If you happen to follow Teen Vogue’s coverage, you probably have already realized that its content has changed radically yet methodically over the past year. If you don’t follow Teen Vogue’s coverage, you might be curious about all the conversations the magazine has stirred up during the last couple of months. Perhaps you’re aware of “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,” a powerful, no-nonsense op-ed by Lauren Duca, in which she described the ways President Trump distorted the truth or straight up invented facts during the course of his political campaign and how he has continued to do so even after winning the presidency.
Duca’s op-ed was clearly supported, clever and thorough. It drove the message by making an accurate comparison of Trump’s rhetoric with “gaslighting,” a term that refers to the psychological manipulation that is done to someone to the point in which said person starts questioning their own sanity. In Duca’s words, Trump has gaslighted the nation, trying to make it seem like facts are questionable at best and unimportant at worst. This, of course, could not be further from the truth— and that’s the whole point: “If facts become a point of debate,” Duca summarized, “the very definition of freedom will be called into question.”
The op-ed ended up becoming one of Teen Vogue’s most shared articles. However, although praised by countless political publications and writers, the incredulity that a publication whose target market is teen girls could publish such inspiring political insight was palpable.
The idea that teen girls can simultaneously be interested in fashion, makeup and politics seemed foreign and surprising to a lot of people. That is, people who are used to dismissing teen girls’ opinions and thoughts.
Under new Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth and Digital Director Phillip Picardi, Teen Vogue has become the sort of outlet in which its readers identify as activists. To have that kind of power is meaningful. And what is even more meaningful is the genuine relationship that has formed between the magazine and their readers— one that is formed by mutual respect.
Teen Vogue trusts its readers to care about being civically engaged and the readers trust the magazine to provide content that reflects the political and social issues that affect them and those they care about while at the same time covering the latest fashion trends, providing thoughtful celebrity profiles and maintaining an “elevated and sophisticated” aesthetic, in the words of Welteroth herself.
Surprising? Maybe. Especially considering that big-sister Condé Nast publication Vogue Magazine has been so tone-deaf in terms of leading political dialogue. In W27’s February issue, Meghan Kane’s article “Activism is Lived, Not Worn: The Issues with the Industry’s Attempts to Make Activism Fashionable” discussed how an Instagram post by @voguerunway with a caption that stated “it’s chic to be active” was basically encouraging people to try activism as if it were another trend, instead of a way to bring much needed social and political change.
“Activism is a need to know, a need to explain, and a need to help,” said Disney Channel actress, and December 2016 coverstar of Teen Vogue Rowan Blanchard. According to an interview with The Guardian, Welteroth said that by that definition, she is an activist and so are her readers.
In a time when almost every news outlet needs to be checked for bias, inaccuracy, misleading information, conspiracy and pure falsehood, it’s reassuring that there’s a magazine we can count on for reliable news and tips for “How To Apply Glitter Nail Polish the Right Way”— one of Teen Vogue’s most read articles last year, only second to “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,” which came out at number one. And if that isn’t proof of girls’ diverse interests, then I don’t know what it is.