Porn’s distortions need addressing in schools say educators
The ABC filmed me addressing students at Healthdale Christian College in Melbourne last Wednesday. Some of the students were interviewed – hear how well they articulate the issues! (click on image below for link to video)
MELINDA TANKARD REIST, AUTHOR, ADVOCATE FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS: Our boys are looking at porn not only before they’ve had sex, before they’ve even had their first kiss and they think what they’re seeing is normal. …
… Girls tell us that boys expect them to provide what’s known as PSE, the porn star experience. Boys expect that girls will provide for them everything they’ve seen in pornography and that the girls want that.
‘I am more than my body, don’t treat me like a piece of meat’: one young woman’s response to naked selfie ask
Received this Facebook message from Tiffany. Tiffany, hearing from girls like you makes this work all worthwhile. Thank you.
Hi Melinda. I was really touched by what you had to say and you opened my eyes to what sort of world we live in and as a 16 I’m disgusted and amazed and what girls my age have to go through. You said something about being asked for nudes and that and personally I didn’t know what you meant by that as I haven’t been asked to do that… Until today. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t of known what to do about it if you didn’t speak about it and I’m very grateful to you. The boy asked me for a photo or video and I said no that’s when he called me lame but I immediately told him I am more than just my body and you shouldn’t treat me like a piece of meat and instantly blocked him. Thank you for telling me that and I hope I have done the right thing and myself and other girls are taking part in taking action on this case and we want to make a difference. I want to help girls feel like they are worth something. So thanks again you are an inspiration to us all and I hope to join your cause.
How sexualised behaviour has become the new normal
While the content was disturbing, it was encouraging to wake up to the front page of The Australian on the weekend and see the issues myself and my colleagues write and speak about most days, reflected on the front page.
Source: The Australian
A news piece titled ‘Click bait: kids at risk as sexualised behaviour becomes “new normal”‘ by National Education Correspondent Natasha Bita, described how unsupervised internet access was spawning a generation of hypersexualised children who mimicked the adult porn they saw online. It cited warnings from psychiatrists, police and child welfare expects that the scourge of ‘sexting’, ‘selfies’ and social media was endangering children’s physical and mental health.
My colleagues, Melbourne child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, managing director of the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre, and federal government cyber safety adviser Susan McLean, expressed their concerns about the impacts on children of early porn exposure. “There is overt and covert pressure on children to behave in a sexualised way,” Ms McLean says. “This shouldn’t be the new normal. The No. 1 issue I deal with in high schools is the enormous pressure from boys to girls to put out sexually through images. ”
Michael Carr-Gregg said online pornography was skewing the way teenagers viewed sex, love and intimacy. “Boys see girls as sexual service stations for their pleasure…I’m seeing it virtually every single time I have a clinic. Their idea of sex is porn sex — it’s a terrible distortion of one of the most precious and important parts of their lives, which is love and intimacy.’’
Central to the piece was the example of a selfie of a 13-year-old girl posed on Instagram last week, with the words ‘Boner Garage’ scrawled on her bare tummy. Australian author and columnist Nikki Gemmell wrote a profound and incisive response, directly to the teen girl. She has kindly given permission for me to re-print her commentary in full here.
‘Boner Garage’ girls, my heart breaks for you
Dear 13-year-old Instagrammer,
“Boner Garage.” Oh, right. So that’s what you’ve just written on your bare tummy, in your child’s scrawl, in black marking pen. You’ve helpfully added an arrow pointing downwards so we get exactly what you’re referring to. That’s what you’ve artfully photographed in your child’s bedroom as your celebratory birthday selfie. You’ve deliberately, proudly, made those two dispiriting words the focus of your shot.
Your glossy blonde hair is across your face so no one can see your features. The room behind you looks utterly normal, middle class; just like any teen’s cherished and girlie private space. I don’t know you, but you have hundreds of followers, boys and girls, and you’ve not locked your account to strangers. Happy 13th birthday. My heart breaks for you.
That you define turning 13 — that wonderful, releasing cusp in a woman’s life — by those two bleak little words. Boner garage. That you somehow get pride out of them. It’s an age marinated in symbolism, a fulcrum into growing up; a time where everything should seem celebratory and wondrous, with the world deepening around you. Symbolically, in many cultures, you become morally responsible for your actions around this age — but I just want to protect you right now.
It’s readily available on a ¬mobile phone and most teenage boys have one. They look at what their mates are looking at. That can mean anal sex, group sex, oral sex — women servicing men in the ugliest, most disempowering of ways.
Porn, of course, is sex with no light in it and the best sex is bursting with light and life. Teens need to be told this bleak and reductive world is not what normal, loving relationships are about; sex should never be violent or degrading and woman are not just sexual objects.
Doctors are seeing teenage girls presenting to them — highly embarrassed — with bowel problems because of traumatic anal sex. Because it’s what they’re ¬assuming they’re meant to do.
As for you, my birthday girl, I just wish there’d been an adult or responsible friend around to stop you posting that Insta pic. Because your electronic footprint lasts, and can be disseminated. People may well be seeing what your 13-year-old self wrote, so proudly and stupidly, in years to come. Parents see the accounts of their children’s mates; as well as friends of friends you have no idea about; teachers and principals trawl; and so, of course, does the dark side of the net, those dubious adults beyond your world.
By scrawling those ugly words on your midriff you’ve already flipped yourself into the dark side of femininity and I don’t think you even realise it. Boys won’t admire you for doing this. They’ll disrespect you, disparage you.
Source: The Australian
But that won’t stop them using you as their so-called Boner ¬Garage. And I guarantee the ¬experience will be bleak, and ¬lonely. You will not feel empowered afterwards, or cherished. You will not feel what you want more than anything in this world — loved. You will feel cheap, and used, and ugly, and alone.
And at the end of that reducing little ¬experience you will ask yourself, is that it? Is that how I’m meant to feel? And that’s why my heart breaks for you. Because I’ve been there. And I can tell you, it’s not what empowering, exhilarating and tender sex is about. Often you have to wait a long, long time to discover that. With someone you love. Where respect is mutual. Where you’re having sex on your terms; talking, laughing, working things out together; saying what you like — and what you don’t. And being listened to.
“Boner Garage” implies none of those things. How passive and inert you make a woman’s wondrous sexual organs sound. Do you think so little of your body that you view it mainly as a receptacle for males to be in? The most common web definition of Boner Garage: “A vagina that has been pounded so much by erect penises that it has become a resting place for said penises.” Pretty ugly, eh?
I wish you courage, whoever you are. Not to dim your light among men; because that light is about so much more than the garage, as you call it, between your legs. It’s about your mind, your spirit, your vividness, your strength and your voice. There are only two ways to live in this world: as a victim or a courageous fighter, and you’re coming across as a victim right now. Of this rampantly sexualised world we live in. Of its female objectification and trivialisation. And of the voracious demands of teenage social media; the craving to be popular, known, that rampant desire to get more and more precious “likes”.
This isn’t the way to go about it. You’re advocating in the most dispiriting of ways a female sexual experience that’s stripped of mystery, of reverence and transcendence and, most of all, tenderness. As Iris Murdoch said: “There is nothing like early promiscuous sex for dispelling life’s bright mysterious expectations.”
Teenage girls and boys no longer seek sex education from textbooks with anatomical diagrams, giggling friends or flustered parents; they can get it from films with titles like Teen Ass 2, which they can access on the smartphones that they carry with them at all times. This week new figures revealed that sexualised images of women on social media have led to an increase in emotional problems among young girls. Researchers from University College London believe the rise in girls aged between 11 and 13 suffering from emotional problems such as anxiety may be linked to stress brought on by seeing images of women portrayed as sex objects on Facebook, Twitter and other websites. Teenagers rarely measure self-esteem or self-worth against personal and scholastic achievements, however brilliant they are, but increasingly by how many people tell them they are ‘hot’ on the photo-sharing website, Instagram, or other forms of social media…
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
Readers wanting something of substance from Dolly’s June issue would do best to skip the first half and go straight to the second. Articles on self-harm, hate pages and unhealthy attitudes toward food redeem the insubstantial nature of the pages that go before.
‘Would you “like” a hate page?’ explores the phenomenon of online hate pages. A hate page is explained as any page set up on social media to incite hatred, violence or racism towards a group or individuals. Susan McLean of Cyber Safety Solutions explains there are more hate pages around now. “Many people who participate in hate pages wouldn’t behave this way in the real world. There’s a lack of accountability online, so people think they can get away with it,” McLean says. A pack mentality can also be at work, where the more ‘likes’ a page gets the more others join in. Readers are reminded that under state cyber bullying laws, people posting comments or threats on hate pages can be charged. Psychologist Meredith Fuller explains that ‘liking’ the page is the cyber equivalent of looking on while someone gets bullied. Readers are encouraged to report hate pages. A related piece is ‘How I fight bullying’, with three girls telling their stories of addressing bullying in groups including The Hope Project, Angels Goal and Student Harassment Investigation Team (S.H.I.T).
The feature on self-harm is very welcome. Exploring the distressing phenomenon of ‘cutting’, Dolly tells the story of Emily, 15, who started cutting when she was 12. “I do it in secret and hide it as best I can. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that the only relief I can get is to hurt myself,” she says. An estimated 10 percent of teen girls self-harm. It should not be put in the category of attention-seeking (most girls try to hide the habit) – it is a response to intense emotional pain. Those who engage in the behaviour get a temporary sense of relief, with emotional pain transferred to physical pain. Jasmine, 16, shares her journey of recovery, replacing the act of cutting with positive activities until the urge to cut has passed and talking to trusted people about it. Jasmine has a blog called Perks of Recovery. Read more
Dolly commended for helpful features on anxiety and safety on-line
Not sure if I’m getting too relaxed with the soon arrival of a desperately needed break, but I am about to surprise you and commend Dolly on a few things this issue, primarily features on anxiety and cyber dangers.
A two page article on anxiety, ‘Anxiety Anonymous’, covers one of the major issues for tweens and teens today, an underlying factor in some of the most serious mental health illnesses including depression, eating disorders and self-harm. Some have argued this is the most anxious generation of girls ever. Teachers at every school I’ve visited in the last month have observed that rates of anxiety seem to have skyrocketed in the last 12 months. “Sadly, many adolescents are dealing with these paralysing feelings on a daily basis,” says Dolly.
The piece explains how the body reacts to anxiety, what triggers it, different types of anxiety (Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, Phobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Disorder) and symptoms. It helps girls recognise the difference between anxiety and being stressed out. Tips for calming down are given: breathe, exercise, sleep, treat yourself and keep a journal. Youth Beyond Blue and Reach Out are listed as places girls can find help.
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…
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
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“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
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Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
“As you read, be prepared to feel both grief and rage.” Robert Jensen
“These accounts are among the most unsettling you will ever read.” Steve Biddulph
“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
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Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, and the new Wise Guys for the combined discounted price of $250.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.