the health of youth;
  • and, the creation of a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media.

Current media images of girls and women set unrealistic standards that distract us from what is important and make it harder to believe in ourselves. This is not the reality in which we should have to live!  The Healthy Media for Youth Act is a step toward a new, girl-positive reality!

Imagine a world full of healthy media images of women and girls. Positive images of girls and women in the media would foster self-esteem, positive body image, and healthy relationships.  Girl Scouts further encourages the media to highlight strong female role models, more women in leadership roles, and body type, racial, and ethnic diversity.

If this is the world you want to see, then TAKE ACTION!  Join Girl Scouts as we advocate for healthier media images.  Visit and send a letter of support for the Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925) to your Member of Congress. By using our GIRL POWER we can change our reality!

New Projects from Media Analyst Jean Kilbourne

By Teen Voices editorial intern Christina Loridas

How do we change the way society views women? How can women be seen as more than an underwear ad or a bedroom staple? It starts when we analyze the destructive images we see on a daily basis. Jean Kilbourne is known worldwide for her criticism of advertising and its negative images of women.  She has conducted studies on the media’s affect on eating disorders, violence, and addiction.

Kilbourne’s series Killing Us Softly, based on her lectures, looks at advertising and its destructive themes of sexism, racism, and perfection. Now, she will release a fourth installment of the series: Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women (Media Education Foundation) will be available online and in stores April 15. Can’t wait until April? Check out the Media Education Foundation’s excellent study guide to Killing Us Softly and find out more about Kilbourne’s work at

Boston Girls Express Themselves…Poetically!

By Teen Voices editorial intern Jackie Catcher

Poetically Speaking performers and Teen Voices peer leaders-in-training Anna-Cat and Kassandra

Poetically Speaking performers and Teen Voices peer leaders-in-training Anna-Cat and Kassandra

Whoever said “money makes the world go round” should have attended Poetically Speaking, where 20 teens proved there’s more to life than making bank.  The annual poetry/spoken word event, which Teen Voices presented in partnership with Emerson College, had a special theme this year: “The Value of Voice.”  Teen girls (and a couple of women) performed their original poetry to a packed house at Emerson, using four topics to guide their poems: overdraft protection, more than face value, making ‘change,’ and R.I.C.H. (Respected, Influential, Courageous and Hopeful) Girls.

Through prose and rhymes, the girls thanked the people who have supported and cared for them, discussed the meaning of real beauty, thought aloud about how to improve our world, and showed how their respect, influence, courage and hope make them some of the RICHest girls in the world.  “My outer beauty doesn’t make me successful, get it straight.  It’s my passion, drive, and determination that structure my fate.  My passion for writing is going to open my gate,” rhymed Tekeisha Meade in her poem Imagine.

Kaire greets the audience during her performance

Kaire greets the audience during her performance at Poetically Speaking

As girls danced onto the stage, host Saun Green kept everyone laughing, but these girls were also here to talk seriously about change – and we don’t mean coins.  Poet  Kaire Holman recited, “I’m here to pick up the change and advance the pace of this race, and in time, our line will be fine.  I’m that coin collector,  and I’m also their overdraft protection.”

Rather than addressing dollar value, the teens expressed voice value—the importance of amplifying their voices.  They had the audience laughing, crying, and dancing in their seats.  “Do we all need to conform?  Conform to the ideals that this thickness I got right here is wrong?  That my light brown and curly hair don’t fit their song?   Well listen —  listen carefully.  The beauty I got, you can’t even see,” wrote Natasha Gonzalez in her piece Conforming.

The Poetically Speaking performers gather after the event

The Poetically Speaking performers gather after the event

Inspiring, strong, confident, and beautiful, these young poets showed that teen girls are way more than just pretty faces – they are a social movement, a generation of strong new voices, a group that isn’t going to wait to add their voices to society — because their time is now!

Photography by Lolita Parker, Jr. of Parker Digital Imaging

Love Yourself as You Are… Unless We Think You Look Chubby?

Teen Voices intern Courtney Shane MacNealy

Last month, Self magazine featured an interview with pop singer Kelly Clarkson, who has recently been facing tabloid criticism for her supposed weight gain. In the article, Kelly radiates confidence, saying, “When people talk about my weight, I’m like, ‘You seem to have a problem with it; I don’t. I’m fine!’ I’m never trying to lose weight–or gain it. I’m just being!” While Kelly is comfortable with her size, apparently Self‘s editors are not–the magazine cover featured a doctored image of a drastically slimmed-down Kelly.

Check out Jezebel to see the real Kelly and the edited photo.

Unfortunately, we are used to seeing heavily edited or Photoshopped images of fashion models in ads–but we expect more from a magazine like Self, which focuses on healthy living and gives women fitness and nutrition advice. We want to see a happy, natural-looking woman on the cover, not a teeny-tiny model. Editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger addresses the controversy on her blog, stating, “Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best.” Hey, Self! Skinnier isn’t always better. Lucy also writes, “Self tells women, ‘Love yourself as you are and reach your goals.’” Yet by heavily editing Kelly’s cover photo to make her look skinnier, Self certainly doesn’t seem to love her as she is!

Read Lucy’s blog posts on the topic here and here.

Lucy says that magazine covers should “inspire us to be our best.” But if magazines continue to show us altered pictures, women are going to aspire to unrealistic, unattainable ideals, and we will never be satisfied with our own bodies. It seems that Lucy herself is searching for that unrealistic image. She says, “When I ran the marathon five years ago, I was so proud of myself for completing it in under five hours and not walking a single step. But my hips looked big in some of the photos (I was heavier then), so when I wanted to put one of them on the editor’s letter in Self, I asked the art department to shave off a little. I am confident in my body, proud of what it can accomplish, but it just didn’t look the way I wanted in every picture.”

Lucy’s message is contradictory: she claims she is confident, and yet she is not confident enough to publish an unedited photo of herself.

We need to embrace our bodies’ unique shapes and all the wonderful things they allow us to do, from playing an instrument to running 26.2 miles. We applaud Kelly Clarkson for loving her body, and hope we can soon see the real Kelly on a magazine cover.

Taking Back the Music, Part Two

We’ve put more great videos of reclaimed music on Teen Voices’ YouTube Channel. Come on over and watch — then send us your own!

The Vagina Monologues, Teen Voices style!

Vagina. That’s right — we said it. VAGINA. We live in a society where men are free to talk about their reproductive parts as much as they want. They can scratch and adjust in public and no one looks twice. But if we even mention our periods or anything south of our borders –- at least in a nonsexual way — guys sometimes act like we’re carrying the black plague.

Well, this week was Health Week at Teen Voices. The teen girls in our mentoring program watched Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking one-woman show The Vagina Monologues. Thanks to Ensler, vaginas everywhere are finally sharing their stories. They have their own “voices” and the freedom to talk about sex, love, periods, masturbation, and so much more.

So, inspired by Ensler, the girls wrote monologues for their vaginas. They even gave them fun names, like “Cherish” and “Kitty,” and then they took the stage.

What we found out in the monologues is that some of these vaginas are lonely! One of them, “Phoebe,” pointed out in her monologue, “No one talks to me … because I’m a vagina.”

The vaginas pointed out that they love the clothes we dress them up in: jewelry, satin, lace, thongs, and boy shorts. They also noted that they enjoy feeling a fresh breeze and some nice ocean water every now and then.

These opinionated vaginas want in on the decision to shave or not to shave. Some of these va-jay-jays finally gave their owners a piece of their minds, pointing out that a Brazilian wax is basically torture.

A lot of these vaginas talked about losing their virginity. Like Phoebe, many would like to have a visitor, but their owners are adamant that they wait for the right person to come along. “Lalani” doesn’t get why she shouldn’t be able to help with this decision. “Yeah,” this outspoken vagina said. “She’s my owner, but I should have an opinion too!”

The girls also talked about the importance of taking the right precautions against “gangs” like AIDS and other STDs. “These are not gangs you want anything to do with,” one vagina said. “Not at all.”

Throughout the show, the ladies at Teen Voices took pride in their bodies and the way they care for them and respect them. They were positive, caring, honest and blunt — and they get that their vaginas and sexuality are a part of them and help make them who they are.

So what about your vagina? Shouldn’t she get a chance to express herself too? If she had her own monologue, what would she say?

Drama-Free High School

By:  Jocelyn Perez

You might think drama-free meant gossip-free. Well, that’s definitely not the case. I meant Drama Club free. Schools are experiencing huge budget cuts. In my high school this means no drama club, no substitute teachers and new, fun teachers getting fired.

After school activities are some of the first things to be cut when schools are running low on dough. This has a huge impact on teens. Activities let us be productive but without them we might turn to other useless things or bad influences on the street.

Not only are activities being cut but substitute teachers aren’t being hired. It might seem like a treat to miss class whenever your teacher is sick and not have a substitute teacher. But it’s not so sweet in the long run when you have to make up the work and rush everything in class when the teacher comes back. The workload builds up and it becomes overwhelming all because your school can’t afford a substitute.

The new, fun, cool teachers getting fired because of budget cuts is ridiculous. Just because they have only been there a little while doesn’t mean you should make them leave. Why keep the older teachers that are boring?

Why doesn’t the government cut budgets in places other than schools? This is the future of America we’re talking about!

Sorry to leave you guys, I have to go read eleven chapters of Great Expectations because my teacher has great expectations of being absent on Friday!