Featured image attribution: Durelle Alexander, Public Domain.
On Feb. 27, eighth grader Janya Budaraju glanced at the covers of two different magazine titles in the Kennedy Middle School library: “Girls’ Life” and “Boys’ Life.” Girls’ Life was more pink and detailed how to “Talk to cute guys” and “Hello new swimsuit. It fits, it flatters.” The Boys’ Life magazine showed machines, gadgets and inventions, with the title “Explore your future.”
For clarification, the KMS library does not subscribe to “Girls’ Life” or “Boys’ Life.” They received these issues in a box of donated magazines.
Budaraju took pictures of the covers and sent them to fellow eighth graders Roya Ahmadi, Safaa Mouline and Sindhu Vajrala. They could all agree on one thing: the magazines were blatantly promoting gender stereotypes. It is a shame that they are still perpetuated. In America, girls aren’t raised to be housewives anymore, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t discriminated against when they break out of that traditional mold.
“I like things that are seen as girly,” Ahmadi said. “I also focus on things that will expand my intellectual capabilities like science and math.”
Ahmadi can speak, read and write three languages: Chinese, Farsi and English. She swims and plays soccer. She takes JAVA classes, is a member of Speech and Debate club at school and she takes extracurricular math classes.
(Above) Ahmadi expresses her discontent upon seeing the magazines on her Instagram account. The girls have sent an email to the Girl’s Life publishers, but have yet to receive any reply.
Our world is changing to become a more accepting place, but there is no doubt in saying that high-achieving women are still discriminated against in a work environment. According to the United States Department of Labor, women make up only 26 percent of computer and mathematical occupations. Ahmadi’s mother was shocked when she saw these magazines. She works closely with women in engineering and science fields, and was disappointed that a magazine targeted at young adults would enforce such stereotypes.
Vajrala believes that gender stereotypes are not equivalent to sexism, but instead exist in microaggressions. Vajrala has been told stories of how her grandmothers were treated as lesser because they were girls. Even now, instances of child marriages convince her that sexism is a very real and substantial issue.
However, Vajrala acknowledges that she grew up with a small amount of sexism. She didn’t notice that these magazines, ones that could have very real effects on others, were so close to her and made others so vulnerable.
“The enforcement of gender stereotypes was lying right underneath my nose and I didn’t even notice,” Vajrala said.
To eliminate it means to stop subconsciously giving in to these magazines’ and society’s, for that matter, perception of a “girl” or a “boy.”
“You also have the boys and they’re being encouraged not to be in art or fashion or anything like that,” Vajrala said. “It really emphasized to me that sexism has to be taken from both sides, you have to combat it from both sides.”