The Decline Of 'Seventeen'

From grade 7 onward, I was the biggest devotee of Seventeen magazine. What impressed me about Seventeen was how smart it was compared to competitors such as YM and Teen People. Aside from the standard fashion and beauty and entertainment fare, it had insightful and well-researched articles. The ones that still stick out in my mind cover topics as diverse as the situation of Afghani women under the Taliban (this was before 9/11 when the issue really came to light), the plight of child migrant workers in the United States, the life histories of teenage refugees, and gun control. Recently I flipped through an old issue and came across a 7-page feature on rock en espanol that profiled artists I didn't come to care about until after I started salsa dancing and listening to Latin music. I've also found that, looking back, a lot of books I later enjoyed were also featured in Seventeen.

From 1997 to 2001, Seventeen was a magazine that bred stylish, intelligent, aware young women. Then it stopped abruptly in 2002, and I stopped my subscription. I only bought the occasional issue on newsstands, and I was so disappointed with what I saw. The magazine I held in my hands was more reminiscent of YM and conventional teenage fare. Gone were the insightful articles that pushed boundaries and focused on controversial issues such as international refugees and sex education. Instead Seventeen was infused with a sickening "all-American magazine" vibe, becoming an America-centric, navel-gazing publication in a post-9/11 world. Rather than provide useful information for sexually active teens, it promoted the same abstinence-only education many American teens probably already get way too much of in school.

I haven't picked up an issue of Seventeen in years, so I don't know whether it's changed, and I have since moved on to fashion magazines intended for an older demographic. However, whenever I get bored, I still like to skim through old issues and think about how I used to covet a sweater or a certain pair of jeans on page 168, reminisce about the makeup products that existed when I was in high school, and rediscover just how smart Seventeen used to be.

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