xoJane Says They Aren’t For Teenage Girls — And Then Gives Advice To Teenage Girls

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xoJane has published an “An Open Letter To ‘Teenage Girls'” mostly likely in response to Mommyish taking issue with their insanely irresponsible piece about sexual safety. Associate editor Lesley Kinzel writes that the website is not intended to be read by teenage girls and addresses the audience specifically. Then she offers them some advice on growing up, suggesting that the site is aware that such an audience was there all along.

To back track, the site’s health and beauty director wrote an article sharing her avoidance of condoms, birth control, as well as her reliance on Plan B to keep her from getting pregnant. Given that the readership skews young, high school age to be specific, I do find it incredibly problematic that a health director promote unsafe sex practices to a teenage audience that may or may not have had comprehensive sex education. Even by being “honest” about her own experiences and mocking her own recklessness, the presence of her title on such matters does suggest a platform of authority.

Considering that xoJane publishes pieces on Justin Bieber, I don’t find it to be a bold assumption that teenage girls are reading this content. But the managing editor of the site actually confirmed my suspicions, saying in the comment thread that the readership is teenage:

I’m aware that 18 is an adult, but as many of us web writers know — those age brackets aren’t set in stone. It’s a slippery slope between 18 and say 17 or 16. And considering that many states still have abstinence-only education, the assumption that a high school senior who is 18 “should know better” than to trust a humorous account of sexual irresponsibility is sadly not a safe assumption to make. I wish that our sex education had achieved a place where this was fair to assume.

I think it’s appropriate that xoJane acknowledged that they are not a site for teenage girls. Obviously, the publication of a piece describing the wonders of using Plan B as birth control confirms them as such. But making such a declaration after the fact, without addressing the piece specifically, demonstrates an even further irresponsibility towards their readership — as well as a condescending concern for teenage girls that reads:

Now go back to reading Tumblr or whatever, and leave us at xoJane to our lentil soup and our crafts and our footie pajamas and our 90s nostalgia. You’ll be an adult soon enough — there is no need to rush.

Teenage girls will go after content that is intended for older women. To think otherwise is to ignore the many 13 year olds you’ll often see poring over Glamour or Vogue. But this open letter by xoJane indicates that the editorial team wasn’t sure about their own audience, and so they attempted to patch up their decision to publish such an article by speaking directly to the readership they hurt the most.

UPDATE: Teen girls vow to keep reading xoJane and call the writers “role models.”