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.


jessica said...

Wow! I have been mulling this issue over in my mind for months and today I actually almost started to cry. I have 3 daughters. 2 are 5 and starting kinder in 2 weeks. The younger one is almost 4. Today one of my twins was showing her little sister how to suck in her belly so she could have a stomach "like a woman. zexy! (they say zexy) like Barbie." I have tried soo hard to keep this stuff away from my girls and yet here it is. Live and in living color in the shape of a 5 year old. They haven't even started school yet. I'm scared to death for them. Clearly all the talk I do and the encouragements and affirmations that I provide are still being drowned out. I will be reading this book and hope there are some things I can pass on to my girls and more importantly to my husband to help him understand that his comments regarding women on tv are clearly effecting our daughters.

Nancy Gruver said...

I can really relate to your worrying. I beleive that what you're doing does make a difference - so don't stop! And please let me know what you think about the book when you read it. A great book for your husband to read is Dads & Daughters - it talks about how fathers can especially help to counteract the harmful media messages. Check it out at www.joekelly.info .

Nancy Gruver said...

Gwen Ayliffe emailed:

Thank God! someone's talking about this! I work for child protective services, and have been convinced for a long time that a lot of the sexualized behavior children exhibit doesn't mean they are being sexually abused (per se) but are just modeling what they see in the media! thank you for raising people's consciousness. I'm making sure everyone in my family knows about this!

minnemom said...

I'm so disappointed that it's hard to find "little girl" clothes for little girls.

I'm going to recommend this post/book to our ECFE coordinator. It would make an excellent discussion topic.