August 15, 2004 | Unknown

Confessions of a Dolly Bird

Christopher Bantick argued in The Age on 10 August 2004 that sex is “the emphasis” of magazines for teenage girls.
Even if I used to read Dolly and Cleo, well, when sex was being invented, it was hard to agree or disagree with his thesis, so in a highly scientific study I forked out for a copy of Cleo, a Girlfriend and chocolates, thus reproducing an experience I had many times as a socially inept and sweet-toothed youngster.
Back then the purchase of girls’ magazines didn’t come with the feeling the shop assistant thought you were a pervert or a thirty-something whose attempt at wearing hipsters went beyond the muffin look to the A-bomb aesthetic.
“I’m buying them for an important research project”, I said like someone who does important research projects, while putting the publications into my not too-cute bag.
While I concur sex was highlighted in the respective September and August editions of Girlfriend and Cleo, it was cosmetics and clothes which dominated to the point where consumerism, although often sexualised and linked with celebrities, was most prominent and as insidious as any other messages females were fed.
Indeed, after completing my analysis I decided my, like, wardrobe was totally uncool and needed me to go and buy, like, the sort of threads that would have me “beating boys off with a stick”, except “boys” my age are too busy using one to get around.
In cahoots with Maybelline, Girlfriend incorporated “must-haves” for school formals including a $284 dress that would make me look like Jessica Simpson if I was blonde, thin, twenty-three and the owner of some serious bling bling (which is either expensive jewelry or a crap ringtone on your mobile phone).
I counted over twenty pages dedicated to advertisements for beauty products in Cleo and that didn’t comprise pieces which were really commercials yet claimed a higher purpose such as the emulation of Kimberley Stewart, who’s famous for getting photographed lots because she’s Rod’s daughter.
Bantick refers to Girlfriend’s advice inferring a letter-writer should submit to her boyfriend’s sexual demands, however, in defence of the monthly this section also deals with issues such as parental alcoholism, conflicted friendships and the rarely discussed topic of self-harm.
In between one or two ads, the magazines featured educational articles about negative eating patterns, drinking, (male) suicide and the criminal use of credit cards.
Also on the plus side, I’m now aware I don’t give a rats about my appearance, that I can go on without a bloke (really?) and I’m an Orlando Bloom fan, even if I don’t know who he is.
At the start of September I do have to “check my dag-o-meter before leaving the house” and will be engaging in a “…D & M with my bestie at the end of (that) month”, presumably because I was lax with the dag-o-meter checking at the beginning of it.
Bantick correctly acknowledged “there is an unwavering reinforcement (in these magazines) that self-esteem and identity is inexorably linked to having a boyfriend” or a “boyf” as the beaus of girlfriends who peruse Girlfriend are known.
Nevertheless, there was also a constant reference to “besties” or best friends, placing undue stress on one friend fulfilling most of a girl’s non-boyf needs.
In Cleo, guys were everywhere and can apparently be encountered in places you don’t anticipate, though probably not in a lesbian bar or John Howard’s backbench. They apparently act silly when you’re not around, but contravening the magazine’s gender essentialism, they can have body image woes.
By the way, Cleo’s sealed nudge-nudge wink-wink cue Benny Hill music section is stupid and wouldn’t shock anyone who has watched Jerry Springer, as, alas, many teens have (so have I so I won’t be too precious about it).
These magazines were woeful, if mostly for reasons other than the ones Bantick focused on.
They confirm a divide between those who can get the clothes, the fellows and be generally popular and the poor suckers who can only afford to buy the magazines and live on as geeks.
Sigh, so many memories.
Mind you, it’s those who couldn’t be bothered engaging with them at all that are the luckiest dolly birds in the whole wide world.

Posted by Unknown at 10:36 am | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. intresting point of view. i agree

    Comment by jess — August 27, 2004 @ 12:44 pm

  2. Thanks Jess.

    Comment by Darlene — August 27, 2004 @ 4:41 pm

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