There is now an Australian magazine aimed at "tweens" that seeks to counter perceived sexualised portrayals of girls found in teen magazines. It's called Indigo. It is now in its fifth edition and it seeks to present stories and images of "everyday girls", as opposed to those disturbing skeletal giants (read: models) who are sent off to earn millions of dollars in New York upon hitting puberty. A prominent feature of the marketing associated with the magazine is that the photographs of the models are not airbrushed. One of the editors, Natalia Morelli commented: "I was seeing my daughter, Molly, in an environment where she's exposed to a lot of stimuli all at once and judging herself based on that. I felt it was really important to give her something that gave her choice and really empowered her."
It's refreshing to see a magazine that attempts to present images of girls without Jolie-esque trout-pout lips nor sporting grill marks from the solarium. Indigo's website delves beyond "does he love me or not" polls and style tips (although it does have some emphasis on fashion) to encourage girls to be creative and develop their bodies for their own health, not because they want to look good in low-rise jeans. Nevertheless items like the "10 Things I Like About You" game featured on the website-- it promises to help "jettison girls into the joy bubble of high self-esteem"-- suggest that the didactic elements of the magazine may be a little too overt to ensure the magazine's survival if much of its intended audience is beyond primary school.
And schools may be where the continued survival of Indigo resides it seems, as 450 schools already subscribe to the magazine. I'd imagine this is because they believe they are assisting in countering the pressure on girls to confirm to a particular body image. This was seen as a marked problem of girls' teen magazines during last year's government inquiry. As Professor Catherine Lumby comments, however, there is more to solving the problem of raising unrealistic expectations in girls than countering images in print magazines: "There's no question that girls were very aware of pressures on them about appearance but they felt this didn't just come from the media, it also came from things like behaviour modelled by their mothers … To isolate magazines is really to miss the broader social context: that we still live a very gendered society that puts pressure on women of all ages."
Lumby is also "with it" enough to recognise that far from being ignorant of Photoshopping in magazines, most teen girls are able to manipulate their own photographs for use on social networking sites. Whether Indigo is underestimating the capacity of its audience to navigate a real and virtual world of altered images or not remains to be seen, but will the magazine grab girls' attention sufficiently to survive amidst the flashier attractions of the sexualised culture it seeks to counter?