Sexting, Shame and Suicide: a shocking story of sexual assault in the digital age
This essay was published last September but I’ve only just come across it. I keep thinking of Audrie and her body defaced and graffitied, the images shared and consumed. Her waking in horror to discover the markings all over her body and trying frantically to scrub them off. And the ultimate horror outcome, where she can no longer face the mocking, bullying and shaming. But I must say, it’s not only in the U.S that boys take the view that if a girl is under the influence of alcohol, she deserves whatever happens (some girls take this attitude also).
I have asked boys in the schools I address: “If a girl is drunk how many of you think she’s asking for it?” In many classes, the majority of boys would raise their hands. It is a common view. There is a terrible lack of understanding about consent and the face that if she is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, she can’t exercise it and a crime has been committed if she is taken advantage of. Audrie’s tragic story shows us where that view can lead. My sympathy to her devastated family.
Rape stats may be no higher than in years past, but the numbers are as shocking as ever. Every two minutes, a sexual assault happens in the U.S., and nearly 50 percent of the victims are under the age of 18, according to Katherine Hull, a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: “The demographic of high school- and college-age women is at highest risk for sexual assault.” More than half of the incidents go unreported, advocates say. The ability to record and communicate gang-sex assaults has added a new enhancement to an old and ugly crime against women. From Instagram to Snapchat to texting, young people with raging hormones and low impulse control are passing around what amounts to child pornography. And the bodies most frequently watched and passed around are female.
“It’s a perfect storm of technology and hormones,” says lawyer Lori Andrews, director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology in Chicago. “Teen sexting is all a way of magnifying girls’ fantasies of being a star of their own movies, and boys locked in a room bragging about sexual conquest.”
But as of yet the law provides little protection to the rights of those violated. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act effectively means that no Internet provider can be forced to take down content for invading a person’s privacy or even defaming them. “I could sue The New York Times for invading my privacy or Rolling Stone for defaming me,” Andrews says. “But I couldn’t sue and get my picture off a website called sluttyseventhgraders.com.” Read full article here
Boys Men and Violence
Dr Michael Flood March 5, 2014
Sexual violence is a serious social problem in Australia. According to a recent national survey, about one in six women in Australia – just under 1.5 million – has experienced sexual assault. In the past year alone, 87,800 women experienced sexual assault. Younger women are at greater risk. These are the victims, but what about perpetrators? Various studies show anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent of males have forced or pressured a girl or woman into sex or tried to do so…
Boys and young men are more likely to force or pressure a girl into sex if they have sexist and sexually hostile attitudes – they see girls as sexual objects, as less important or less valuable than males, and they feel entitled to see how far they can push things. The 2001 Australian National Crime Prevention Survey of young people aged 12 to 20 found about one in seven guys agreed that, “it’s okay for a boy to make a girl have sex with him if she has flirted with him or led him on.”
Some of the media consumed by boys and men is implicated in violence. TV, movies, music and computer games often portray women as sexual objects only, put men’s voices and lives at centre stage, and condone or even celebrate violence as entertaining and legitimate. Pornography use is increasingly common among young men, and here callous and hostile images of women are routine. In a wide range of media, boys learn that real men are tough, dominant, and aggressive. Read full article here
Sometimes I wonder if one girl’s mag gets wind of what another is up to and copies it. In this case it’s a good thing, with Dolly also running a feature on binge drinking. I commended Girlfriend for a strong piece on “liquid poison” also this month. What is less understandable is why it Dolly has assigned the piece to the ‘Sealed Section’. I see no rationale for this. (Girlfriend did the same thing awhile back with a special feature on mental illness which I questioned here ). Let’s face it, the sealed section is pretty useless anyway (a simple tear reveals the contents). But what is being implied here? Why doesn’t the piece belong in the body of the magazine with the rest of the ‘open content’?
The piece opens with the story of ‘Jen’, 16, who lost control after consuming vodka at a party and regretted her behaviour. Research shows 40% of girls 14-19 drink at levels which put them at risk of alcohol-related harm, those aged 15-24 account for 52% all alcohol related serious injuries and one in two 15-17 will regret something they did when drunk. “Binge drinking’s not only bad for your health, but it can seriously impact your wellbeing and relationships”, says Dolly. More than two standard drinks is enough to start physical damage to organs. Professor Gordian Fulde, Director of the Emergency Department, Sydney Hospital, says: “Usually the teenage girl who comes in will be vomiting and dehydrated so we’ll have to hook them up to a drip for fluid transfusions…Sometimes we’ll have unconscious patients who’ve fallen when intoxicated. We’ll cut their clothes off to do full body checks so we don’t miss a life-threatening injury…It’s often very distressing once they’ve sobered up and can’t remember what happened.” Long term effects are listed: alcohol dependence, physical health problems, mental health problems and unsafe situations e.g unprotected or unwanted sex. Girls are given tips for resisting peer pressure – say you’ve already had one, don’t feel pressured to give in – “true friends respect your decisions – swap the alcohol for your drink of choice, find other ways to beat party nerves. Support is offered through Reach Out.com.au and Alcohol & Drug Information Service (1800422599).
Two more important contributions this issue. ‘Relationships that hurt’ helps girls recognise dangerous and harmful relationships with boys who are jealous and controlling. Studies show teen girls are at greatest risk of entering abusive relationships – more than any women in other age groups. Many don’t recognise possessive behaviour as a red flag. “Jealousy is not the sign of love that girls often think it is,” says Carmen Garrett a social worker at Headspace. “When it leads to a boy trying to control your life- who you speak to, where you go – that’s serious.”
Megan at first thought the constant surveillance of her boyfriend was “proof he loved me”. She became withdrawn, her social life suffered, she lost her friends, and quit sport because her boyfriend hated her playing with boys on the team. Ella’s boyfriend, who she had kept secret for a year, started pressuring her for sex. “I wasn’t ready. But he kept threatening to tell my parents we’d done all this sexual stuff, even if we hadn’t,” she says. She gave in to the pressure out of fear and because she didn’t want to lose him. Melissa was pressured by her boyfriend to lose weight, telling her she was “too fat” and he would find someone else. “All I could think about was losing weight to make him like me again,” she says. Read more
Doing good instead of bingeing is all class: MTR in Sunday Herald Sun
Scarlett* (she asked me not to use her real name) from Victoria, wrote to me about her experience of Schoolies.
While on schoolies I heard numerous stories of girls I go to school with having sex in club toilets with complete strangers before schoolies to ‘get it over and done with’… They feared that if they went on schoolies as virgins, they would be deemed ‘losers’…
While on schoolies, some of my closest friends had sex or gave oral sex or hand to complete strangers as they felt it was ‘expected of them’ by the boys and because ‘it’s schoolies!’.
At clubs and bars we went to boys chanted ‘tits out for the boys’… If boys came up to the girls and chanted ‘show us your tits!’ the girls would take their tops off or show their bra, because a massive group of horny boys chanting at you is pretty forceful.
…There was also a wet-shirt competition, prizes for lesbian kisses and games which included miming a blow job. They had to take off items of clothing to stay in the game…
Many of the girls were under the influence of alcohol and yes, boys did prey on drunk girls – I overheard two boys saying to each other ‘let’s get these girls drunk and take them down to the beach’.
Courtney Mitchell, 18, wrote to me too. Her experience was quite different.
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of joining a team on a short term trip to Thailand and Cambodia with Destiny Rescue. We spent time with poor and disadvantaged children and young people and saw how life is for those much less fortunate than ourselves.
My team had chosen to spend their schoolies giving instead of getting. It was inspiring to see them exchange a week of partying to spend an afternoon levelling out a soccer field so orphaned boys could play safely or playing with little girls rescued from the sex industry.
It was touching to think that money had been diligently raised all year not to hire a three-bedroom apartment and cover alcohol costs but to fly to the other side of the world with a willingness to get uncomfortable.
What better way to start life in the real world than by visiting the real world – and gaining awareness, preparation and perspective as a result?
If ever there was a case for re-considering the traditional schoolies ritual, it’s here in the stories of these two young women.
This so-called rite-of-passage – more like a week-long binge – sees hundreds arrested for serious assault, drunk and disorderly conduct, drug possession and obstructing police. Scarce resources are deployed to mop up the mess.
Many girls suffer sexual violence. Some families are left grieving the loss of a child who died at a schoolies event.
Of course young people should be able to let off steam, have fun and say farewell after being together with the same people for over a decade. We want them to revel in freedom and new beginnings.
But has the good wish to prove and redefine oneself, to grow and move on, turned into an empty, hollow and even toxic initiation?
It appears that young people themselves think so.
In fact most wish they’d never gone. University of Wollongong research found seven out of 10 of teens attending rated the experience as negative.
Why can’t we offer them something better? Provide incentives to participate in something affirming and positive, which won’t leave them with sadness and regret?
Fortunately there are a number of alternatives already on offer which deserve more publicity so that next time girls like Scarlett will have healthy options. Here’s a sample (check in your area for other programs).
• Schoolies Revolution
An initiative of HopeBuilders International, this not-for-profit work to break the cycle of poverty. It “challenges young people to step out of their comfort zone and do something radical. By turning away from the traditional “schoolies” young people are given the opportunity to give back to world’s poor”. This year students helped build a school, visited slums, visited prisons and looked after orphans in Uganda.
• Operation Timor-Leste (Rotary Club of Kerang)
Kalamunda schools (W.A) join a team to engage in community building activities in a small East Timorese village. The aim is to help young people think and act as global citizens, develop mutual cross cultural awareness and achieve personal challenges,
• Shepparton Schoolies Alternative
Students from a Lutheran College in Adelaide work with young refugees in Shepparton. The school hopes to strengthen and grow the connections with refugee communities.
Crossroads is a two-week pilgrimage for Year 12 school leavers from the Melbourne, run by the Melbourne Catholic Archdiocese. Students engage with remote communities, where they do volunteer work.
• ‘Coolies’ Program
Run by De La Salle College, the Coolies program takes 12 school leavers to for a month to work as unskilled labourers (‘coolies’) in rural villages and try to improve the lives of the poor. Students have built a new primary school classroom and toilet block.
STORM Co. is a youth initiative of the South Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It sends teams of trained young people to work for, learn from, and encourage individual communities, especially in remote parts of Australia.
EVERY weekend the group of 13 and 14-year-old girls got together and played a game. They’d stand in a circle and drink straight spirits. The girl who remained standing the longest, won. Some needed their stomachs pumped afterwards. The doctors who told me about treating girls like this almost every weekend have every right to feel demoralised.
The use of alcohol has become more widespread and acceptable for children and young people. They are drinking more often and at riskier levels.
Forty-three per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds say they drink to get drunk; two-thirds of 16 and 17-year-olds think that ‘‘it is OK to get drunk occasionally’’.
In the past 10 years, about 15 per cent of all deaths of 15 to 24-year-olds were due to risky drinking.
But should we be surprised, when the alcohol industry seeks to recruit young people into a lifelong habit?
Alcohol products are designed, packaged and promoted to normalise alcohol use for young people.
Grog companies spend billions embedding their brands in the lives and lifestyles of young people.
The underage alcohol market brings in more than $100 million in profits for the industry. Sporting gear bears alcohol brand logos. Spirit brands run competitions to win electric skateboards and use social media to get their message to young people.
If a beer or spirit ad gets 10 million views on YouTube, an average of 600,000 children under the age of 17 will see it.
Promotions link booze to sports, music celebrities, sex and an enviable lifestyle.
Sponsorship of football, lads’ mags and music festivals sends a message to young people that the brand understands them and that drinking is something everyone needs to do to have fun and friends.
Music is also used to push alcohol to kids. In a study of 793 popular US songs, a research team found one in five had explicit references to alcohol and a quarter named a specific brand.
The latest Zoo magazine tells its 28,000 readers aged 14 to 17: ‘‘Here’s a good reason to go out, get slaughtered and urinate on a policeman: even industrial quantities of booze won’t destroy the grey matter’’ (which isn’t true).
Alcohol consumption causes more than 5000 deaths and 80,000 hospital visits in Australia yearly. The economic cost is about $36 billion a year.
In a paper delivered to the Right to Childhood conference in Sydney recently, Professor Mike Daube made the case for suing the industry, making it pay for the human damage.
‘‘There is massive evidence on the impacts of alcohol on our community. It is a health problem, a social problem, an economic problem, a law enforcement problem, a cultural problem,’’ Prof Daube said.
‘‘It is a cause of death, injury, violence, domestic violence, child abuse, workplace losses, road crashes.’’
Prof Daube says industry self-regulation codes are limited and toothless. The industry is skilled in countering threats to its sales by downplaying health and other consequences of alcohol use and promoting its own soft education.
What minimal regulation exists is not enough to prevent the massive alcohol-related problems we are seeing.
With a million dollars a day spent sanitising and glamourising alcohol directly to young people for whom it is actually illegal to purchase, how can the meagre budgets available to school for drug and alcohol education compete?
Advocates for change urge the following: PROPER curbs on alcohol promotion; REFORM of the tax system so that we can’t buy alcohol cheaper than bottled water; CURBS on the increasing numbers of sales outlets — often where their presence normalises drinking for young people; A FUNDAMENTAL rethink of licensing laws to quell the drunken violence plaguing our cities; LEGISLATION to prevent secondary supply to children and tougher penalties for supplying; EFFECTIVE warning labels; RAISING the legal drinking age.
Surveys show under-18s feel strongly about the levels of alcohol marketing they are exposed to and want regulation that provides stronger protection. They also want more health warnings. It’s time for real action to stop more damage.
As published in the Sunday Herald Sun Nov 18, 2012
Can someone please tell Brian McFadden that ‘taking advantage’ of a woman when she’s drunk is sexual assault and against the law?
Because he seems to have missed the announcement.
The Irish singer-songwriter and ‘honorary’ Australian on account of his four-year engagement to songstress Delta Goodrem, McFadden today officially releases Just The Way You Are (Drunk at the Bar).
The barn-dance meets rap recording is described here as the novelty song from hell and hard to beat as the worst song of the year (and it’s only February).
But apart from its all-round awfulness it’s these lyrics which, with International Women’s Day almost upon us, show us just how far we haven’t come.
I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can do some damage
I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can take advantage
Describing the song as “infectious”, Universal Music in a statement Friday said the dance track will “rattle around in your head for hours”. Doing some damage, taking advantage of a woman under the influence of alcohol… is this the soundtrack we want going round and round in the heads of males?
Just one more message reinforcing the rape myths circulating in our culture: that inebriated girls are asking for it, and that you’re not really to blame. One more message encouraging boys to help themselves. I love you just the way you are, drunk, because it’s easier to get what I want that way.
A recent UK study found that 48% of males aged 18-25 did not consider rape to have taken place if the woman was too drunk to know what was happening.
There’s a kind of party atmosphere around these criminal assaults, with many men boasting about their conquests. An on-line genre known as ‘Passed Out P*ssy’ encourages men to share photos online of women and girls they have taken advantage of while drunk. ‘She’s drunk? Don’t call a taxi and make sure she gets home safely! Call your friends, have some fun and share the pictures!’ men are exhorted.
Love you just the way you are (drunk at the bar) helps legitimise this behaviour.
McFadden – also a judge on Australia’s Got Talent and a father of daughters – hasn’t taken well to the criticism. He swears on his heart that he wrote the song for Delta.
That’s right, ‘Can’t wait to do some damage’ is the sort of poetry McFadden writes to demonstrate the depths of his love for his bride-in-waiting. Look into my eyes Delta, he croons, I stayed up all night writing this ode to love, just for you my darling. Wow, lucky girl Delta.
Perhaps he even expects her to swoon?
The song was first played on 2Day FM’s Kyle & Jackie O show last week. Jackie O – who could also benefit from reading ‘Consent for Dummies’ – gushed that it was her “new favourite song”. “I love it, I’m a big fan of this song… this song rocks.”
And Kyle Sandilands, not exactly legendary for his sensitive treatment of young women -recall the lie detector scandal involving a 14-year-old rape survivor – said, “It’s a fun sort of song.”
Discussing this with Nina Funnell who campaigns to end sexual assault and is a member of the NSW Premier’s Council on Preventing Violence Against Women, she says McFadden’s lyrics echo a broader culture which ostensibly opposes rape while simultaneously demonstrating no real understanding of what actually constitutes sexual assault.
“Unfortunately many people still believe the myth that most sexual assaults are committed down dark alleys by strangers in balaclavas. This myth is damaging as it conceals the reality that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by people known to the victim – usually a family member, friend, someone they go to school or work with.
“It is important that we recognize that the sort of behavior that some people are referring to as ‘taking advantage’ may legally count as sexual assault. In NSW the consent laws now state that a person cannot give consent if they are intoxicated to the point that they lose the capacity to do so, such as if they are passed out. To ‘take advantage’ of someone in such a state would unquestionably constitute sexual assault”.
“Having sex with a woman who does not have the capacity to consent is not called ‘taking advantage’. It’s called rape. Calling it ‘taking advantage’ reclassifies an action from being a serious crime to a negative but essentially trivial behaviour with no legal dimension whatsoever. “
Alison Grundy a clinical psychologist in the field of sexual violence for 20 years, describes the lyrics as “one more open demonstration of the contempt shown to women’s human rights and the fundamental legislation that is place to protect them”.
“Now we have thirty years of research to show that the sexualized and violent messages of popular music, media and video games do shape and provoke male aggressive and sexualized violence. I wonder how long it will be before songs like this are seen as inciting crimes under the criminal code?
“Not soon enough for those of us who work with victims on the long road to recovery after experiencing the ‘do some damage and take advantage’ behaviour lauded in this song”.
So there you have it. A fun sort of song about sexually exploiting women – doing damage to them – to top off a night out. Let the good times roll. Just not for the one in five women over 15 who are sexually assaulted in this country.
Girls’ Mag Watch: More Stereotyped and Limiting Messages for Girls
This is the second installment of my review of magazines for girls and young women, published by Generation Next.
For many girls, the magazines they read are their lifestyle bibles. How should they look, dress, act and relate? What’s important in life? Who should they look up to? My analysis of the November issues of Girlfriend, Dolly, Girlpower, Disney Girl, Little Angel and the October and November issues of TotalGirl shows that girls are being delivered a mostly one-dimensional, generic and limited view of girl/young womanhood. The emphasis is on looks, fashion, beauty practices, consumerism, gossip, and celebrity culture. The little girls’ magazines provide early socialisation into the popularised teen world of clothing, make-up, sex and celebrities. I’m especially disturbed by the encouragement given to very young girls, through the advice sections, to have boyfriends.
GF’s ‘Self Respect REALITY CHECKS’ are just getting weird. They seem to be dropped in at random, even when not all that relevant. In this issue there’s one on the front for Emma Watson. Emma’s image, we are told, was purchased before Emma cut her hair. So what? How does that address body image dissatisfaction and provide a ‘Self Respect REALITY CHECK’?
An inside feature, “I believe…”, about girls with a variety of religious beliefs, also has a ‘reality check’. The magazine declares that ‘we did an online call-out for readers of different religions to participate in this story and these are the girls who stepped forward.’ Perhaps that’s worth stating. But is it about self-respect? There’s three other ‘reality checks’: ‘Readers, not models, were used in this shoot’ (x2) and a ‘check’ showing the time that models spent in hair and make-up. So that’s five checks, only two which have any relevance to GF’s originally stated intention of getting real about body image.
And why is the advertising exempt from ‘reality checks’? This is where we see the bulk of skinny, air-brushed, flawless women.
The Billabong ads are a paean to summer body perfection. The advertised bikinis may as well be marked size T – for tiny. There’s virtually no body diversity in GF’s advertising. Advertising should not be treated as somehow exempt from the magazine’s stated intention that it is ‘getting real’ about body image.
We meet the winners of the ‘Face of Fing’rs 2010’ competition. Kharla is 14, Jessica 15. For some reason the stylists have plastered them in fire-engine red lipstick, the intensity of which would make a clown’s mouth look pale. It makes them look much more adult than they are.
Speaking of models, we also meet past winners of ‘Girlfriend of the Year’. I’m not a fan of modelling competitions, but at least new applicants are asked to write about their dreams and how they want to achieve them. This year’s winner was fashion designer Iman Krayem, who is wearing a head covering (and, somewhat in contrast, holding what appears to be lingerie). Perhaps GF wants to show it does want to represent a range of women. Having said that, most of the women in the magazine are standard-bodied white anglo females.
Advertisers must be aware that very young girls are reading Girlfriend. There’s an ad (here and in the other mags reviewed) for ‘Fashion Paradise’, inviting girls to ‘become the ultimate fashion expert’ and organise fashion shows and open glamorous boutiques. There are figurines available for this product, which look to me like they would appeal to girls around 8-11.
Other advertising, for example for Garnier, was presented as a four-page feature when it was really an advertorial.
The Good Bits
I was very pleased to see the piece ‘Dying to Drink’ which discusses the rise of Vodka as the drink of choice for teenage girls. The article confronts young women with the risks and harms of Vodka consumption and shatters the myth that it is less risky than other alcoholic drinks. Paul Dillon, Director of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia – and one of Generation Next’s speaking team – makes a sobering statement: “The last five deaths that I’ve been involved with were all female school students aged 16 and 17 and all fatalities were vodka related.” Now that’s a reality check. If GF ran more articles like this, I would commend it publicly and loudly.
Other positive and helpful articles: one on how to save money (a welcome inclusion would have been ‘reduce spending on hair, cosmetics and other grooming products which you mostly don’t need’!); a recommendation to volunteer your time, how to manage family stress caused by financial pressures and how you can help ease the load at home (assist around the house, look after your belongings, earn your own money). I like that girls are situated within their families, and are encouraged to contribute positively, especially when times are tough.
A piece on safe driving features a short video created by 14-year-old Maddy Frahm.
The ‘Get Real’ section contains true stories which will hopefully inspire girls towards empathy (‘I was bullied by thousands’, ‘I’ve had 101 operations’) and making a difference in developing countries (‘We volunteered overseas’).
Then it’s back to hot boys and crushes and how girls and boys aren’t from different planets, ‘just different hemispheres’.
Jessica Mauboy is here too – she was featured as a fresh-faced teenager on Australian Idol and has now been rebranded as the new ‘It girl’, having returned from a trip to the United States where she was made-over by some of the most misogynist male rap artists in the industry (that fact isn’t mentioned). GF describes Mauboy’s new single as ‘a flirty tribute to every girl’s number one love – shoes!’. Oh please, every girl?
Not so good: Why is mental health in the sealed section?
This issue includes a very important subject: ‘The truth about mental illness’. The article covers anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, bipolar, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia, along with treatment, recovery and helplines. This is great. But why is it in the sealed section? What does that suggest about being mentally ill? That it is something that should be hidden? I’m at a loss to understand this placement decision.
Dolly has a ‘re-touch free zone’. The problem is, the logo indicating a ‘re-touch free zone’ appears very minimally, despite the ‘amazing response’ Dolly has received about this feature. It is too tokenistic a gesture in my view. The fact that the logo is used so rarely shows just how little re-touching actually does take place. And when it is used, it’s hard to tell if it just applies to the one page it appears on, or to a feature as a whole (e.g swimsuit photo section from p.74). Use of the word ‘zone’ suggests more than an individual page but I’m not sure that’s how Dolly intends it to be interpreted.
A feature on teen pregnancy, clearly designed to portray the reality of having a baby at a young age, is unrelentingly bleak – so much so I wondered if the case study was real. ‘I’m 16…and a mum’ describes what happened when ‘Jessie’ told her parents she was pregnant to her boyfriend: ‘My dad was furious and kicked me out.’ Nice one, dad. In ‘A day in the life of Jessie’ she says that from‘8.30pm-5am: ‘I get up during the night over 20 times to burp, change, feed and sing to Emily.’ Twenty times a night? If this is true I hope Dolly put her in touch with a service that could help. No girl – or woman – should have to manage that without support. Dolly: if she is a real girl, please tell put her in touch with a relevant agency.
And if ‘Jessie’ is not real? It’s one thing to discourage teen pregnancy, it’s quite another to catastrophise it to the point where the litany of horrors become hard to believe.
The Dolly fashion pages feature these shoes (right). Perfect for crippling the feet of Dolly’s tween and barely teen girl readers.
Some tiny bikinis in Dolly though they’ve also included some larger sized swimwear, unlike GF.
The Good Bits
…Are a page on how not to get caught up in gossip, how to handle criticism, unreliable friends and why they are bad for your health, 10 ways to lift your mood, handling period pain, and dealing with death. The ‘Real Reads’ section features a 17-year-old girl whose health was harmed smoking pot, a 14-year-old who had a hip replacement, a 14-year-old who helps to look after her 13-year-old disabled brother, and a 14-year-old survivor of domestic violence who suffered abuse at the hands of her step father.
A section on ‘What’s your ideal career?’ could have been useful, but the series of multiple choice questions results in the limited choice of a mere four ‘ ideal careers’: hospitality, creative arts, IT and fashion. Is that it? (it is bizarre that ‘news reporter’ is included in the fashion section. Perhaps in Dolly’s world, fashion is the only thing worth reporting on?).
The NOT So Good Bits
‘How to rule the (online) universe’ introduces readers to Tumblr, Flickr and Formspring ‘to put you at the top of the social media stratosphere’. According to cyber safety expert Susan McLean – also a Gen Next speaker – Formspring is the number one medium for on-line bullying. This isn’t mentioned in the article.
Dolly gives advice to girls which could be seen as promoting stalking-type behaviours. For example ‘Get insider info on your crush’: ‘Ask your crush a question anonymously…you can get loads of helpful hints about how to snag him – and he’ll never guess it’s you.’ You can even find out what he’s doing on the weekend ‘so you can randomly turn up at the same spot!’ I found this advice creepy.
Also creepy is a six page feature titled ‘Planet Hot’ featuring 13-year-old Australian boy singer, Cody Simpson and 14-year-old US boy actor Kodi Smith (who looks younger)”. Would we want to see 13 and 14-year-old old girls featured in the ‘Planet Hot’ section of a boys’ mag?
Boys are asked about their ‘ultimate dream date’. What message does it send to the average girl reader that teen boys pick women like Angelina Jolie – ‘She’s hot and has big lips’ (Max, 15) and ‘Miranda Kerr is hot! I’d love to take her on a private jet to Canada’ (Lachlan, 16). Seems irrelevant that Kerr is married and pregnant and Jolie lives with Brad Pitt and their large brood.
Then there’s ‘The guy field guide’ with lots of tips to help you know if ‘he is watching you’, ‘top four tips to keep him keen and what to watch out for’, and how to tell if he’s flirting or not. The tips come from The Little Book of Flirting. There’s also places to find boys that readers may not have thought of, and some suggested pick-up lines: Try an electronics store, for example, approach target boy and say: ‘Hi, sorry to bother you but what console would you recommend’. Or a hardware store: ‘Hi. I’m a little lost – can you please tell me where the hammers are?’
Also concerning is that many of the featured men are in their 20’s – one is 27, two are 28. Should Dolly be encouraging crushes on men this age in its (increasingly younger) readership? Is teaching girls to objectify men’s bodies a good thing?
This issue doesn’t seem to have the same body diversity as last month’s issue. There’s an eight-page fashion spread featuring a willowy blond girl.
Dolly Doctor’s advice about obtaining the pill and the ‘morning-after pill’ for under-age girls may be of concern to some parents. The advice says (in part): ‘The chemist won’t require ID and you don’t have to be a certain age. You can also see a doctor confidentially to talk about contraception and to be prescribed the pill – if you’re under age’. If a girl is under-age, and the male is more than two years older, it is possible a crime is being committed. The girl may have been coerced into unwanted sex. It would have been helpful if something along these lines had been flagged to assist girls in this situation.
Dolly Beauty Book
This issue comes with a ‘Beauty Book’: ‘All the advice you’ll ever need!’ While some of the advice may be helpful to girls, it should not be overlooked that the Beauty Book is very much also a product promotion.
Most of the girls featured have impossibly flawless newborn baby skin. That should get girls buying up the products! On the last page (p.146) are some nice words about ‘Beauty wisdom’: the importance of personality, being beautiful on the inside, how we’re all imperfect, you know the kind of thing. Which is good, of course. But it’s the last page page after flogging all the products so ‘essential’ for girls.
Total Girl (Oct, Nov)
I could just cut and paste everything I said last time. Not much has changed. Total Girl reads like an advertising catalogue for the ‘cutest products’ girls must have. It’s a seemingly endless barrage of pink fairies, clothes, toys, styling aids.
TotalGirl November is the‘100th issue collector’s edition’ (the first issue was launched in 2002).
TG is celebrating with a major party theme, featuring highlights of past issues and most popular cover girls. In 2009, Lady Gaga was the big ticket item for TG: ‘Lady Gaga has got the world hooked on her out-there antics, and we just can’t get enough!’ This once again reinforces Lady Gaga and her porn persona as an appropriate celebrity for little girls.
A feature asks ‘What were the most important issues to TG at the time?’ The response gives us a great insight into what the editors consider ‘issues’. The original editor Sarah Oakes replies: ‘Lip-gloss, ponies, cute things, friends, glitter, music, movies, clothes’.
Total Girl, covering the big issues in girls lives….
The party pages are also used as product placement ‘for all your party needs…’ ‘for beautiful balloons…’, ‘for yummy cupcakes…’. No opportunity is lost to sell something to little girls. ‘For party saving tunes’, TG’s number 1 suggestion is California Gurls by Katy Perry (that’s the one where she shoots cream from her breasts, in case you haven’t seen it).
There is one page of craft (which also promotes the store where the craft gear came from) and a page of cupcake baking.
These headings reinforce the fashion imperative: ‘The uber chic lost girls by minkpink are here to make your wardrobe dreams come true with the ultimate new fashion collection for spring’ (‘lost girls’ is little angsty for 7-8 year-olds, isn’t it?), ‘Make your wardrobe dreams come true’, ‘Get lost in fashion heaven’.
The November issue promotes a$20 notebook for little girls: ‘I’m going to be gorgeous and this is my plan…’ I couldn’t find one that said ‘I’m gonna be smart and this is my plan’.
My hopes rose when I got to the ‘Totally SMART’ section. But science for girls was just an opportunity to promote another product: ‘Secrets of cosmetic science: just like the professionals’ with a free ‘Secrets of cosmetic kit: Be inspired!’ Buried in the wall-to-wall products was a page on Aussie athletes in the Commonwealth games, two pages of reader’s artwork, a page of Halloween craft, a one page recipe, and two pages of quizzes. Then it’s back to ‘Barbie fashionistas: express your fashion personality’.
TotalGirl isn’t a girl’s magazine. It’s an advertising catalogue full of stuff girls don’t need, reinforcing the idea that they have to be cute and gorgeous consumers.
On the front: ‘Brilliant Beauty Tips’. Again cementing the notion that this is what being a girl is all about.
As in the last issue, the Red Carpet Ratings disturb me. ‘Watch out celebrities! The Girl Power fashion police are on duty…and some of you are about to be arrested…’ Celebs are judged on the basis of ‘Best dressed’ and ‘Worst dressed’. Girls can be on the ‘GP fashion panel’ if they ‘know a ‘hot’ look from a ‘not’ look…’ This encourages girls to engage in judgemental behaviour at early ages (one of the judges is aged 10). “EW!” is a commonly used expression.
The ‘friends forever’ pages were sweet in their declaration of love for friends, but the featured pairs – the youngest 11 and 12-years-old – were heavily made up. The 11-year-old with high bun and make-up looked quite adultified.
GirlPower also promotes misogynistic rap artist Snoop Dogg to girls. Jessica Mauboy gushes, ‘I have never met such a beautiful man.’ This may contribute to girls setting the bar very low and assuming that violence against women is normal and acceptable. As noted above, Mauboy’s new release is about the pleasure of wearing stiletto heels, being on display, and how she couldn’t live without them. One of the lyrics says: ‘I’m the shit, you can ask the whole world about me’.
Lady Gaga is here again, this time wearing a dead animal. The editors seem to think it’s OK for little girl readers who love animals to see Lady Gaga in a meat dress. This also normalises the violent themes Lady Gaga employs in her performances.
Cody is here too (see Dolly above) with a love heart and ‘Boy Power’.
Jessica Mauboy features here also. Her new release, ‘Get ‘em girls’, is described as ‘an edgy hip hop track that makes you want to shake your booty.’ Shake your booty nine- year- olds! Get out your stilettos and tell the world ‘I’m the shit!’
The Bad Bits
Here’s some advice for little girls from Brandon Smith (who is, apparently, a ‘celeb’). You want to get together with a boy you like? ‘Just shoot him a little wink, just catch his eye and if he throws you a smile back, you got him.’
In ‘Survival trips for crushes’, Johnny, host of ‘Escape from Scorpion Island’, advises a girl who likes an older boy and asks ‘How do I get him to notice me?’: ‘Ask them out’.
Justin Beiber tells how he once got into trouble after sneaking out of the house at 3am to meet some girls who had texted him. Isn’t that cute? Girls maybe you can arrange to hook up with boys at 3am too!
Girls featured in this issue are aged from 9-13. Because no age is given, primary school age readers might think Brandon and Johnny’s advice applies to them. This is what girls are supposed to be doing – having boyfriends, approaching boys at parties, arranging hook-ups with boys in the middle of the night.
I am angry that Girlpower thinks conditioning little girls to pro-actively seek boyfriends is acceptable – and potentially making those who don’t secure one feel insecure – as well as making risky behaviour seem amusing.
While there are more alternatives to products and fashion than TotalGirl, with greater space given to food, animals, recycling, quizzes and pets (28 out of 83 pages), this does not make up for the damaging messages the magazine sends.
‘What song are you loving right now?’ DG’s designer responds that she loves ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg (see above re cream shooting from breasts). GF’s production controller prefers ‘Teenage Dream’ also by Katy Perry. It features the lines: ‘Let’s go all the way tonight’, ‘the way you turn me on’, ‘got drunk on the beach’, ‘Let you put your hands on me in my skin-tight jeans’. The film clip depicts some bedroom action suggesting Katy’s bf agreed on going all the way tonight.
Disney Girl helps girls know what’s in and what’s not. ‘What’s hot right now: For an ‘A+ in cool’. For example, who’s the cool boy of the month for our little Disney Girl readers? Jason Desrouleaux – who is 20.
Lady Gaga’s new perfume range is promoted. ‘Wonder what it will smell like’? DG asks (eau de dead animal perhaps?) Gaga is also mentioned in a ‘fun quiz’ to find your ‘inner pop princess’. The options are Miley Cyrus, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.
And what would a little girl’s mag be without more ‘cute crush’ advice? This time from Matthew ‘MDOT’ Finley: ‘If you like a boy at a party, make sure you give him lots of eye contact’. One of the readers is a 10-year-old girl who has submitted art work. Is this advice designed for her?
More Jess Mauboy promotion: ‘We are loving this track in the DG office…make sure you check out the ‘Get ’Em Girls’ video clip…’ Yeah, check it out and see young Jess writhing up against Snoop Dogg.
Making invitations, wordsearch, six pages of DIY clothes and accessories, two pages of art work, and two pages of healthy eating are the only break from the celeb parade (13 out of 83 pages).
Cyber safety experts would be disturbed by this comment in ‘What does your bedroom say about you?’ In question 7, one of the multiple choice options is: ‘Your computer – you’re always emailing friends and blogging’. No computers in bedrooms! Come on DG eds, this is cyber safety 101. You are undermining the efforts of those concerned about on-line child safety to get computers out of bedrooms.
Celebs, gossip, products, entertainment, the usual line-up.
One page costume making, one page craft, an interview with 16-year-old Matilda’s defender, interview with a ballet teacher, facts about the human body, 10 pages of quizzes and an activity book – which opens with facts about Katy Perry and a poster of her taken from California Gurls (in which she’s naked in clouds). There’s no escaping…
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