dolly_march13Drop the Model Search and this could be a good issue

If Dolly wasn’t persisting with its Model Search competition, which returned last year having been sensibly done away with by previous editors, I could probably have given this issue the thumbs up. Lydia Turner, Managing Director at BodyMatters Australasia, and I have written before about why this competition – won in 2012 by a 13-year-old – is harmful to girls for re-enforcing global norms about perfect bodies in an era rampant with body hatred and eating disorders. (see also ‘Girls still getting the wrong messages about their bodies’).  Dolly is trying to cover over the criticism with lots of body friendly rhetoric such as ‘beauty that is more than skin deep’, ‘beauty comes in all shapes and sizes’, ‘the winner will be selected for being a relatable role model for teen girls.’ But the fact remains, this is a modelling competition and unless the entrant conforms to body limiting stereotypes and conventions, she won’t make it. Girls continue to be taught what matters most is to fit some cookie-cutter mould of what women should look like and Dolly isn’t helping.

More helpful is an article on helping readers enjoy life without an Instagram filter. Readers are encouraged to recognise that if they are staring at their screen too much, they could be missing out on life outside their newsfeed, which is bad for health and happiness. Psychologist Louisa Adams is quoted: “Looking at what other people are doing all the time can make us feel left out or less satisfied with our own lives, and feed negative thoughts or paranoia”. Staring at screens for hours, especially at night, can interfere with good sleep and make girls more vulnerable to anxiety. There’s practical advice, such as “If you’re always writing ‘miss you!’ on friend’ status updates…catch up with them in person”. In an age where so much ‘relating’ happens through social media, girls are encouraged to maintain face to face friendships. “Seeing friends in the flesh strengthens your bond, and is the best way to make sure they really are as ‘good’ as they say they are in their texts”.

Navigating your way around the school yard social network follows, with advice on what to do if you’ve started a new school and don’t know anyone, been kicked out of your friendship group, your best friend has moved schools etc.  In ‘Blog like a boss’ girls are encouraged to explore their creativity through blogging. Advice is given about naming the blog, how to find the best hosting platforms, making it look good, attracting readers, finding your niche so your blog lasts long term. Examples are given of three young women whose blogs led to other writing opportunities. Any content in girls’ magazines which encourage them to explore their creativity is to be welcomed.

In another welcome piece which treats girls as more than shoppers and consumers of beauty products, ‘Part-Time rules’ gives readers useful advice on their rights as part-time employees.  For example, how to ensure you are being paid award wages, are given proper breaks and other entitlements, the importance of getting a tax file number, filing pay slips, not signing anything you don’t agree with, filling out the Fair Work employment checklist so you know you have all the information necessary to start your new job. Given that sexual harassment is experienced by 33% of women at work, with young women the most vulnerable, vital advice is given on how to deal with it. Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome behaviour that makes a person feel uncomfortable, humiliated or intimidated and includes inappropriate touching or hugging, rude jokes or text messages, and hanging offensive posters. Workplace bullying is also covered.

In another work related piece readers are given advice on securing internships to help them explore interest in a particular future career. Advice is given on how to find an internship and get your application noticed.  A 17-year-old who has a part-time job as an automotive mechanic is interviewed and a list of jobs likely to be in high demand in future are provided. Related is ‘The smart girl’s guide to making goals’ – how to achieve something by the end of the month, end of the year and in a few years. ‘Shy girls’ makeover’ helps girls recognise the qualities of being an introvert. “To sit back and get the feel of a group, to listen first and then speak, these are very valuable skills”, says Dr Elizabeth Seeley-Wait. ‘Wish you were here’ gives advice on planning for schoolies and how to avoid some of the pitfalls. Was good to see mention of a volunteer stint in rural Thailand. (Other ideas for a fulfilling schoolies can be found in a piece I wrote).

Another important piece, this time on inappropriate teacher/student relationships and why they are illegal. Says psychologist Gemma Cribb: “Usually the teacher is much older or is in a position of power or control over the student, so the relationship can never be a fair one where the student can speak freely without any inhibition or fear of rejection”.  Consequences are listed: isolation, school grade suspicion, broken trust, tarnished reputation, legal ramifications. Rachel gives a personal account of losing her virginity to a teacher when she was 17, saying he took advantage of a lonely girl.

On the body image theme there’s a worthwhile piece on not measuring your worth by how you look and dealing with self-objectification. “Self-objectification makes you strive for an unachievable standard of flawlessness or perfection”, says adolescent psychologist Jenny Chapman. “It’s dangerous because it can lead to eating disorders, depression and anxiety.”  The role of media and advertising in making girls feel bad is explained. Girls are encouraged to see themselves as a whole, for example by focussing on personal development unrelated to beauty. But all this good advice is undermined by the model search. The article opens with Charlotte, 16, who isn’t happy that her legs aren’t more like Miranda Kerr’s. You may recall last year’s model search promotion was awash in images of the Victoria Secret model under headers such as “You could be the next Miranda Kerr!’ Kerr was held up for being an “inspiration”. When asked why, some girls said: “Because she’s got a great body!” This takes us back to what I’ve written before about girls magazines and mixed messages.

Then there’s this: Dolly’s Hottest 100, which includes ‘Hottest Band’ and ‘Hottest Future Husband’. The latter has One Direction at number one, The Collective at number nine and The Janoskians at number 10. That’s three ‘husbands’ who are actually entire bands. Perhaps a special feature on polygamy – and the fact that is illegal – is required in the next issue?