Organization Trends

Teen Vogue: More Politics Than Fashion

If you visit today, you’ll see a tab called “Politics.”

Recent headlines include “What does Donald Trump’s Indictment Actually Mean?” and a slew of articles on “trans kids,” including bathroom bans and “How to Be an Advocate for Trans Student Athletes.”

A deep dive into old Teen Vogue magazines reveals no such headlines, which begs the question ­— why has Teen Vogue moved from puff pieces about spring style to endorsements of communism? Does the shift matter?

I read Teen Vogue in the late 2000s and early 2010s, along with many of my middle school peers. I remember articles about “Bieber Fever” and full-page spreads of neon fashion trends. The most political commentary that I can remember was at least tangentially related to beauty and fashion — indictments of eating disorders and plastic surgery.

Many of the articles published on the Teen Vogue website today cannot claim any connection to fashion, beauty, or anything else expected from a magazine that caters to teenage girls.

Teen Vogue Goes Political

As someone who has only recently aged out of my teenage years (I’m now 21), Teen Vogue’s transformation is reminiscent of society’s shift throughout my high school years.

Every generation has faced issues that feel existential; for my parents, it was the Cold War and the very real possibility of nuclear annihilation. I’ve talked to my grandfather about what it was like to grow up during the Second World War, with food rations and friends and family going off to fight and die on foreign soil. For my generation, the two issues that I would describe as the most pressing are gun violence and climate change.

I am deeply concerned about both issues, and many others, ranging from human rights violations to elected public officials acting against their constituents’ interests.

The difference between my generation’s issues and previous problems is that teenagers today cannot escape the litany of issues, and Teen Vogue is only continuing that trend. If you open Instagram or TikTok or attend a public high school, you are constantly bombarded with news and commentary on social issues. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, teens are inundated with information. Over the last few years, the pressure on teenagers to constantly be “in the know,” to be hardcore activists, and to express all the right opinions on complex political matters has become crushing.

Politicizing Teenagers

Teen Vogue has become another outlet exerting this pressure. Teens do not get the opportunity to escape, even when they open a magazine that has been ubiquitous with fashion and makeup. Teen Vogue was meant to be relaxing because we already have hard-hitting journalism. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico already exist, so we are perfectly capable of reading about Donald Trump’s indictment if we so choose.

What we can no longer find is an outlet in which teenage girls can be just that: teenage girls. Where can teen girls go to worry about fashion, makeup, and boy band members without being subjected to op-eds about the 2024 election?

Teenagers deserve refuge from political rhetoric and pressure to advocate for policy changes in their schools. Teen Vogue primarily targets girls ages 12–17, whose main concerns should be puppy love and eye makeup.

Teen Vogue is instead telling them that they should focus on issues like criminal justice reform and Supreme Court corruption, neither of which have much to do with the average suburban high school student. Moreover, Teen Vogue promotes only political ideology, which can be dangerous for impressionable teenagers who are still developing their critical thinking skills and worldviews.

For many parents and authority figures like teachers and coaches, Teen Vogue’s political coverage is also insidious because it is not expected. If parents see their teen reading the Washington Post or Politico, they have an idea of what they are reading. However, most parents would think that Teen Vogue is a source of fashion tips rather than Marxist ideology, thereby allowing Teen Vogue to influence teen’s opinions with little to no oversight.

Let teenagers learn and grow and have fun—there will be lots of time for political advocacy after they get to college. There is a time and place for youth activism, and that place is not Teen Vogue.

Kate Haberl

Kate Haberl is an intern at the Capital Research Center.
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