Inspiring young women, competitive eating, runaways, how alcohol and smoking harm girls’ skins: some helpful articles in Dolly November 2012

Melinda Tankard Reist

Two issues of Dolly in a row (last one here http://melindatankardreist.com/2012/09/girl-watch-mag-mtr-commends-dolly-is-the-world-about-the-end/) 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.

As an aside, these young women, some 18 and 19, seem a little old to be “Dolly readers”. Then again if Girlfriend is pitching down, http://melindatankardreist.com/2012/10/readers-getting-younger-is-girlfriend-moving-in-on-dolly/ perhaps Dolly is pitching up? Younger readers appear in the ‘Reality Reads’ section, including a 15-year-old indigenous artist and political activist, a 14 and 15-year- old talking about coping with family pressure and a 14-year-old photographer who produced an E book, Making a World of Difference, with proceeds to World Vision. Another shares candidly about what it was like to lose her mum to cancer at 16.

In the midst of so many pages on fashion, styling and beauty treatments, (there’s a ton of waxing products this issue), it’s good to see examples of girls who are living beyond these things.

Dolly Fashion’s ‘The Big Swim’ is a ‘Retouch free zone’ with some non-normative body types (the swimwear ads are another matter).

There’s an article to make every parents glad in Dolly’s Etiquette section ‘Meet the parents’ with helpful advice from ‘etiquette expert Anna Musson on ways to make meeting any parents of friends or boyfriends as pain-free as possible (from table etiquette to showing an interest in everyone at the table and not texting during dinner!).

More seriously, in ‘The Hunger Games’, Dolly looks into the world of competitive dieting. This article couldn’t be more timely, with school girls trying to outdo each other in consuming the least calories per day. (Of course Dolly would be more consistent if it dropped its modelling comp for girls as young as 13, but I’ve made that point http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/teen-magazine-blows-its-cover-in-search-of-impossible-perfection-20120710-21tq0.html like 3000 times before). The article tells of girls obsessively working out and limiting food in the lead up to parties, jealous if their friend looks thinner than they do on the night. Some girls sabotage friend’s efforts to lose weight by encouraging them to eat more, giving dangerous advice, pretend they’re eating more than they are to mislead a friend to eat more. Clinical nutritionist Lucy Bransbury says young women are driven to compete with each other to feel better about themselves. “Spurring one another on can be dangerous for our health. Yo-yo dieting and calorie restriction can severely reduce your thyroid function which can lead to a nutrient deficiency,” Bransbury says. While the advice offered is good, there’s nothing about confronting a culture that so often pits girls and women against each other in the first place. And we do have to ask whether advice from health professionals can compete with all the images of skinny, flawless models (still the majority despite some token additions) which serve as a reminder to girls that they are not skinny enough, need to diet, change their appearance, adopt a multiplicity of beauty practices etc.

Another important article is on teen runaways, why they do it and helping them realise the consequences. Youth Off the Streets founder Chris Riley is quoted, “You might meet somebody who can hurt you through their manipulation and control. There are high levels of sexual abuse for young girls on the streets, and the pain of this can lead to drug abuse and self-harm”. Girls are given advice on taking time before making rash decisions and where to get help (Youth Off The Streets, Mission Australia, Lifeline Australia).

Engaging girls in issues continues with an article on ‘Say no to puppy farms’ and the best ways to get a new dog (preferably through animal shelters like the RSPCA).

I’m a bit confused by Dolly Doctor. There are articles here which don’t apply to medical related concerns and I don’t see why they need to be in the ‘sealed section’ (though let’s face it, the sealing is pretty useless anyway). For example, the opening article is on how to celebrate safely during party season and what to avoid (a dangerous driver, mosh pits, sleazy guys and drink spiking). Lots of good advice, but why not in the general section of the mag?

Another welcome piece is on the damage girls do to their faces from smoking and alcohol. “Smoking is your skin’’ arch enemy”, girls are told. It causes premature aging, wrinkles, reduced blood flow to the skin, capillary damage, blotchy and dry skin and mouth lines. Alcohol reduces the body’s intake of vitamin A, B and C, all vital for healthy skin. Then there’s redness and skin flushing and the worsening of pre-existing skin conditions and grey or yellow skin tone because of alcohol’s effects on the liver. If girls don’t get the message about lung cancer, liver disease, heart attacks and strokes, perhaps knowledge about the impact on their face and skin could help them reconsider?