Girlfriend’s ‘Reality Check’ has become a farce. But some positives in the March issue reports Melinda Tankar Reist in a new series aimed at keeping the spotlight on teen mags.

Girlfriend magazine seems to have forgotten what its ‘Self Respect REALITY CHECK’ was intended for. A recap – it was designed to be an upfront disclosure about the use of digital enhancement, airbrushing or other alterations to an image. But it seems to have become a farce. On the cover below an image of Lily Collins “The fairest of them all” (apparently), the teen reader is informed “Lily’s brows are so awesome that a Twitter account has been made in honour of them. Impressive, much?!” A second dumb use of the ‘Reality check’ appears on p. 89 – because of rain they had to change locations three times (!). But we have no idea whether models images were altered. Why bother having the symbol at all if it is meaningless?

For a magazine which claims to want to help girls accept themselves and avoid comparison, to vote emerging young actress “Miss Collins’ as “the prettiest of them all” seems oddly out of place.

A positive advance has been the use of readers not models in photo shoots and there appears more body diversity in recent issues. But overall, slimmer girls still dominate the magazine (in features and especially advertising, which is always ‘reality check’ free).

The latest issue contains some basic helpful advice on what to say to a close friend when they are going through a hard time (eg parent’s divorce, possible pregnancy ,bullying, grieving); when it’s OK not to be polite (but reminding readers it’s good not to write nasty stuff on FB and Tumblr –refreshing given my previous criticism of GF explaining in an issue last year how to employ ‘TLDR’ (Too Long Don’t Read) “to hilarious effect” “right after someone spills an intensely personal and emotional post detailing their innermost thoughts and feelings”.

There’s also a feature on how to deal with change, young people (including a 15 year old) sharing their experiences of being gay identified, a page on understanding the European debt crisis (economics teachers will be delighted! And note DGP is “not a rap group”), how to deal with your breakup online, male friendships, why it’s important to slow down, how to get on with your best friend’s parents, dealing with anger (and violence which might result). All pretty helpful. Two pages on ‘Hot Celeb Guys Guys’/Top 3 Hotties, standard fare but questionable worth.

The sealed section is ‘Let’s talk about sex’ with advice from sex therapist and relationship counsellor Desiree Spierings (no joke). It’s not all that common to read advice that it’s good to talk to your parents or at least a trusted family friend or relative if you can. Desiree says “Do NOT have sex unless you’re ready” and urges “a wise decision that is right for you”. Given that the majority of girls in Australia regret their first sexual experience, this advice is a step in the right direction. “Don’t just do it in the heat of the moment or because you think your friends are. You may regret it – and trust me, you’d never regret having waited for the right moment.” Advice which could help girls navigate and make empowered decisions around their sexuality is to be commended. I hope this is the beginning of a pattern for Girlfriend.

Author: Melinda Tankard Reist, Editor: Dr Ramesh Manocha

Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People Seminars
If you want to find out more about the influence of porn on young people you can hear Melinda Tankard Reist speak on this important emerging issue at our Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People.