Flawless skin, curves (but not too much), hair impeccably tousled — the sum total of unattainable standards of photo-shopped beauty. These are the concerns of the increasingly definable (or rather marketable) age of adolescent girls: tweens. Not a girl, not yet a women — to take a phrase from the Britney Spears of yesteryear — but girls they are, girls who are being exposed to impossible images of femininity at a young age; each one discouraging or damaging in itself. With the multiplying amount of information out there in the media, profiteers are zoning in on the age bracket, and giving them their own platform targeted at all the “desires” of girls in the in-between tween stage.

It’s a market that hasn’t bee explored very much until recent years, but arguably an influential period in an individual’s life. On the cusp of being a teen, this is time when young girls first begin to shape their ideas of womanhood, and the societal expectations of their gender.

Mass media including our own medium, magazines, play a large part in the dissemination of gender ideas. For better or worse, every magazine has its place, that said, as our interviews with women in the industry and those leading the charge to reform the industry revealed, fashion magazines should not be seen as the holy grail — particularly not by those still learning what it means to be a woman.

Sarah Binning, marketing co-ordinator at Teen Voices, an organization dedicated to supporting and educating teen girls, who want to create social change through media. In Binning’s opinion, tween blogs are an essential part of the media. “We like to create a space for young people to share stories on a variety of topics,” she says. “In a world where there are magazines like Vogue, we just want to show that there [are] alternatives.” Binning believes that letting youth know they have a voice at an early age is important, thereby embedding the knowledge that they can affect change.

Like Binning, bloggers Ebony Stith, Julie Zeilinger, and Emma Orlow (the latter being a teen) believe that young girls need to know they have a place in the world, the reason why each took it upon themselves to create an online platform for ideas authored by those who know the area of interest best — themselves. Perhaps surprising to some, none of the three are 100% against the unattainable image of beauty circulating through the media, the goal is to simply bring awareness to it, and promote an authentic sense of reality. Below, Stith, Zeilinger and Orlow sound off on the wide — widening — world of tweens/teens, fashion and the blogsphere that joins them.

Why did you first start your blog and why?

I started the blog in September 2010 with my tween daughter in mind. She loves fashion and modelling, and I saw a need in the market for girls my daughter’s age interested in fashion and the showbiz world. Tween’s are too young for Teen Vogue or Glamour, I wanted to show fashion ideas that are age appropriate for them, while having fun with different colours and styles! I basically wanted to create a site that was fun to read for kids and their parents.

How do you think your blog represents the new generation of fashion blogs?

I think Tween Girl represents a new generation of fashion blogs for an age group that is under-served. I think being online has created another interactive opportunity to display content. I think tweens like my daughter have gotten more interested in what they wear, and there is a huge market in fashion for tweens! They don’t want to dress like babies, yet they are too young to have a look like a cover model [in] Seventeen magazine. As a mom, it’s a tricky area; I think all moms struggle with what their tween should wear, and I am glad Tween Girl Style Magazine is here to help!

Do you see a new or changing culture within fashion blogs?

I think with the culture of fashion blogs, they’re interpreting different points of view. I think if you blog for kids clothing to make sure you have fashion that is not too old for the kids. In my new Spring/Summer 2012 issue, I did not want the kids to have heavy makeup, [I] just want[ed] to reflect the youth of tweens: fresh, fun and stylish.

What kind of feedback do you get from your audience?

I get an overwhelming response from the parents, very happy there is a magazine featuring kids and fashion that is family friendly. I got a quote from a mom that said she believes “TGSM is a great resource for our tweens, I love the positive energy that shines through in every article.” I love getting these emails; it means I am doing something right.

What do you hope your blog will achieve?

I think it is important to have positive images for young girls, and having a tween myself, I wanted a magazine she would love to read. My goal is to keep expressing that positive point of view. Also my goal is to help girls feel confident, and help continue building positive images for tweens.

How would you compare blogs like yours to magazines? Do you think journalism is changing because blogs are so widely read?

I have a journalism background, and have worked for newspapers for 12 years. I know the effects online media has hit the newspaper and journalism industry. I think blogs are instant information, compared to reading a magazine. I still like reading magazines because they give a little more, then reading it online. Because of my design and journalism background I am able to create a quality blog for readers.  During the years as a visual journalist, I learned what readers want, knowing how to gather it, and then putting it online. I try to have fun, and make sure its what kids and their parents want to read.

Tween Girl Style magazine is a resource center for young girls where they can find trendy new looks, celebrity news, and enter fun modeling contests to win prizes. The publication’s third print magazine is now available via magcloud.com.  

 Why did you first start your blog and why?

I started the FBomb the summer after my sophomore year of high school, but I had become interested in feminism a couple years before that in middle school. Everybody in my middle school was required to give a speech in order to graduate, and through my research for that speech I came across the world of women’s rights, global misogyny and feminism. I was completely blown away by all of the atrocities happening to women across the world and in my own backyard, and began to align myself with the fight for women’s rights and feminism. I started reading feminist blogs like Feministing and Jezebel at the beginning of high school and, although I loved them, I wondered why there wasn’t a similar space for high school and college-aged feminists. I felt there was a need for a blog and community for young feminists, so I decided to start one.

How do you think your blog represents the new generation of fashion blogs?

Fashion usually only comes up on the FBomb in terms of how the fashion industry generally sets forth an unattainable standard of beauty. Many girls have written about their frustration that there is virtually no representation of body diversity (and, for that matter, few other types of diversity as well) in mainstream fashion, and that a body type that is unrealistic for most women, is considered ideal. So I definitely don’t think that the FBomb could be considered a fashion blog, but the way that fashion and the fashion industry impacts the lives of our writers is definitely a topic of conversation, and I think as a generation we’re more critical of the industry than ever before. I hope that we eventually reach the point where we truly demand change, and use our consumer power to force the fashion industry to represent and provide for women of all sizes.

Who are your fashion idols or icons?

I love pretty much everything about Emma Watson, including her sense of style.

Who are your favorite bloggers and why?

I love all the bloggers at Jezebel because I think they all have distinct voices, and are all very smart and witty. I love Jessica Valenti’s column for The Nation, and the writing Courtney Martin does because I think they’re both incredibly intelligent. I also admire all the young women who have blogged for and continue to blog for The FBomb. There’s no set group because the blog is based on submissions, but I’m continuously blown away by the pieces girls write.

What do you hope your blog will achieve?

I hope that it has started a conversation amongst young women. I think that the only way we’ll be able to incite change, to really combat the issues that affect us most, is if we’re really honest with each other about our own experiences, and are open to communication rather than succumbing to competition.

The FBomb is a feminist blog, but publishes posts on a whole variety of topics. The FBomb aims to give young women (and young men) the opportunity to exercise their voices and be heard, and encourages reader to think about writing a post to be published on the blog.

When did you first start your blog and why?

I started The Emma Edition for a number of reasons. The Emma Edition, as it stands, began in February 2009, so I was still in middle school then. Since I wasn’t exactly Miss World in my middle school, I wanted to have a space that I could have complete aesthetic control over, and join a community where people shared in my interests. Professionally speaking, since I am interested in continuing to pursue a career in fashion journalism, I wanted to start my blog as a venue through which I could share my opinions on style. Also, there aren’t many blogs out there written from the perspective of a teenager about experiences living in New York City, so I wanted a way to combine both my life here and my love [of] style. That being said, if I had been the most popular girl in my middle school class, I’m doubtful I would have had the same ambition to start my own blog, and follow all of the opportunities it’s given me, so I’m happy the way things are turning out.

How do you think your blog represents the new generation of fashion blogs?

Ha, I think that’s kind of a funny question, especially because blogs are so “new,” in it of themselves. In a way though, I hope my blog doesn’t necessarily follow in the footsteps of the new generation of fashion blogs. Now, you might think that’s kind of backwards thinking, but lately, I’ve been frustrated by how blurred the line between blogger and editor has become. I love blogs and I love magazines, but they’re two completely different things, with different agendas. I’m not the first to notice this discord either, but it irks me when blogging becomes less of a democratic forum to share one’s inspirations, thoughts, etc, and instead, a commercial epicenter for advertisers to flock to. Bloggers even sometimes hire professional photographers to shoot them for their blog, which I think defeats the entire purpose. That’s not to say that I don’t still read some blogs that do that, it’s just hard for me to appreciate them as a “blog,” and read those more as an online zine or something. So if my blog promotes a new generation in blogging, I’d like to think it’s because really try as hard as I can to only use imagery that I or my friends have taken. I really try to sprinkle as much color and fun in my photos and writing as I do in my own outfits, because I think that there is no reason that fashion can’t be aesthetically-pleasing, teach you something, AND give you a giggle. I know, crazy, right?

What kind of feedback do you get from your audience?

I love getting emails from my readers! I read all of them. The other day, someone contacted me saying that she loved seeing the blog post I did where I showed my room collage walls, and she wanted to enlist pictures of them for her zine. I also communicate a lot with my audience via my Twitter account. But the most exciting part is actually getting to meet people who read my blog in person. Last month, I met these two girls that I had been talking to for months on the Internet, and hung out with them at a coffee shop in NYC. When we all met up, it felt like we had known each other for years.

What do you hope your blog will achieve?

I’m really excited for the future. That may sound really cheesy, but as a 16 year-old, that’s something. I think, people in general should be more excited about their interests. If you have an obsession, don’t be afraid to hide it! (unless it’s like collecting toe nails or like dead bodies, then you should hide it. But even then, people should still know the real you…) I hope The Emma Edition enables people to look at New York and style through a new lens. There’s no specific end goal that I was shooting for with my blog, but I hope that it continues to open more doors to job opportunities and to meeting more interesting people in the industry.

Do you think journalism is changing because blogs are so widely read?

Yeah, I really do. Have you seen The New York Times documentary? If not, I really suggest everyone watching it, whether or not you think you’re into journalism. It’s called Page One, and basically the documentary delves into the history of The NY Times and how the newspaper is struggling to stay relevant today. There was this scene in the movie when David Carr, a media writer for The Times is on a panel to discuss what would happen if The New York Times were to disappear tomorrow. It was shocking to see how many people in the audience wouldn’t care. So yes, to answer your question, journalists are definitely changing their tactics to try and stay relevant. Like by the end of the documentary, although he had been against it the entire time, Carr finally caves and gets a Twitter account. Despite the fact that online media and blogs are so widely read, they also come at a cheaper price. We need to fight to keep journalism alive.

Emma Orlow is 16 yrs-old girl dreaming of drive-in movies, living in her sketchbook, running a magazine, and tea parties with Andy Warhol. Her blog The Emma Edition talks about everything teen.