The latest issue of Teen Vogue is full of content typically found in women’s magazines—beauty tips, the latest fashion trends, celebrity interviews. But the Teen Vogue website includes some additional content that seems out of place among the advice on lipstick: a “scorched-earth op-ed” with the headline, “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.” In the piece, Teen Vogue Weekend Editor Lauren Duca writes that Trump’s “rise to power has awakened a force of bigotry by condoning and encouraging hatred, but also by normalizing deception.”
She goes on to explain that “gas lighting” is “a buzzy name for a terrifying strategy currently being used to weaken and blind the American electorate.” Her tirade continues:
“To gas light is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump is doing to this country. He gained traction in the election by swearing off the lies of politicians, while constantly contradicting himself, often without bothering to conceal the conflicts within his own sound bites. He lied to us over and over again, then took all accusations of his falsehoods and spun them into evidence of bias.
At the hands of Trump, facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing amongst ourselves, as our very reality is called into question.”
Duca clearly can’t fathom why anyone would question the guidance of “such well-respected publications as the New York Times,” or support a candidate such as Trump.
Not surprisingly, her overheated article went viral. Readers (celebrities, too!) endorsed her argument and applauded Teen Vogue for publishing the article:
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization tweeted:
— AmyPoehlerSmartGirls (@smrtgrls) December 12, 2016
Comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted an encouraging note to Duca:
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) December 11, 2016
And journalist Dan Rather (who once happily peddled his own partisan falsehoods about a president) even joined the conversation, summing up the reaction on Twitter:
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) December 11, 2016
There was no companion article on Teen Vogue’s site making the case for Trump, or an article pointing out the mistakes that President Barack Obama has made during his two terms in office. There was no effort made whatsoever to provide alternative views. Young Americans, especially those who get most of their news from social media, with its “filter bubble”, would benefit from hearing political views that differ from their own. If Teen Vogue wants to help teenagers understand politics and become effective advocates, the magazine should treat them as thinking human beings, not just knee-jerk liberals.
Teen Vogue is following the trend of other women’s magazines, such as Cosmopolitan. Ahead of the 2014 midterm election, Cosmopolitan launched #CosmoVotes. The magazine endorsed candidates, every single one a Democrat; they even endorsed John Foust, a male Democrat, who was running against Barbara Comstock, a female Republican, for Congress in Virginia. (Comstock didn’t need Cosmo’s girl power; she trounced Foust).
But Teen Vogue should be careful not to go the way of Cosmopolitan when it comes to politics. The magazine is already facing financial challenges. Starting this spring, Teen Vogue’s print edition will be cut back from nine to four issues a year. One would think the magazine’s editors would use this time to revamp its political coverage to broaden its message (and audience), not ideologically narrow it.
I salute Teen Vogue for recognizing that young women care about political issues and candidates, not just acne washes, stylish jeans, and lipstick colors. But the magazine should go a step further and trust that its audience can think through these issues without being hectored by ideological partisans. As well, Teen Vogue should publish articles that provide views from across the spectrum on issues such as student loans, health care and taxes—all issues that young women will be confronting as they make their way through their teen years. In fact, the magazine should follow its own advice; as Duca argued in her anti-Trump opinion piece, “refuse to accept information simply because it is fed to you.”