Child DevelopmentGood Family

Boys vs Girls: Gender Roles in 2016

Heather van Mil2 comments7138 views
Boys vs Girls - gender roles

Scrolling through my Facebook feed as I do every morning and I came across this post from Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll featuring Girls’ Life & Boys’ Life magazines side by side. As a mom raising 2 girls, this both terrified me and made me so angry all in one fell swoop. 

People often dismiss the lack of equality between genders as fantasy, something dreamed up in some lonely feminist’s mind, and not actually played out in everyday life. This picture gets right up in our faces and shows us we can’t deny the truth. Gender roles are well, alive and thriving in 2016.

Shoshanna breaks the contents down further in her Facebook post (since I don’t have the magazines in my hand, I’m going to quote her here):

“Your cover has a lovely young lady with a full face of makeup and you invite your readers to ‘steal her secrets’.

The BOYS’ LIFE cover has in bold letters: EXPLORE YOUR FUTURE surrounded by all kinds of awesome gear for different professions- doctor, explorer, pilot, chemist, engineer, etc. subheading — HERE’S HOW TO BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE.

Could there possibly be two more divergent messages? Let’s explore further.

[Girls’ Life] Mag: 
Fashion (how to SLAY on the first day)
Confessions: My first kiss
Wake up Pretty
Your Dream Hair

You do at least mention doing well in school… even if it does come at the end of this: 

How to have fun, make friends… and get all A’s. 

But, whatever will they do with all those A’s since it is the boys who will be the Astronaut, Artist, Firefighter, Chef?

[Girls’ Life] to girls: 
Be like this girl.
Wake up gorgeous, steal a girl’s secrets, slay on your first day, have fun, make friends… and kiss .. and get all A’s.

BOYS LIFE to boys:
Be what YOU want to be. Here are some of your awesome choices! We’ll show you how!

[Girls’ Life] true stories are: ‘real girls smooch and spill’
Boys’ Life true stories are: True stories of firefighters in action.”

You can’t make this stuff up!! It is absolutely stunning to me that this is the kind of crap our girls are being fed in 2016. My husband and I work so hard to complement our girls on their strength and their intelligence. We encourage them to explore all sorts of things that they are interested in to discover their talents and grow their perseverance in overcoming obstacles both perceived and real. My girls’ ideas about what they want to be change on a daily basis from scientist (like Daddy), to a gymnast to a veterinarian to a ‘blog poster’ like Mommy. At 7 and 3 years old, they still want to marry their Daddy and couldn’t care less about their hair as long as it doesn’t interfere with their play. 

Granted they may not be the target age group for Girls’ Life, but it won’t be long until these messages start to seep in more and more with their peers, no matter what I allow or don’t allow in the confined of our home. 

Can we PLEASE stop telling our girls that the most important thing is how they look? Can we please encourage our boys and girls with the same messages? Yes, boys and girls often have different interests. But compare 2 girls and you’ll find they have very different interests. I’m not saying that everyone has to be the same. I’m saying, let’s let our kids be kids. Let’s help them explore and play and enjoy being young, as opposed to setting them up for a lifetime of low self-esteem, body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Let’s tell them that their mind and their personality ARE what matters and raise the future generation not to be programmed to judge themselves and others on their appearance. 

The truly sad thing about this all is that that kind of future seems like a utopian fantasy, not an achievable reality. We’re discouraged before we can take action, and that’s just those of us who care. Against all of the ambivalence, and people who actually encourage this kind of thinking, do we even have a hope? 


I wanted to add in a footnote to say I came across this magazine a few weeks ago and would love to see it gain circulation over the crap that is Girls’ Life. I just didn’t want this post to seem like it was all a sales pitch for Kazoo. I’m in no way affiliated with them, I just want to see quality material and media messages for my girls!  



  1. Boys’ Life is a publication of the Boy Scouts of America. It is a great magazine that supports the Boy Scout program. Girl’s Life is from an independent company that is similar to a teen bop type company. It is unfair to compare these two magazines and say that they promote the divide between boys and girls….. Especially since subscriptions to Boys’ Life are mostly members of the Boy Scouts of America and few from outside the movement.

    1. Fair point. I knew they weren’t printed by the same publisher, it’s more speaking to a larger media issue. It’s not hard to find a dozen more magazines that highlight the same point, that media aimed at young girls increasingly pushed them to value their looks, boys and other superficial things as the most important thing about themselves, whereas boys are encouraged to pursue athletics, interesting careers, etc

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