‘What it’s really like to be a teen mum’ starts off: ‘Babies might seem cute, but having one of your own is no joke’. Is anyone really saying having a baby is a joke? Do girls really think it’s a bit of a laugh to be pregnant in a culture where they will be punished and called sluts – as pregnant teens tell me they are labelled ? There are many ready to bring them down to earth, that’s for sure. “So many people told me ‘having a baby isn’t a novelty you know’” a young woman I know told me, referring to the lectures she received after she had decided to keep her child.
In this issue, Talia, 17, shares her story of discovering she was pregnant at only 14. Not in a relationship with the baby’s father, she says she was in “total denial” until she heard “the little heartbeat”. It was then she “instantly melted and knew I had to keep my baby”. And that’s when the punishment started. Talia was subjected to “dirty looks and endless rude comments.” Friends abandoned her. Talia went into labour six weeks early and her son was born by emergency c-section. Her family reaches out to the Red Cross for housing with other young mums and she also received support from the Raise Foundation (raise.org.au – I’m a new ambassador with the foundation so glad to see they get a mention). “Being a mum is seriously hard work. It was the best thing that has, and will ever happen to me, but there are serious sacrifices,” says Talia honestly.
Australia has the 4th highest teen pregnancy rate in the world. It’s certainly not something to encourage. The Dolly article doesn’t mention contraception or abortion, though the later could be read into the subtext as preferable to giving birth given the warnings and information on the cost of nappies. The reader is warned of “premature birth, low birth weight, death in the womb, SIDS, anaemia, high blood pressure and competition for nutrients.” (I recall a 2004 Girlfriend issue which catastrophised teen birth in a whole new way. In ‘You’re pregnant, now what?’ the reader was told if she kept the baby her parents will not support her, she’ll get kicked out of school, her boyfriend will clear out and, worst of all, she wouldn’t have time to read Girlfriend Magazine because she’d be too busy “wiping drool of your baby’s chin”. I doubt the subject would be treated so trivially under more recent editorship. While there are dire warnings about risks of pregnancy, I’ve never seen the potential mental health risks of abortion mentioned in a young woman’s magazine. Adolescent girls who abort unintended pregnancies are five times more likely to seek subsequent help for psychological and emotional problems compared to their peers who carried unplanted pregnancies to term, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence). Read article here
Dolly Doctor and Oral Sex: is advice to girls clear?
Dolly Doctor this issue deals with oral sex. Parents with younger Dolly readers in the family may want to be aware of that and be prepared to talk about it with them (Dolly has featured’ Readers of the month’ who are 11). Also, although the age of consent is 16, the article opens with 15-year-old Sarah who is considering it. Consent and possible legal considerations are not mentioned.
Dolly says “even though you’re not having penetrative sex, there are still serious consequences when it comes to oral sex.” Now I’m no sexologist, but I’m not sure Dolly has got this right. Perhaps the writer means you’re not having sexual intercourse as typically understood? In the practice of fellatio, I’m pretty sure something goes into a mouth. And in male to female oral sex, a vagina can be penetrated also. I checked with Susan McLean, former policewoman of over 20 years standing and specialist on cybersafety, young people and legal issues. She responded:
Oral Sex is sex just the same as vaginal (penis/vagina) and digital (finger/vagina) and ALL are covered by age of consent laws. You can be charged with rape for example in any of the above cases. Sexual penetration laws also cover all the above plus more, anal sex and use of implements to penetrate. Consent needs to be explained as you cannot give consent under age, cannot give consent when under the influence of drugs/alcohol, cannot give consent if fearful, coerced etc
Girls are warned that they can still contract STI’s from oral sex. Emotional issues are raised. Tegan, 16, felt vulnerable even though it was with her boyfriend. “Even though I knew he cared about me, I started feeling resentment towards him. It made me realise I hadn’t done it for me and I wasn’t ready,” she said. Psychologist Gemma Cribb says: “Becoming sexual before one person is ready can damage the bond in your relationship. This is why you need to keep up communication.” Girls are told they can be comfortable with saying no. “You’ll know it’s too early if you find yourself getting anxious about the prospect of sexual intimacy, or you try avoiding one-on-one time together,” says Cribb. Readers are also reminded they can change their mind at any time.
Girls are offered 5 points to help them consider if they are ‘ready’ to “transition from kissing”. The assumption, given the subject of the piece, could be that this means from kissing to oral. Aren’t there lots of other things in between kissing and oral? In another section ‘Your Biggest Questions Answered’, given the level of pressure girls are under to provide sexual acts, (as mentioned in my previous review of Girlfriend ) the last is significant: “What if I don’t want to do it and he doesn’t want to be with me?” The response is: “It’s your body so NEVER do anything you’re not totally comfortable with. Lots of girls rush into things because they want to please their partner or think they’ll be called a prude if they wait,” says Cribb. “Linking your self-worth to sexual acts is not OK. If they’re not willing to go at your pace, they’re not worthy of you!” Read full review here
‘The ultimate guide to being yourself’ is about self-acceptance. It offers girls three lessons in how to be themselves: Fall in love with you; Quit Faking It and Get inspired, not obsessed. The first encourages girls to recognise and love themselves for their unique traits. This is well and good. But I don’t think we can ‘fall in love’ with ourselves. We can value our innate dignity and worth, and work to resist pressure to conform to an idealised norm, but ‘falling in love’ is a bit over the top. I don’t think we are meant to be ‘head over heels’ with ourselves – telling girls they should be setting up impossible expectations. I do like the advice to girls to start a gratitude journal and list five things they are grateful for every day, as expressing gratitude is a proven way to improve mental health. ‘Be your own therapist’ also advises girls to organise their thoughts, reflect, be more positive and relieve stress by keeping a journal. I don’t quite agree with the conclusion though: “There’s nothing more empowering than knowing that no matter what life throws at you, you can cope with it.” This puts too much pressure on an individual girl. As I move around the country speaking in schools, I hear shocking stories, including from girls who have suffered sexual abuse and other forms of violence, depression, anxiety, cutting – which has increased by 90 percent in 10 years in older adolescent girls and 60% in girls 12-14 – and eating disorders. Sometimes they won’t get through without significant professional intervention and other support. Read full article.
As is often the case, I find the most helpful offering for girls in teen girl magazines can be found in the shared experiences of the girls themselves.
A passion of mine is opening up safe spaces for girls to talk about issues which are often surrounded by shame, meaning girls don’t get the help they need. One of these issues is self-harm, which has increased 90 percent in older adolescents and 60 percent in younger adolescents, in a mere ten years. So I was pleased to see Dolly again giving space to this issue (I commended the magazine for exploring cutting in its June issue also).
Danielle, who began harming in 2010, tells her story in ‘Reality Reads’. “I was home alone and all the negative thoughts were taking over my mind: that I wasn’t good enough, that I was too ugly. I thought I deserved pain so I inflicted it on myself,” she says. It was seeing an interview with Demi Lovato, who had just come out of rehab for depression and self-harm, that helped Danielle turn things around. “…after I heard Demi, I thought I could get through this,” she says. With the help of medical treatment, she has been free of self-harm for two years. She tweets via @ForeverWithJoeJ about recovery and fundraises for BeyondBlue and Headspace “because they helped me a lot”. She recommends an online session at headpace.org.au where young people can talk to a professional through a chat screen. Read more 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
‘Operation 1 less Bully’ is a four-page case against bullying, featuring personal stories of celebrities who have joined the movement to stop it. Some were bullied, others stood up to bullies, and one recognised she was a bully in the past – Dolly’s own editorial coordinator Kelsey. With 63% of teens admitting they’re being bullied now or have been in the past, magazines have a significant role to play in efforts to address it. Dolly has teamed with the Stride Foundation, which runs workshops about bullying in schools, to “stamp out bullying one bully at a time.” The magazine will feature a ‘workshop’ on bulling each month. The first provides advice from Stride about how to respond: Be Assertive, Practice positive self-talk, Don’t be a bystander – stand up for others and Don’t blame yourself.
Another stand-out piece is Dolly’s Anti-Panic Plan’. In my view, there can’t be too many articles on this subject in girl’s mags. Stress rates in girls are through the roof. Psychologist Paula Robinson says: “Stress occurs when the perceived pressure exceeds your perceived ability to cope.” Different ways of expressing stress are explored: the hothead, silent sufferer and emotional wreck, and advice given tailored to each. Readers are also encouraged to find three things a day they can be grateful for. “When good things happen, really be present in that moment and notice what’s happening. Experience the emotion fully,” advises Robinson.
’10 How-to’s that will change your life’ include how to give a real compliment, let someone down gently, make school your happy place, have a better relationship with your mum (“Give her a little RESPECT, listen to her advice, even if you don’t agree with it at first…Listening and respectfully replying is key to making any relationship better”), remember someone’s name and keep calm when rushed. Not quite fitting into this line up is ‘Share a sweet-as kiss’ and ‘Look good in a photo’. Another ‘how-to themed’ piece is ‘How to turn a new friend into a best friend’. Read more here
I think Dolly may be improving (if only it would drop the model search!)
Forty eight pages into Dolly’s April issue and I was beginning to wonder if there was anything worth commenting on. Yes there was a promotion of the Dolly model search, but I’d already gone to town on that in the last review, 20 pages straight on fashion and ads, behind the scenes at X-factor, music predictions, then something I could talk about ‘My body tells a story: Three beautiful girls, three different stories about dealing with major body changes.’
In something of a contrast to the opening model search promo, Taylor, 19, writes about the impact of two spinal operations to correct a curved spine which leaves her with an “enormous scar” down the entire length of her back. After struggling to accept the scar and the reminder it brings of significant pain, she now sees it as a sign of what she has overcome and the strength required to go through the two operations. “I just hope that by sharing my story I can somehow help girls love their bodies, scars and all, and celebrate their uniqueness and the strength they may not realise they have themselves,” she says. Aimee, 18, has had 100 surgeries after developing a flesh-eating skin disease which caused her to be put on life support due to organ failure. Her leg swelled to twice its size and needed to be cut open to reduce the pressure. She was in a coma for a week. It was thought the leg may need to be amputated. Then followed surgery every second day for six months to try to control the bacteria eating her body. After recovering enough to go home and back to school she is bullied because of the scars. But now she just feels fortunate her leg was saved. Erin 16, shares her story of losing her hair – which was once half way down her back – as a result of chemo required to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year. The chemo makes her feel very ill. But she is staying confident and surrounding herself with positive people. Inspiring stuff. Read more here.
In its first edition for the year, Dolly brings readers some important content to help them launch into 2013.
‘Sexism: what’s it all about?’ examines how gender-based prejudice and discrimination is alive and well. Women continue to be paid less than men and hold a tiny proportion of board seats and CEO positions. They continue to be treated inappropriately in the workplace. A recent survey found 33% of women say they regularly experience sexism at work. Girls also experience sexual name calling and labels at school. They are encouraged to make a stand against gender stereotyping.
In ‘Inspiring Teen’s’, ‘I blitzed the HSC’ is the story of 19-year-old refugee Fatima who received 96.75 in the HSC. Fatima, her mother and five brothers and four sisters, who belonged to the minority Hazara group, arrived in Australia having fled the Taliban in 2007. Their father escaped earlier. She says she has changed from being a shy girl with no English to a “confident educated person” now enrolled in a Law/Communications degree. Stories like this can help readers value their education and aim higher. Read more here.
Inspiring young women, competitive eating, runaways, how alcohol and smoking harm girls’ skins: some helpful articles in Dolly November 2012
Two issues of Dolly in a row (last one here) about which I’ve found some positive things to say. Perhaps it’s time for Generation Next to find a new reviewer?
‘Dolly All Stars: Introducing this year’s crop of young, talented DOLLY readers!’ contains an inspiring line-up of young women doing good things in the world. Makhala, 19, is a mental health advocate who raises awareness and funds for mental illness, with Young And Well (yawcrc.org.au) and ReachOut.com. Makhala suffered depression and self-harm before she discovered the therapeutic power of horses. Monique, 17, is a youth ambassador for World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine and travelled to Ethiopia. We’re so lucky, she says “to live in a country like Australia. Often we become absorbed in our own world and forget what life’s like for others.” Her ultimate goal is “to see no child go hungry.” Rachael, 18, is an ambassador for the vision-impaired through The Royal Society For the Blind. You may have seen her on The Voice. Legally blind, Rachael “always wanted to prove people wrong. I was told I wouldn’t be able to read or write as well as someone with vision, but I’ve done it.” Jordann [eds: spelling is correct], 18, is an ambassador for Australian Teens Against Animal Cruelty (ataac.org), especially in circuses. Hannah, 16, is an activist against sex trafficking. She took part in Project Futures School Cycle Challenge through Cambodia, raising $40,000 for the Somaly Mam Foundation which rescues sex-trade victims. Project Futures (projectfutures.com) is hosting Somaly Mam in Australia right now actually.
12 y.o ‘Reader of the month’, 13 y.o model finalists…
Girl Mag Watch October 2012
Reading the October issue (yes, I know, just scraping this review in in time) of Girlfriend, I found myself checking the front cover to make sure I’d picked up Girlfriend and not Dolly.
I’m wondering if perhaps Girlfriend is moving in on Dolly’s readership. And, if so, could this see Dolly pitching openly to 9 and 10-year-olds?
The ‘Reader of the Month’ is a 12-year-old: Kayleigh from Queensland. Buying Girlfriend is “my favourite part of the month” she tells us. Girlfriend is “like the teenage-girl handbook” (even for girls who aren’t yet, apparently).
We meet Girlfriend’s Model Search Finalists. While Dolly came in for criticism for reviving its model search, (its winner was 13), Girlfriend’s competition has been ongoing. But Girlfriend’s finalists are in a similar age range to Dolly’s. Under the heading ‘I wanna be a supermodel’ is Georgana, 13, Sharnee, 13, Jade, 15, Jessica, 14, Elizabeth, 14, Molly Grace, 15, and the comparatively older Stephanie, 17.
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.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“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
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
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
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“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
“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.