Yesterday, I found myself at Eindhoven airport. I was going to take a short flight from the Netherlands to the UK, just to go to a concert and unwind. Passing the security check quickly, I decided to take a glance at whatever Duty Free offered. I was quite surprised to witness one of the ghosts of my life—girl magazines!
A child of the 2000s, I wasn’t an avid internet user. While I searched the web occasionally to do my homework, most of my activities were analogue. I read a lot, mostly books but magazines for girls were also important.
These magazines with bright and intriguing covers were informative and pleasant. A curious girl could have found something interesting on her topic of choice, such as music or fashion, and use this new knowledge or remember it for the future. For instance, I loved reading magazines about animals. While I didn’t have a pet, I read about taking care of dogs and imagined having one in the future. (A note from my grown-up self: I’m yet to have a dog.) We fantasised.
DeAgostini magazines for young collectors were also popular in my hometown. If you had subscribed, you would have received an item for your future collection every week. Magazines accompanied the material things so a child could learn about their collection. Rocks, dolls, cards with characters from favourite TV shows… We searched.
Girl magazines also built communication networks. The bravest ones could write to editors so their question or letter would be published. Magazines were also useful for local communities. Girls could read them together and engage in new activities together. We connected.
I’m very sentimental about magazines for children and teens. I thought of them as an artifact of the past and followed online communities about 2000s printed media to feel nostalgic.
So I was fascinated to see girl magazines at a modern airport. Then I remembered instantly seeing them at airports in other large cities, such as London and Istanbul. Bright colours, “girly” topics like animals, and trinkets attached to the cover became my time machine, my madeleine cake.
I don’t speak Dutch so I can’t say exactly what those magazines were about. The covers made me smile, though. Horses, One Direction, Frozen. There was even a magazine about taking care of a baby, with a doll and nappies attached, which immediately made me think whether girls of about nine years old need such kind of magazines now.
An international airport is an ideal example of a non-place. Different people visit it every day to go to different places. Do those magazines sold at liminal spaces represent an idea of a universalised girlhood (which probably does not exist)? Would every girl like them? The professors in my Master’s programme in children’s literature say that creators of children’s media should always be sensitive and attentive to their target audience. I hope that many niches are covered in the magazines and there is a real possibility of choice.
Nonetheless, I was happy to imagine new generations of girls fantasising, searching, and connecting the way I did. Sure, there are a lot of good alternatives to printed press. But the physicality of a magazine makes it appealing and encouraging to play and learn.
Girl Museum Inc.