My letter to TIME

In a week when others in the blogosphere are discussing TIME magazine’s coverage of a pregnancy boom in Gloucester, Massachusetts, there was something else that caught my eye (and my ire). I’ve sent the following letter to the editors at TIME:

I’m very disappointed in this week’s illustration for “5 things you should know about.”. It’s got three guys and some glammed up starlet posing to show off her cleavage and heavy makeup. In a week when the only woman in the accompanying text is Abigail Breslin in the American Girl movie, the illustration sends a strong message to girls that being sultry is far more important than any innocent adventure. This illustration makes me glad that I’ve just cancelled my subscription. TIME is no longer the sort of magazine I want in the house with my preschool daughter.

I doubt they’ll print it, but they should. In a world where even the news media touts sexy over brains, courage, and innocence, is there any wonder that some high school girls think that “No one’s offered them a better option” than getting pregnant at sixteen?


  1. #1 Alice
    June 22, 2008

    Right on, SW. You tell those TIMEsters.

  2. #2 Glo
    June 22, 2008

    Your first mistake is in thinking that “Time” is a news magazine.

    Hey! Listen TF up! Time … as in Time/Warner, a bit flippin’ media (Entertainment) company. Entertainment! Get it? Entertainment!

    They are promoting their own agenda, not trying to inform anyone about anything.

    Repeat after me: Time/Warner is an Entertainment company. Do that 100 times.

    Sciencewoman, indeed.

  3. #3 Peggy
    June 22, 2008

    Glo, I don’t understand the distinction you are making. Time presents itself as a news magazine and it does indeed cover the news, so it’s not unreasonable to consider it as such. And I don’t think you can draw a clear line between “pure” news and “pure” entertainment anyway. And even if it were “just” an entertainment magazine, so what? Calling a magazine “entertainment” doesn’t put its editorial choices beyond criticism.

  4. #4 Dr. MCR
    June 22, 2008

    Wow- Good for you!! As a Mom of a 6-year old daughter, I have worked really hard to help her see herself as a capable, intelligent, reflective individual, and her life as an endless stream of educational possibilities. Increasingly, this seems to be an uphill battle, with the continuation of incredibly offensive garbage such as Bratz dolls and, much worse, the continued dumbing down of America by stuff such as the Time piece you mention. Although I agree with the other posters that Time is a cross between entertainment and news, call me cynical, but sometimes I wonder about the ability of the American people to discriminate between the two. As a parent and a scientist, I feel like a broken record getting my kids to think about where information is coming from- at ages 6 and 9 (my son) it’s hard to convince my kids to be skeptical consumers of the media, but it’s a skill they have to learn. More power to you, ScienceWoman!!

  5. #5 Sicilian
    June 23, 2008

    Great letter. . . . hope they print it.

  6. #6 ScienceWoman
    June 23, 2008

    To me, TIME is a news magazine because I subscribed to it for the news. I liked having something that I could sit down at the breakfast table with, not overwhelming in volume or frequency (like a newspaper) and not requiring too much concentration in reading (like the Economist or New Yorker). Plus, it was kind of nice to see the movie reviews back in the day that I got to watch movies. Now that I barely have time to eat breakfast, much less read and eat breakfast, and I have to think about what my daughter might find lying around, it was time for Time to go.

  7. #7 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 23, 2008

    Time shares this same problem with Rolling Stone magazine, and I think that RS is probably even worse. They have ignored criticisms that whenever they have women on the cover, the women are in underwear or bikinis no matter what their musical accomplishments. It’s a generalization, I know, but I can only think of Chrissie Hynde as a subject for their cover who didn’t put up with it.
    I can only imagine what Chrissie would have said to Jann Wenner if he suggested that she pose nearly naked for the cover.

    There may have been others. Good letter, and it is important for people to speak up on the issue.

  8. #8 Yttrai
    June 23, 2008

    That letter is wonderful, and contains the sort of message that makes me fairly contentious in my group of friends.

    On the other hand, i grew up in a household where my gender was not mentioned as a reason why i could not grow up to be a chemist (as i did) but i do wish i’d been warned, either by my parents, or my teachers, that just because my home environment treated me the same as my brother and the rest of my peers, regardless of gender, that the rest of the world was not going to be the same way.

    We did get TIME magazine, but we didn’t have cable until i was a senior, and the movie theater (singular) was a 40 minute drive away. Media exposure was minimal, but maybe clues contained therein might have given me a bit of a warning what The Real World was going to be like.

    Not that that excuses TIME’s bad illustration choice. I’m just pointing out that you can try to build things for your child, but you can’t forget to help her/him interpret what they see through sources you might not enjoy thoroughly.

    IMHO, YMMV, IME etc etc.

  9. #9 rb
    June 23, 2008

    TIME has always played the cleavage game. heck in the 70s, it was possible to see complete breasts at least every other month for some reason of other. It hasn’t been a good news magazine for quite a while.

  10. #10 KJ
    June 24, 2008

    I think we need to be careful when criticizing a magazine that presents a pretty woman as, well, pretty. Women are pretty. Women are smart and accomplished. Women should not be ashamed of being good looking. I think it is important for our self-esteem (and our daughters’ self-esteem) to recognize that it is okay to be good looking. In fact, we are all good looking in some way (yeah, I wish I didn’t have short legs, but I love my hair). I really think that if we as women embraced our beauty, we could move on and not say stuff like “oh, she is on the cover because she is pretty”. Instead we would say, “what has this woman done to deserve a cover?” Am I naive to think this?

  11. #11 Sophie Hirschfeld
    June 27, 2008

    Firstly, I think that it is a dramatic simplification of what is happening in Gloucester to say that the percieve it as if nobody has given them a better option. the article linked to on the denialism blog suggests that there’s more to the story than simply what they percieved as being offered to them for their future, such as the mention of a pact.

    Also, I really don’t think that just because a girl in an image is glammed up that it totally suggests that’s all she has to offer. Unfortunately, I can’t find a copy of the image on TIME’s website, although the article was there. I don’t think that boys get the impression from rambo movies that all they have to offer is learning to blow things up just as I don’t think that girls on tv getting dolled up sends a message that it is all they have to offer, either. Could you tell me (or us) more about the picture? What did the guys look like?

    That being said, it would be interesting to do a study on people’s impressions of images like that in general – perhaps even children’s impressions of it.

    I also don’t think that the attitude presence of someone being dressed up really has much to do with the girls getting pregnant, either.

  12. #12 ScienceWoman
    June 27, 2008

    Sophie: The quote (“No one’s offered them a better option”) was taken from the TIME article itself and was a quote from another student in Gloucester.

    Yeah, I couldn’t find the image on the TIME website either, which is why I didn’t link to it. It appears there are a few things which they still make you pay for! Some more internet research reveals that the glammed up girl is Anne Hathaway who is a supporting character in the Get Smart movie mentioned in the text. The photos in the image are from promotional materials for the movies/albums/etc. Here’s the photo they chose of Hathaway. If you browse through the rest of the slideshow on the site, you’ll observe that for most of the movie she appears to be rather ass-kicking, and not just a pretty face.

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