In early December, Lauren Duca’s article, arguing that Donald Trump is politically ‘gas lighting’ America was published on the Teen Vogue website. The article spelled out the treacherous times to come regarding America’s President Elect, and the manipulative methods that led to his electoral victory and position as one of, if not the most powerful person in the world. The article went viral, but sadly not primarily for the issues that it raised. Responses to Duca’s argument, perhaps something along the lines of how we can prevent this from happening again, or how we stop politicians from destabilizing publications and journalists for political-advancement, were few; instead, the article was met with shock from those who could not comprehend that young people, young girls in particular, could be interested in anything other than Instagram and make up.
The article was widely discussed across Twitter. American comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted “It’s almost 2017 and Donald Trump is President and Teen Vogue is the paper of record. I guess we can cancel comedy”. Other journalists such as David Folkenflik “did not expect this exegesis of gaslighting and its relationship to current day politics from Teen Vogue”. The shock induced from a publication whose target audience is young women publishing an article about current political affairs has been echoed by many people throughout mainstream media. Some compared it to earlier editions where the publication’s content ranged from the best acne treatment to covering Jennifer Anniston’s niece’s birthday party.
Though it is positive to see people finally acknowledging young women’s interest in politics, what I find dismaying is not that this piece was published in Teen Vogue; not that it was written by a female under 40; and not that it was, and is, being read by young women, but that the public and media are more shocked that young women are interested in current affairs than about what Duca’s article is professing. The responses to her piece were essentially less concerned with the idea that Trump has gaslighted a whole nation, and that the President Elect is potentially a sexual predator than all of the above.
Young people are becoming more and more politically aware, and politically engaged; instead of telling them it’s not their place to comment on such things, we ought to be encouraging them to participate in and have an interest in the one thing that determines their future. Here in the UK it is evident that young people are becoming more active in politics: according to the BBC, during the Scottish referendum over 100,000 16-17 year olds registered to vote after being given the chance to do so. This mass participation of the young was repeated in the EU referendum when 64 percent of the age bracket opted to vote on June 23rd which was higher than it has been for two decades per LSE. Why then are we still shocked when politics is a topic discussed in a publication aimed at young women, written by a young woman?
Duca’s article is not the first political piece published by Teen Vogue. The publication has covered a vast range of current affairs from women’s rights to climate change, and even went as far to fully and publically endorse Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate for the first time. The strong reaction to Duca’s article was not merely born from the fact that it was written by a young woman and published on Teen Vogue, but that it held shocking truths about the nature of American politics. It is these truths expressed in her article that should be central to the media debate, and not whether Duca should be sticking to writing makeup tutorials. Even with a current female prime minister in the UK, within the media, Theresa May’s political decisions seem to come secondary to her fashion ones – however outrageous her clothing choices, I would much rather hear her plans for the country, whether I agree with them or not.
Ultimately, we must stop this faux shock that young women are interested in the world around them, and instead start listening to what they have to say.