That One Time Posting About Dolly Magazine Made Me Question Everything

September 6, 2017
Dolly Magazine

A while ago I posted sadly about Dolly Magazine’s demise and boy did it GO DOWN in the comments of my Facebook post.  It was on like Donkey Kong and I am still recovering. Let me explain. (It’s really a post about talking, listening and understanding/liking each other more.)

To tween me, a girl living in the far north-west of WA with no commercial TV, Dolly was a lifeline to the world and signalled that all kinds of things were possible, if I ever got out of that tiny town. (We later moved to Canberra, which felt a bit the same, although cold!)

This was in the early 80s, when there was no Photoshop, the girls in Dolly looked a lot like the girls I went to school with, the magazine with packed with fledgling Australian fashion and music AND Dolly Doctor was actually the only place you could find out ANYTHING about bodies – unless you read your Mum’s Cleo/Forum or something…

But back to Dolly.

I read pretty much every article – even the grumpy ones by Stuart Coupe – paying attention to how they were structured and the language used.  I knew I wanted to be a writer or a journalist right then and there.

I got started. I wrote poem after poem after poem and sent them in to Dolly’s ‘Poet’s Corner’ page. Twice I feverishly flicked through a fresh issue to the poetry page outside the newsagent to see something I’d written, now published. In print. ME! Gasp.

Dolly cemented my ambition to become a writer, and become a writer I did.


When Dolly ‘died’ a year or whatever ago, I wrote about it in bittersweet terms on my personal Facebook profile. I wrote about how Dolly gave me my first professional break when I was about 12 years old AND showed me that a dream that didn’t involve cyclones and dudes in cars and getting pies smacked out of my hands outside the cafeteria were indeed possible. (That last thing truly happened.) I also know a lot of 40+ women who got their start in publishing and writing thanks to the magazine and they commiserated about those long-ago glory days with me.

What followed – after my update on my own FB profile about how Dolly gave me my first break – was a debate on how crap Dolly Magazine was. Like, a full on tussle between pro-Dolly/anti-Dolly/old-Dolly-loving women in the comments of my post. I was, apparently, a bit of a non-woke monster.

Now I get it. I do. Some people had a different experience. Women who are younger than me didn’t know what Dolly was like back then. Not only that, they’d grown up in a fairly media rich culture (unlike me!)

They had their own less great experience with Dolly – 10 or even 20 years later. Also they were not interested in my sentimental recollections. Instead they were going to LET ME KNOW that Dolly was part of everything that was wrong with media for teens.

Which is fine. Like, GO FOR IT. Views, please have them! Yesssss.

Because we were dealing with Dolly Magazine – a publication that did veer very far from its roots in its final years – it was probably easy to assume that I was being ignorant or glossing over real and valid feelings of disappointment some women had with the magazine.

Maybe people thought I didn’t understand how important diversity and healthy role models are to girls and women? Perhaps it was a kind of feminism policing? I am not sure, but I figured anyone who really knew me would know that I am a champion of women and girls. I am a feminist and valuing the role early 80s Dolly played in the lives of the girls I knew (and me!) does not undo that.

My Dolly, the early 80s Dolly, was a godsend to me and the kids I grew up with, in terms of information and education. Dolly did not deliver impossible beauty standards or airbrushed models back then. In fact, it was kind of dorky and relatable and I took from it what made sense to me.

I’m not saying it was perfect, but it was ALL WE HAD, the only magazine that was speaking to Australian girls and teens, written and edited by (mostly) Australian women – and that made it perfect enough.

What this whole episode highlighted, for me, was the fact that social media comments are very ALL or NOTHING for many and how little understanding there can be between humans and how one comment can light a fire under a story and things can veer into unexpected and confusing territory very quickly. Territory where nobody really gets heard or considered…

Not only that, people seem to be primed for disappointment/judgement and ready to point the finger and unfriend or block people when they get a sniff of a differing view (often without actually digesting what’s going on.) It’s a sort of one strike and you’re out approach and I’m so not liking it.

Just to be clear, I don’t expect people to come over to my side of the fence, but nor do I expect to be dismissed for having a different experience, in a different time and place. I like to chat over the fence, but in this case, my story didn’t matter, it was invalidated, even though it was told in my own little corner of the internet.

So what can I take away from this confusing situation? Instead of getting out a tiny violin and feeling misunderstood or maligned?! How do I turn this all around?

Firstly, that the fact that people feel disappointed in womens’ magazines is very real, important and emotional issue. I feel terrible about that. I highlighted an issue that was much bigger than me. How can I address this issue myself? Acknowledge those feelings. I have felt them too. I don’t buy womens magazines – haven’t for many, many years – because I don’t like the way they commodify and shame women. I also try to promote media that ARE doing a great job – and to promote womens’ great work myself. I’m trying to do the best I can not to perpetuate the bad and to promote the good, pretty much. People are RIGHT to get mad about this issue.

Secondly, acknowledge the fact that womens’ magazines have let many women down doesn’t mean that my experience/my friends’ experience of Dolly Magazine all those years ago is invalid or hypocritical. (I don’t think!) In this case, I think there’s a generational divide at play.

Thirdly, I have to accept that sometimes, strong feelings about issues are so big, the only way for people to deal with them is to say their piece and then cut you off, in disappointment and frustration. Humans are just like that, sometimes. It’s just a thing we have to accept. It helps to look closely at what happened and try to see how things played out for them, even if it was based on misunderstanding and a different lived experience. It can feel bad, but that’s just the way it is. Maybe, some day, fences can be mended and the impressive conviction of passionate views will spark firm friendships.

And finally it’s good to slow down and adjust our approach Facebook/social media commentary and responses.Consideration, context, compassion, connection – then comment.

Have you ever been involved in a misunderstanding on social media?

x Pip



  • Reply Jennifer McKenzie October 17, 2018 at 11:41 AM

    I wonder whatever happened to the Kelea Jo Ayliffe… She used to get her poems published All. The. Time.

  • Reply Jane Thomas September 10, 2017 at 12:24 AM

    Dolly was a lifeline to a girl in the 80s. Pre internet, there was next to nothing for us. I remember when I first came across Dolly. I picked up a CLEO at the Dentists and my mum suggested maybe Dolly was more suitable! I was hooked from then (and eventually moved onto CLEO and Cosmo). I got over all of those magazines and can see their negatives – I think I did at the time too – but I’ll always be grateful I had them.

  • Reply Gemma September 8, 2017 at 4:14 PM

    I loved Dolly Magazine – I too was a reader in the mid 80s. I can remember my older sister giving my mum the pattern for sailor shorts that appeared in one mag and mum sewed us all a pair. We were so hot! Strangely enough my Dad was not a fan of Dolly so we weren’t officially meant to have them in the house (I think he found the whole Dolly Doctor thing a little too confronting). I agree that the models were more your girl next door types – I never felt as if I wasn’t enough by looking at them… and my school books were covered with the images and poems I found within Dolly’s pages. As for nasty commenting. I have stopped commenting (for the most part) online. I find the unexpected irrationally hateful responses I expose myself upsetting and uncalled for. I’m sorry you got a barrage for something so unexpected. I have always loved your blog and the feel good vibes it sends rocketing into the world. Thank goodness Dolly gave you your first taste of being published and inspired a career in writing… your unique voice has been a little breezy bit of joy in the blogging world x.

  • Reply Gillian September 8, 2017 at 2:01 PM

    I’m SO OLD I read Dolly in the 70s. I loved it for all the reasons you did. One of the reasons I’ve never had Facebook is that I hate the bad manners you see on there. You are ALLOWED to have your own opinion and unique memories. I hate that herd mentality that made you second guess yourself. People are so rude. It’s like you’re not permitted to have your own thoughts. Makes me really cross. Stay true to yourself and don’t let the herd be such bullies. X

  • Reply Nicole September 8, 2017 at 8:54 AM

    Naaaw Pip, Dolly was all those things for me too 🙂

    Mid-80s Dolly to us country girls – oh yes! It normalised so many things I was unsure of.

    I’m sorry you were involved in some ugly cyber-snootiness; us fellow Gen X-ers get it 😀

  • Reply Alyson September 7, 2017 at 8:07 PM

    I wrote a humorous article about travelling with my teenage daughter (who is vegan) that ended up being posted on the site’s FB page where somebody commented on what a spoilt brat my child must be with all her melt downs, and how she should have been exposed to travel much younger to teach her about the realities of life like the commenter had done with her own child. I bit my tongue, but by golly it stung! Felt a bit yuck though.

  • Reply Denni September 7, 2017 at 2:16 PM

    I grew up on Dolly magazine in our (tiny country town) school library. There were parents who tried to ban the school from stocking it because Dolly Doctor was so confronting back then (1990 – 1993) and they didn’t think it was appropriate reading for us. I am glad that never got through! We had one country TV channel and the ABC, we had no FM radio, there was not a lot of ways to find out what life was like for other kids in our country.

    While I would never have bought the magazine (my money went on Hot Metal and Metal Hammer), I read every issue as it came out and it answered a lot of questions that both I and many of my friends had at the time. It may not have been perfect, but it was a massive step up from TV Hits which was the only other magazine we had readily available at the time LOL.

  • Reply Sally Mckinnon September 7, 2017 at 10:45 AM

    Dolly Doctor taught me about female sexuality. I wasn’t taught much more than pure reproduction at school- it took a while to figure out how it all works down there, and for Dolly Doctor- I’m grateful. I do blame Dolly and Drew Barrymore for my thin eyebrows, though. ?

  • Reply Delphine September 7, 2017 at 7:39 AM

    I lived in France as a teen, in a very strict catholic family that was absolutely terrorized at the idea that I could grow up to be something else than a tame house keeper. I wish I had something like Dolly. My mom didn’t even tell me about periods. I went to live with my feminist grand mother, read french Elle, and learned to be a strong, independent woman. But I really think that my friends who had access to that kind of magazines were very, very lucky.

    And then WHOA PEOPLE. If you don’t like something that someone absolutely loves, then please, please, please. Avoid commenting, or say something kind in a moderate tone. Then write your acid, dark, mean critics on your own blog if it’s really that important. BE KIND. What’s wrong with you?
    Writing mean comments on the blog of someone kind enough to entertain you with sweet, rad things everyday is mean. It’s easy mean. It’s wrong. Do you go to your friends and say ” hey, I wrote an harsh comment on the blog of that very sweet person,I feel so great!” No. You don’t. Or if you do you’re a heartless person. Don’t be mean because you’re hidden behind your screen : you’re not.

    And at last: thank you Pip. You don’t imagine how many times you saved my day with your cool stuff.

    • Reply Pip September 7, 2017 at 9:16 AM

      YOU. ARE. KIND. I love what you do – and I feel so lucky to have you reading here sometimes. xxxx

  • Reply kate September 7, 2017 at 6:58 AM

    Your Dolly was my Dolly too. Between it, Sweet Valley High novels, Nancy Drews, Trixie Beldons and Judy Blume, it fired my imagination of what was beyond the hot, dusty regional town (also with one regional TV channel and the ABC). The modern-day teen, Aussie magazine, Ramona, is looking for backers in its crowdfunding campaign. Get on it and support a magazine empowering today’s young generation of readers, thinkers and doers. https://pozible.com/project/ramona-volume-three

    • Reply Pip September 7, 2017 at 8:55 AM

      I’ve written about Ramona many times! Yes! (It used to be Tigress!) Such a great initiative!

  • Reply Amy Anderson September 6, 2017 at 11:02 PM

    I’m in the US so didn’t read Dolly (we didn’t have it where I lived anyway) but I read a magazine called Sassy. I read books too though. So I was getting input from a variety of sources. And that is real life, right? You get input from a variety of sources and learn to filter it. One magazine doesn’t define you, especially when you’re 12. I agree with the commenter who said let’s lighten up. It’s odd how uncomfortable people get with others’ experiences. If someone is that sensitive they need to do some self examination!

  • Reply Collette September 6, 2017 at 9:45 PM

    Gosh, sorry you got such a hard time about this. It’s just an old fashioned out of print mag, probably not worth getting snarky about, but that’s folk for you – we’re all different. Personally, I loved Dolly, it’s the only place I got the answers about all the stuff I wanted to know about, at that age. I used to write to the pen pals, but never send the letters. I really wanted a pen pal back then – still do actually, so I’m so happy about snail mail making a come back. I am yet to write a snail mail letter, so it might be like all those unsent letters from the 80s. An old-fashioned version of the Facebook comments that never get published, maybe.

  • Reply Reannon September 6, 2017 at 9:20 PM

    I went to high school & caught the same bus as an ACTUAL Dolly cover girl!! She was gorgeous but also just another girl at school. We thought it was so cool any time we seen her in print, she was also in some libra fleur ads.
    I think by the time I was reading Dolly ( early 90’s ) it was still great, at least to me it was. I even used to cut out those poems to stick on the front of my school books! Dolly is nothing but good memories for me & its crap your memory sharing got highjscked by others.

    • Reply Pip September 6, 2017 at 9:25 PM

      That is so glam!!!
      I think that the anti-Dolly people were actually just needing to be heard… and that they forgot about me, really. They felt so strongly about disliking the magazine. One thing that happens, when people seek to be heard in situations like this, is that they silence others… I reckon it’s good to consider whether having your dissenting view heard is a) so important that you burst someone else’s bubble and b) that you’re okay with possibly shutting down dialogue by being combative… If it’s important enough to deal with those two outcomes, then GO FOR IT!

      • Reply Pip September 6, 2017 at 9:26 PM

        PS – I actually think, a lot of the time, people do it for sport.

        • Reply Reannon September 7, 2017 at 2:11 PM

          I think so too! I often wonder why, if someone disagrees so much with something why they feel the need to comment at all. But social media seems to have made it so everyone thinks that all their opinions, thoughts, views & likes/dislikes are SUPER important & must be heard right away. I think I’m quite opinionated but mostly in real life with people I know. Online I feel like what I think can too easily be misunderstood because my words are missing all my hand movements, my body language, my actual voice! I think those things are important in conveying the meaning of my words. I hope that makes sense.

  • Reply Aleta Barker September 6, 2017 at 8:56 PM

    A well thought out response Pip and gee I think many of us are getting a little tired of the web frenzy out here. Why can’t folks be a bit more polite? Like we are having a talk with someone’s grandma? Why must there be constant drama…it’s such a waste of time we could be doing something more fun.

  • Reply Belinda September 6, 2017 at 8:23 PM

    Dolly magazine of the 80s was everything. I still love looking at those fashions, they give me an echo of the excitement I felt back then when seeing for the first time. You’re completely right, it’s a generational context thing. Love ya stuff Pip.

    • Reply Jane September 7, 2017 at 12:02 PM

      I still feel the excitement too, Belinda. Mum made me a pair of shorts from a Dolly pattern in the 80s and I felt sooooo cool and edgy. I grew up in a small country town, and reading Dolly broadened my horizons and helped me find my ‘look’. Over-the-knee socks and school shoes were an enduring favourite!

  • Reply Simone D. September 6, 2017 at 7:44 PM

    Oh I loved 80s Dolly. Buying it on the way to school and reading it in the train. Dolly Doctor. Do it yourself firmal hairdos and makeup. The model competition being won by someone just like me. Covers featuring models like Toneya Bird and Kate Fischer, beautiful and normal sized.

  • Reply Katie September 6, 2017 at 7:33 PM

    Well done on a well written response, Pip.

  • Reply Julia Bourke September 6, 2017 at 7:20 PM

    I LOVED Dolly magazine back in the early 80’s. Bloody hell, it was a connection I desperately needed in country Victoria. Living in a farm with 4 brothers. I used to the fashion illustrations and dreamt of working for a place like that. ( I ended up in design for TV). Remember the Nicole Kidman front cover? All curls and freckles and BMX Bandity. Lisa Wilkinson as editor at just 20. OMG. I can still feel the deep yearning when flicking through those pages.
    Soz about the bad vibes on FB. It was a different time back then.

  • Reply Lou September 6, 2017 at 7:07 PM

    I’m never one to not have an opinion, but I hardly ever comment on Facebook posts (unless it’s just a “like” or funny aside). Sometimes I draft comments to more contentious posts – but I usually end up deleting them. It is just so hard to have a meaningful conversation and I spend so much time trying to get the wording just right so as not to offend anyone that it becomes a completely tedious process. I’m your age also and bought the occasional Dolly. The two things I actually remember was the fact they had ads for cigarettes!!!! – so shocking!!!! and a pattern for some shorts that I used over and over!

    • Reply Pip September 6, 2017 at 9:21 PM

      I TOO am forever typing and deleting comments, in case someone gets narky or misunderstands my view… OR tries to shame me! I can’t manage the difficulty of trying to clarify my position when people start chipping away. Sigh. I know how you feel!

  • Reply Kate September 6, 2017 at 6:48 PM

    Think I must be the same age as you as I too devoured dolly in the early 80s. Being from Tasmania we were rural and isolated, it kept my friends and I up with trends. We always tried to win all the competitions and sent away for all the free samples (tampons mostly but it was still exciting to get a package in the mail).
    Im very reserved on the internet and don’t do fb at all, because I don’t like feeling attacked for my thoughts or opinions or experiences, and I had that happen to me when I first started dipping my toe in the inter world. It took me years to even comment after that.

  • Reply Rayna September 6, 2017 at 6:45 PM

    I totally get the all or nothing online debate. I’ve been noticing that a lot recently and to be honest it’s been stopping me from participating in conversations online because my mental health isn’t that great and I don’t think I can keep myself safe. As someone never afraid to shy from sharing an opinion that is a big deal for me!

    But what I really wanted to say: Pip! That poem! Oh my heart! You’re the loveliest x

    • Reply Pip September 6, 2017 at 9:19 PM

      I think that social media has become a minefield for those of us with anxiety and/or depression. Ugh. It kind of USED to be a bit of a bolstering place to hang out, but it’s not like that any more as people struggle to be heard and noticed… HOW FUNNY IS THAT POEM?! Love to you, chicken, from one snowflake to (possibly) another! x

  • Reply Kellie September 6, 2017 at 6:36 PM

    I bought Dolly also (or mum did!) and I loved it. I’m also of the late 70’s early 80’s and from the country so everything you said I totally get. If mum didn’t throw those mags away when they moved to the city I’d still have them! And agree with Michelle below. I’m always intrigued to reader comments and marvel at where a conversation ends up! I know I’ve had strong opinions about things in the past, but the rule I try to live by now is not to opine unless I have actual first hand experience!

  • Reply Andi September 6, 2017 at 6:29 PM

    I hear ya, and I agree with everything you’ve said… but just as an aside, what the hell are horse nuts?

    • Reply Pip September 6, 2017 at 6:30 PM

      * titter *

  • Reply Michele September 6, 2017 at 6:14 PM

    Hi Pip, i didnt read your facebook post. Not really a facebook. Im from your era and i read Dolly. Its great that it gave you something.

    The response speaks of the times. We all get so worked up over stuff that really shouldnt get worked up about. Someone has something to say about their experience and instead of going oh they had that experience its not mine but hey there is this need to prove others wrong. Why?

    We need lots of opinions but maybe some should think about the way its expressed on someone elses post. We should lighten up and hear things on the way they were intended rather than jumping all over differing ideas.

    Hugs to you Pip for being fun, sharing inspiration in a truly optimistic way.

  • Reply Annamari September 6, 2017 at 6:13 PM

    I am about your age (I think) and can very well relate to reminiscent-ing magazines and media (bad tv) that was then the only things (being in Finland). Hate how that went for you! How great that you got your career started already at young age like that. This is why I am very cautious in any posting or commenting and being present in the modern media… I am not brave at all like you, put yourself out there.
    But your poem: it is very cute! Underneath it is another one, titled ‘meet me tonight’. It reminds me of yours, meet me at mike’s. Just coincidence?

    • Reply Pip September 6, 2017 at 6:31 PM

      I am not sure I am brave…. more…. CHATTY than anything! Thank you for reading, Annamari!
      (And yes! Isn’t that ‘meet me’ a great and prophetic coincidence?!)

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