While I was futzing around in an effort not to do my homework this afternoon, I had a thought. I remembered fondly the dinky little message board with the dark purple background that I discovered around age 13. A community of girls, all struggling through the perils of puberty, served as a mutual support system. Along with this was an advice column and various articles about our changing bodies. It was run by tampax, and as the site aged it included more and more outsider content, the little message board was squeezed to the side. I don’t really remember why I left, maybe I outgrew it, or more likely just stopped worrying about my period and boys once I entered high school. Anyway, I was thinking about this. It actually still exists, only in a neon green, flash enhanced version and so I stepped back in.
It functions more as a blog, with each post having room for comments, so at least the community is still there. Ads function to a much greater degree than they once did, to the point where almost everything is an ad or some sponsored poll/quiz/article/or game. This wouldn’t be a problem except that the companies running it are technically Always and Tampax, and apparently Gillette. Herbal Essences also got in on it and has some large featured ads on the pages about hair. We’re already treading dangerous ground here, since advertising to teenaged girls generally means trying to convince them that they’re nothing without the product being sold.
Buy Always panty liners and you too can feel clean every day.
Let’s move away from the disappointing infiltration of a heavy amount of advertising geared towards vulnerable girls who are turning to this website for advice for a second. Not to say all the advice is bad, their articles on date rape and other abuse is completely on point, as are their articles regarding menstruation. They don’t give bad advice, it’s just buried in their desire to sell you beauty. There’s more advice about how to shave you legs/do your hair/put on makeup/convince your parents to let you date simply because there’s more stuff to sell for it. I mean they can’t exactly encourage you to buy zillions of packs of pads or boxes of tampons you know–but it makes me extraordinarily uneasy. The normalization of these sorts of behaviors makes them seem mandatory, and girls of their target age group are meant to live for the attainment of popularity–which they promise if you buy the latest scented shaving cream. Ick.
My other problem is the overreaching going on. It’s obvious the writers are adults, but they’re trying desperately to seem hip. Text/Chat speak has infiltrated everything, especially the ads.
Apparently being a teen girl also means that you don’t know how words are spelled. The chatspeak angle rubs me in all the wrong ways especially because it’s tailored for this site. I haven’t seen ad copy like this any where else. Something about the whole “this is how we reach them–we’re speaking their language” that just…eugh.
The quizzes display similar cutesy “hip” lingo:
Additionally, the site is entirely heteronormative. There is only one article about homosexuality and it’s in the vein of increasing tolerance and awareness of the prejudices homosexual people face. There’s no mention of bisexuality or homosexuality in the dating sections–and I’m sure those girls might like some advice too. I poked around a bit but I didn’t see anything for girls with disabilities, guess they’re out of luck as far as advice goes. There’s actually a single page regarding African American hair, it’s surprising given the prevailing tone of the site (everyone is the same and fabulous as long as they buy these products yay!). It’s more than they had in my day, but it took them eight years for the one article?
My foray into the games section left me with mouth agape. There’s a game entitled “ManQuarium” where you build “the perfect man” who lives in an aquarium and only to give you compliments. You chose his personality through short answers about how he’d respond to situations like a date, a birthday (he can buy you “something shiny”), or when you’re feeling down. You can even upload a picture of your crush and he can live in your digital aquarium for ever and always surrounded by ads for the Venus razor line. Your ManQuarium guy spouts cheesy jokes, tired pick up lines, and endless admiration. Somehow they’ve managed to pidgenhole both sexes into neat little boxes–yet all the water in my ManQuarium can’t wash the icky feeling off. I have to wonder how people would respond if a men’s website had a WomanQuarium where you could choose your maiden based on whether she’d buy you tickets to a sports game or be up for a bit a slap and tickle if you were feeling down. Creepy.
Can your partner swim underwater forever? No? Better check out the MANQUARIUM.
BeingGirl does provide a service, any advice that doesn’t involve beauty or boys seems to be on point, but they ignore large sections of girls who are quite used to being ignored in the mainstream and are likely sick of it. They’d probably draw more interest if they reached out instead of feeding on the insecurities of the girls they draw in with promises of good information. I just feel like you shouldn’t have to dig through the shit to find the truffles. The information that they provide–when they can’t sell anything related to it–is on point. The rest is the same tired drivel that comes with every other advertising sponsored teen site and magazine, that your value is dependent on your physical beauty–and we can give it to you if only you’ll buy the following products.
I just thought that by this time, we’d be farther than this. I’m sure better sites must exist for girls who want a support system, advice, and information. Any ideas?