Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Going on 13: A Documentary About REAL Girls

Recently, I had the privilege of creating a study guide to accompany the new documentary, Going on 13, which follows four girls from ages 9 - 13. I loved this film because it showed REAL GIRLS. I could watch the film again and again (and I did!) because the girls in it became very dear to me. They reminded me of girls I know: of my younger sister, my cousins, and the many amazing girls I've had the opportunity to work with through New Moon. It was so refreshing to see girls who spoke for themselves onscreen; it made me realize anew just how incredibly limited a portrayal the media usually gives girls.

See this film if you can. Even better, see it with other adults who care about or work with girls, or bring the girls you care about to it. The film can be a springboard to discuss many important topics, such as growing up, mental health, sex education, immigration, and more. There is one instance of 'the f word' and some mature subject matter, such as sex education and mental illness, but I find the film appropriate for girls ages 9 and up if they view it with an adult who can help them contextualize and process what they see.

The next screenings are:
1) LA Latino Film Festival Sept 13
2) SF Documentary Film Festival some time in Oct 17-30
3) South Asian Film Festival (NYC) Nov?
4) Leeds (UK) Youth Film Festival April 2009

And here's the trailer:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sexiness and Girls

Sexiness and girls is a topic I wish I didn't even have to think about. I'm deeply disturbed by the hyper-sexualization pressure girls face today, even when they are very young. From Braatz dolls to World Wrestling tv to videogames and movies, girls are surrounded every day by examples of girls and women dressing, pouting, strutting, bumping & grinding and generally performing like "exotic dancers."

Learning accurate information and facts about sex too soon isn't the issue. That's been shown to be healthy for kids.

The problem is the cynical commercial manipulation of "sexy" media messages given to girls starting at a very young age. These messages teach pre-adolescent, even pre-school age, girls and boys that looking and acting "sexy" is normal, popular and something they need to do. And they also teach girls that they need to buy things to make themselves more sexy because, of course, they don't measure up to the media images.

But, being so young, they don't have the emotional sophistication and psychological development needed to understand what they are being sold. These messages deeply influence how they feel about their bodies, their sexuality, their self-image and how they think about gender and relationships.

As parents we're left with little girls wanting to go on diets, wear make-up, adopt sexy poses, and wear provocative clothing so they can be "sexy," and little boys getting suspended from school for mimicking sexual harassment they've seen in the media. And as parents we're in desperate need of support and guidance on how to fight the deluge of negative results.

That’s why I'm so excited about the new book "So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids" by long-time children’s and media advocates Dr. Jean Kilbourne and Dr. Diane Levin.

It deals with children from infancy through adolescence (and is very much about boys as well as girls) and will spark a lot of discussion and action for you, your family and your colleagues. It's for parents, teachers, and everyone who cares about children. The book helps us understand how sexualization affects children of all ages and genders and gives us practical things to do about it.

So Sexy So Soon provides in-depth analysis of the media's effect on impressionable kids, and gives parents the information, skills, and confidence they need to play a proactive role with their children around sexual issues. It includes poignant stories that demonstrate how our kids internalize what they see and hear, guidelines and sample conversations for talking with kids about these sensitive subjects, and offers practical strategies for counteracting the disturbing messages that bombard our children every day.

Please post a comment here and let me know about the fake and hyper-sexuality messages influencing your girls—and what you think about So Sexy So Soon once you read it.