Don’t judge a magazine by its cover (or name)

I have heard of the magazine Vogue and its seemingly junior counterpart Teen Vogue. Going purely on its name and shamelessly stereotyping, I had imagined that the latter would deal with pop culture and fashion. It turns out that I was quite wrong. While it does deal with those things, it turns out to also be a magazine pitching radical progressive politics at its target audience of teenagers.

David Palumbo-Liu, professor of comparative literature at Stanford University, says that the transition reflects the changing times.

Since 2016, bolstered by the contributions of radicals like Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue has made a curious transformation into a venue that mixes standard fare culture writing with political primers like “Everything You Need to Know About General Strikes” and “Who Is Karl Marx: Meet the Anti-Capitalist Scholar.”

[I]t’s certainly an important sign of the times and the growing influence of anticapitalism that its politics editor and author of some of the publication’s best pieces, Lucy Diavolo, spoke at this July’s Socialism Conference in Chicago. And it’s not just the left echo chamber that’s reading these articles — Teen Vogue receives around ten million monthly page views and has over twelve million social media followers, many of them young women.

The New Statesman has just declared Teen Vogue to be a “champion of democratic socialism,” and editor in chief Elaine Welteroth refers to the magazine as “a movement.” However, a realistic appraisal shows that Teen Vogue presents a range of liberal to left materials, and despite the earnest political convictions of so many of its authors, as an institution its pivot may just be a rebranding exercise.

And timing is everything — the interest in the new Teen Vogue is attributable to a sense of urgency in the air and also the growing awareness of the bankruptcy of neoliberalism. People want to know new things, and socialism is more and more one of the things people want to know more about, for it seems the only humane response to economic violence.

Palumbo-Lu included an interview he had with Samhita Mukhopadhyay, the magazine’s executive editor, who describes the reactions the magazine is getting from right-wingers for ‘polluting’ young people’s minds. She says:

Tucker Carlson is obsessed with us. He is upset that we have a labor columnist. He’s upset that we do the sex content. And he really doubles down on this idea of what is appropriate for teen girls, even though I’d say to him, “Stop thinking about teen girls so much.” Nobody wants that. Nobody wants your opinion on this.

The right wing thinks we are brainwashing a new generation. I put one such quote from a right-winger on my Twitter bio, “The most insidious form of teen communist propaganda,” or something like that.

Communist propaganda. I was like, “Thanks, guys. Thanks for writing the bio for me.” And there is an elitism around who has the right to kind of cover and talk about politics.

The magazine is owned by Condé Nast, “a 108-year-old global media company with more than one billion consumers in thirty-two markets” which means that while they have resources, there is also a corporate editorial policy, though the publication so far seems to have been given freedom to venture into this new area. As always in the capitalist world, if the magazine makes money for the company, they will be given more editorial freedom, at least up to a point.


  1. says

    A lot of the fashion magazines and other magazines targeted at women have done some great journalism in the past few years, but Teen Vogue has been heads and tails above them all. It’s a shame that they’ve stopped publishing a physical version but their demographic doesn’t buy much in the way of print media anymore so it makes sense for them to go online only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *