Teen zines and the politics of clean

// 1 December 2005

US teen magazine Seventeen has got in trouble for a frank article on the vagina. It’s author, Jennifer Howze, tells the Guardian about writing the article and the subsequent furore when one supermarket chain pulled the issue from its shelves.

“This wasn’t an article telling teens how to perform blowjobs or have anal sex or even (horrors!) employ birth control – something George Bush prefers teens don’t find out about until they’re married (or perhaps pregnant). This was basic health information about anatomy every Seventeen reader has, packaged for a magazine audience and illustrated with a straightforward drawing. Every girl who wanted to look could see what was pictured. The difference is, instead of being a poster in the doctor’s office which you wouldn’t be caught dead studying, it was a magazine you could read in your bedroom.

“This action by Albertsons reflects the country’s attitudes. The idea of a teenage girl with a hand mirror, a thorough knowledge of her body and an informed opinion about her sexuality and reproductive life terrifies America.”

All of this makes me realise how sterile and restricted teen zines were when I used to read them – like J17, which mainly consisted of posters of boyz and make-up tips if memory serves. Again relying on that most unreliable tool, there were health/sex related articles, but nothing that frank. And flicking through my 12 year old cousin’s magazines, things don’t seem to improved. Another reason to miss Sassy, even though we in the UK never got to read it…

And Pandagon posts an excellent dissection of the politics of house-keeping in hetrosexual relationships, even when the boy in question is a feminist. Have we really not moved on from the idea that a dirty house=a bad woman?? I can’t empathise with this feeling at all, not least because it’s not bourne out in my own experience. But I am an inverterate slob…

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