Is Bitch Magazine appropriate reading for a 13 year old girl?
November 28, 2012 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I recently re-subscribed to Bitch magazine, partly with the idea that my almost 13-year-old daughter would benefit from the content. Now I'm having second thoughts. Mefites, do you consider Bitch Magazine appropriate reading material for a smart, mature (emotionally, not physically) girl of that age?

I really like the feminist critique of the media and other messages our culture sends girls and women, but the ads for sex toys and some of the more overtly sexual content seem like they might be a bit much, especially for a girl who hasn't even had her period yet. We have a good relationship and I try to keep the lines of communication as open as possible, but I know she'd never willingly discuss ads for sex toys with me if they freaked her out or she was curious about them, though I'd be perfectly comfortable with that conversation. I'm her dad, if that matters.

Any and all thoughts are much appreciated!
posted by plantbot to Society & Culture (30 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Is her mother there, or is there any other female adult who she could talk to?
posted by jacalata at 5:51 PM on November 28, 2012

I like Bitch. I would have found it interesting and maybe mildly tittilating at that age but definitely interesting to read. I think if it's yours but it's around the house and she can read it, that's fine. Getting it FOR her might be a little too-soonish.
posted by jessamyn at 5:55 PM on November 28, 2012 [10 favorites]

You are a good dad. I'm also curious about the presence of an older female parent or role model in her life that she may feel more comfortable discussing the content in the magazine with?

Regardless, I think that a 13 year old girl today is slammed with so much overt sexuality and troubling messages in the media anyway, that the I think the perspective in Bitch is very valuable. She's gonna learn about sex toys at some point, if she hasn't already...

But also - for a more age appropriate and feminist-but-fun magazine, I'd recommend Rookie, although it is online only.
posted by sawdustbear at 5:58 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I can't comment on that particular magazine, but if she doesn't read it already, steering her towards is highly recommended - lots of feminist critique along with well thought out articles on a huge range of topics, I've been very impressed.
posted by atlantica at 6:00 PM on November 28, 2012 [10 favorites]

I read my Dad's copies of National Lampoon when I was, like, ten or eleven, and they were some of my favorite things to read. Less feminist than Bitch and certainly more adult, but the point is that a lot of it was total filth but kids are almost always more mature than we think.

She'll pretty much skip over whatever doesn't interest her, and even if she can't discuss the overt sexual content with you, the fact that you're cool with it will help show her that it's not bad or wrong or dirty or weird.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:04 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

2Nding Rookie.
posted by kat518 at 6:16 PM on November 28, 2012

I read Bitch for the first time when I was 19 and had been in college for a year. And granted, I was a pretty sheltered 19-year-old, but it definitely exposed me to some sexual content that needed processing. (Memail me if you want the explicit details.) I mean, I love the magazine's ideals, but it can get pretty deep into issues of violence and victim's stories. So yes, I think 13 is a little early...but if you're really excited about it, you could read each issue first, before giving it to her?
posted by tinymegalo at 6:29 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like Jessamyn's idea of having it be your subscription but leaving it around the house for your daughter to read (and discuss with you if she wants). I also like tinymegalo's suggestion that you scan it first to see if there is anything that might require a good prebrief/debrief if she read it.

If you're looking for a more age-appropriate but similar magazine your daughter could have her own subscription to, I'd recommend Shameless without hesitation.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:43 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

My first instinct was that it might be too much, but then I remembered that I was reading A Handmaid's Tale and A Clockwork Orange at that age (from dad's bookshelf). And I was reading Cosmopolitan with friends.

Leave it around the house.
posted by momus_window at 6:44 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I gave a subscription to Bitch to one of my sororal twin cousins when she was 15 (the other one was given a subscription to Ms.). Their mom later told me "they didn't quite get it".

When they had turned 12 I gave each of them a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
posted by brujita at 7:09 PM on November 28, 2012


Then again, thirteen was the age that my parents started letting me read whatever, and in fact encouraged and recommended adult books. Even books that were extremely adult.

I remember borrowing one of my dad's Poppy Z. Brite novels, and then people were all shooting up heroin (the good guys, no less! with no consequences!) and my mind was pretty much blown.

So I tend to fall more on the side of exposing teenagers to most things, rather than continuing to monitor their reading material. I mean, unless your kid asked you for a subscription to Hustler or something.
posted by Sara C. at 7:37 PM on November 28, 2012

I guess my question would be, what are you worried about?

I think kids kind of get what they're ready to get. I remember reading Forever by Judy Blume (about a young woman's first sexual relationship) when I was maybe 8 or 9 (it probably wasn't strictly appropriate for me then, but I was reading off the Young Adult shelf), and... I didn't really get it -- I read about a boy putting cologne on his penis and my main thought was, "Huh? That's weird" -- I didn't find anything in the book titillating. My guess is that, whatever she reads, she'll probably take from it whatever she's ready to, and not really get (or at least ignore) what she isn't ready for.

At 13-ish, I think most girls are probably at least starting to become aware of sex already, anyway (does she have access to the internet, girl friends, and teenage boys?? -- I did at that age, and I'm over 30). And at 13-ish, they are probably getting to the point where they are beginning to understand most of it.

I don't think you have anything to lose by having decent information sources easily available to her. If she isn't interested (or if she's outright put off), she'll put it down and go, "Oh gross." But in any case, she'll remember it later, when she's ready, and I think that's a good thing.

Also, IMO, getting her period has NOTHING to do with any of this, and I think you really need to ignore that in this consideration. Whether she menstruates or has breasts has very little to do with whether she has any sexual interest/desires yet, and if that's what you're waiting for, I think you should not.
posted by emumimic at 7:39 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Content is one thing, but what are the ads like? If they are for sex toys and things like that, I would think it's not appropriate and potentially creepy-seeming for a parent to give to a daughter.
posted by gjc at 7:47 PM on November 28, 2012

It is a great magazine to leave around the house (though agreed that getting it specifically for her would be a little weird).

Kids are actually pretty good about filtering out what they aren't ready for. 13 was about when I (an extremely shy, sensitive kid, FWIW) started pilfering from my parents' bookshelves in earnest. I definitely found stuff I wasn't ready for (R. Crumb springs to mind), and though I was sometimes shocked, it was really okay. In fact, it was actually an excellent way to be eased into the adult world. I would liken it to how being allowed a glass of wine on special occasions as a teen later prepared me to handle alcohol in social situations.

Bitch might actually be the perfect slightly-illicit read for her to encounter, if for no other reason than as a foil to Cosmo (which I am sure she has read by now). One of the most difficult things about being a teenage girl is navigating feelings about sex, because even today society tends to teach girls that 1) they shouldn't like sex (or they will be sluts) but 2) sex is something that boys want, and you do it so that they will like you. Seeing ads for vibrators in a feminist publication will teach her that it is normal for women to buy them, and that is actually a great thing. I really think that would help encourage a kid to understand and feel okay about budding desires, and when she is ready to navigate those waters, to be confident and set boundaries according to what she is comfortable with, rather than what someone else might pressure her to do.
posted by susanvance at 8:19 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've let my subscription to Bitch lapse, but I kind of wish it had been available to me as a teen. Agree with having it around the house and available to her without necessarily buying it for her. Looking through recent articles, it feels like some of the content might be too intense or too dry for a 13-year-old, even a really bright one. Like, she doesn't need to be sheltered from it, but she might not be ready for it yet. If it's around she might flip through and pick some stuff up from it.

I strongly would second Shameless and Rookie, which are both feminist and pitched to teens - and partly produced by teens - without talking down to them. Rookie is online only but they recently put out a Yearbook that could be a good gift if she's not already reading the site.

(This is just based on me remembering what I was like at 13.)
posted by SoftRain at 8:39 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Emotional maturity is not signalled by menstruation, and nothing changes when she gets her period except she has to deal with her period, so I'm not really sure what the connection you're drawing between that and ads for sex toys might be 'cause I don't think there is one.

She lives in a culture that constantly sells her the notion that her genitals are a commodity and a problem and a weakness. You might as well inform that with some ads selling her the notion that her kitty is an object of her own pleasure and that penises are delightfully optional and that Wanking for Girls is normal and ace and worth pursuit. Whatever ads are in Bitch are far less confusing and destructive than whatever is in Cosmo and Glamour and on every airbrushed porn site she's ever seen. Seriously.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:48 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Seconding Shameless. I'd say Bitch is a bit much, myself. And kind of more geared to university women's studies crowd.
posted by chapps at 10:45 PM on November 28, 2012

i like jessamyn's suggestion also. she doesn't have to read it, but it might be good for her. however, this is coming from the perspective of someone who read a lot as a kid and was in fact reading all the internet text porn she could get her mouse on at 12 years old.

you seem like a cool dad.
posted by woodvine at 10:49 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

By thirteen I was fashioning my own sex toys out of fun things from around the house. If anything she may learn something valuable about hygiene.
posted by Jilder at 12:25 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

If I had a daughter, I would start reading Bitch magazine articles to her in her crib. So, 13 is definitely not too young.
posted by hworth at 6:35 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's better than the Cosmo and Teen magazines that her friends are exposing her to. If you're uncomfortable about the sex toy stuff, you could talk to her about it, but at thirteen she probably already knows what a vibrator is.

Actually, I think talking to her about sex toys is a great idea. Lots of 13 year olds feel pressured to be sexual. I think encouraging her to please herself instead until she's really ready for sex might be a good idea, if you can do it in a way that won't be too weird for you both. It also could give you a chance to segue into discussions about a whole host of other related issues. At thirteen, she's almost certainly masturbating (ew, sorry), and she'll probably respect your opinions more if you show her that you're on her side. Of course I have no kids so take my advice with a grain of salt. If it's not a conversation she seems open to or if you don't have that kind of relationship, YMMV.

Related: if your city has a free newspaper, there's probably lots of ads for prostitution in them (which she may have seen). And newstand magazines like Cosmo have lots of ads for clothes, makeup, etc to make you a man-pleaser. You might want to compare and contrast those different ads with the Bitch ads with her and explore their messages, meanings and effects through a feminist lens. If you give her a chance to do an activity like this (and she's the kind of kid that would like it), she'll probably learn a lot more.
posted by windykites at 7:31 AM on November 29, 2012

Totally missed the last part of your question. I didn't see the thing about how you're her dad. Most of what I suggested is now totally inappropriate because I assumed you were her mother. Can her mother/favourite aunt/ older cousin/ sister/ etc have the conversation I suggested?
posted by windykites at 7:34 AM on November 29, 2012

Also anecdata: I was reading bodice-rippers at ten. I didn't turn out any more fucked-up than anyone else, though it may have affected my current preferences a little, nowadays that shit just makes me laugh. If I hadn't already gotten "over it", I might be reading 50 shades right now. (Well, probably not. But you know what I mean).

Also agreeing that you sound like a good, cool dad.
posted by windykites at 7:44 AM on November 29, 2012

I would have loved this at 13 and, um, would have been waaaay more interested in those ads than you'd like to think about your daughter being. It'll be fine.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:48 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would have loved this at 13. Bear in mind that by that age I had already seen/consumed plenty of erotic material (this is in the early 90s mind - no internet even), was sexually active and masturbated. 13 is not as young as people think it is, even nearly 20 years ago.

If you want a "teen" version of Bitch try a subscription to Shameless.
posted by SassHat at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2012

Also Bust is a bit more teen friendly, though it contains the same level of erotic advertising and maybe more in the content dept.
posted by SassHat at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2012

Thanks for the replies, everyone. I should have been more clear that I wouldn't be specifically giving the magazine to her, it's just a magazine I like to read and therefore inevitable that she'll pick it up if it's around. So peoples' suggestion that I just "leave it around the house" is in line with what I had in mind. And she has her mom and plenty of other adult women around that she could talk to.

Thanks also for the suggestions of Shameless and Rookie -- I hadn't heard about those! From a quick skim of both sites it looks like Shameless will be right up her alley.
posted by plantbot at 10:58 AM on November 29, 2012

I know it is technically a web-zine rather than a magazine but nthing rookiemag! I am a teenage girl myself and I wish I could have started reading it when I was 13!
posted by dinosaurprincess at 11:04 AM on November 29, 2012

Seconding Shameless. I'd say Bitch is a bit much, myself. And kind of more geared to university women's studies crowd.

FWIW, "university women's studies" type stuff was more appealing to me as a teenager than it is now in my late 20s - not that I disagree with any of it now, just that there are things that I thought were terrifically revolutionary as a teen that just feel a little bit tired and "yes, I know already, jeez" now.

I think I was maybe 15 when I started reading Bitch, and I loved it. 13 feels a bit young, but like several people have mentioned above, I was reading equally risque material (but often with a less positive message) at that age. Leaving it around the house sounds ok to me. Also, nthing Rookie - I read it occasionally now and get SO jealous that it wasn't around when I was that age.
posted by naoko at 1:36 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Rookie.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 5:01 PM on November 30, 2012

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