Glee's sexy cover as a "teachable moment"

Glee's Jewish stars Diana Agron and Lea Michele appear on the cover of GQ with co-star Cory Monteith, 2010.
Courtesy of GQ Magazine.

I am such a Gleek. So naturally I was fascinated by the uproar caused by the risque, but let’s just face it crazy-hot, GQ photo shoot that Leah blogged about here.

My first reaction was wishy washy at best-- they so have a right to do what they want BUT yowsers was that ever bold! But for the most part I thought that the topic wasn’t mine to contemplate. Not my worry to buy because my girls are so young, too young, to be affected by the “Glee girls magazine debacle.”

While my kids can sing along like serious rockstars to the Glee soundtracks, at ages four and six they don’t watch the show. So I washed my hands clean of the heated debate and left it to those other moms. You know, the ones with the older-more-trickier-aged daughters.

But this weekend I braved the craziness of the mall and karma gave me a swift kick in the ass. As we were browsing my girls saw, noticed and pointed out the magazine cover. Just like all of the debacle-nay-sayers said that they would.

“Look mom, Glee!” Kayli, my six year old announced. Chloe, my four year old, followed suit with, “Should we get this?” And they both just stood there. Looking up at me with their gorgeous, impossibly deep brown eyes like I was supposed to know what I was doing or something.

Now I’m not going to lie to you here-- the moment gave me pause, for sure. The photos are sexy. Revealing. Provocative. So not what I want my girls to be doing, seeing, emulating or idolizing, right? My feminist ideals and sociology minor learnings were telling me, no yelling at me, the right answer here is: A big fat NO.

But let’s just back up a little bit. I’m fierce about my girls never feeling like they have to wear anything revealing, pose sexy, vampy or be anything at all that they don’t want to be.

And yet. Yet. I’m also passionate about them never shying away from their bodies or their sexuality. I want them to love themselves. And I don’t want them to judge or have disdain for beauty. At all.

So I realized that I actually didn’t have a reason to be afraid of the magazine. Or to avoid it. Or to insult the Glee girls for it. Putting down sexiness isn’t what feminism is about.

It’s about owning who you are. Making your own choices. And loving yourself for it. Because you can.

Defining your own sexuality is important, vital even, for development. So the messages that I send my girls right now do matter. They’ll remember how I talk (and don’t talk) about my own body, my own self image and my own view of sexuality. They’ll also remember how I react to and talk (and don’t talk) about, other people’s bodies and images.

So all of this was swirling around my brain, giving me a headache really. And my heart was beating faster, also giving me a headache. But I didn’t hide the magazine from my girls. I didn’t buy it either. But we didn’t walk away. What we did do was stop and talk about it. Briefly.

Do they look pretty? Do you like what they’re wearing? Would you ever wear that? Did you know that you can make that choice? And as they get just a bit older, What messages are they sending with those clothes? Those poses? Here’s what I see. What message do you want to send? If you want to send whatever-message, then what will you wear? Say? Do?

With every fiber of my being I don’t think that the Glee girls did anything wrong with those photos. And those same fibers also tell me, deep down in my Mama gut, that neither beauty nor sexiness is anti-feminist. In any way.

It’s all about choice. The have-to-dos versus the want-to-dos and how you feel about the choices that you have, that you make, that you own.

There’s a danger in drowning out the true meaning of owning our bodies. It doesn’t mean to hide it or be ashamed of it. It means being comfortable with, appreciative of and careful with our bodies. In whatever way speaks to us. And teaching that gem to our girls. And letting other girls and other moms find their way, too. Even if their way looks, sounds, feels different than ours does. That’s feminism. That’s raising girls who live boldly, who are bold. And who are true to themselves.

The dialogue is powerfully and beautifully wide open when our girls are young. We need to capitalize on that. Right now.

Galit Breen blogs as the "Minnesota Mamaleh" at You can find her there or on Twitter.

Topics: Feminism, Television
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thanks so much, talia! i just checked out your site: "femidox" is one of the more clever terms. ever! :)

I've got to tell you, I see pictures friends post online of their young girls all the time that give me serious pause. The girls, I know for a fact, are innocent enough, but the poses and the clothes (especially the short shorts and skirts)... I can't help but think they look sexual. And then I think about how some sicko might look at them. And I am all kinds of uncomfortable. Then I feel badly, and wonder why I am looking at the pictures as provocative. The photo subjects are probably not even aware of it. But is that what matters? Is it how the image was meant or how it is perceived that counts? Where did my friends' very young children learn to pose like that, with their rears ends stuck out and their chests up (even though they have no boobs)? I have to assume it is from pictures like this cover. They try to emulate what they see without having any idea what it all means. And I think it is dangerous.

Another point to consider is that both the actress Lea Michele and her character are Jewish. (As for the blonde, 'Agron' sounds Israeli, but don't hold me to that.)

Given that Hollywood has, historically, desexualized Jewish women in ways it does not do with Gentile women, this is arguably a step forward. Jewish men in the US intermarry in epidemic proportion largely because they don't think Jewish women are 'hot', due to Hollywood media messaging, so any propaganda to the contrary is the silver lining in the cloud.

Galit, this one is close to my heart. So close that I get all mixed up and emotional and can't be decisive about what I think. In Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, there is a poem called My Short Skirt. It is a proclamation that a short skirt is not an invitation but a personal flag of freedom to be sexy, strong, and smart. I want for my daughter to fly her own flag, whatever that may be. There will be opposition no matter what that is. Its the nature of thd game. Society can be a confidence basher. And that's what i get all scared and wishy washy about. I want to wrap her up and love and hug and hde her away. Omg. Did I just say that? I don't want to do that! I want her to be not afraid. To see and do and explore. As long as it doesn't mean getting her feelings hurt. Or rather, mine. (see my dilema?) You are brave for posting, talking, questioning this subject. Because you share I feel more empowered. Because for you to say sexy is ok, without and if, ands, or buts (butts?) means you are letting others decide for themselves. What a brilliant feminist you are! And THAT is sexy!

hi lois, thanks so much for the note! i hear you and agree 100%-- lack of control, submissiveness *is* problematic. in this case both women (25, right?) owned the choice and the shoot. no one forced them. i think the conversation and the dialogue are where it's at. not just letting our kids see these images (as they are pervasive) but discussing them and helping our kids process the msgs.

Yes yes yes, to looking, to the discussion to sexy & pretty being just fine & feminist. Yet and but, well. What I mean is I don't want to ever say no, don't make that cover or they shouldn't go along with that while at the very same time this is how you get tiny bikinis for babies whose nipples need no covering & trampy Halloween costumes for five year olds. Etc. It's not about can't or even shouldn't exactly, but it is worth wondering aloud whether showing images that are more woman friendly versus "sexy Glee" might just help us all.File under, just sayin'

Hey Galit! Great post . . . I have two little girls as well, and I already struggle with making sure I don't belittle my own body in front of them or say anything to confuse them about body image at all. It's getting harder and harder as they get older and more aware!!!!

Since the Glee cover came out I pretty much felt this way also - awesome post!

This is a hard one. I agree with you that women should own their sexuality. Some of the more heated debate about the shoot came from the way the women were portrayed, though. Not just sexy, but submissive. Submissive is a problem because then you are no longer in control and choice no longer plays a role.

I have two little boys, so my job is to teach them to respect women despite the images they are bombarded with. It's not an easy task. I cross my fingers we all get it right...

How to cite this page

Breen, Galit. "Glee's sexy cover as a "teachable moment"." 30 November 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 29, 2021) <>.

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