Monday, September 5, 2011

My Life is An Oprah Episode - The Sexual Objectification of Young Girls

Over the weekend I took my granddaughter, Katey, shopping and bought her a dress because, now as a middle schooler, she has a couple of dances to go to.  She was in the dressing room at The Gap, trying on the dress we ultimately bought.  While looking at herself in the mirror, she said she loved the dress and that there WAS a cute boy she had her eye on and that the dress should get his attention. She's eleven (11) and I was floored. 

Let me be clear.  I love clothes; I always have.  I love getting dressed up; I also love getting attention from the opposite sex .  But, I am an adult.  What is disturbing to me, is the trend today of having very, very, young girls play dress up for real.  Because, the not so subliminal message here is that their sexuality and sexiness begins to define who they are long before they have a chance to discover who they are, and what message these young girls want to put out there into the world.  There have been numerous articles and news reports made about this subject, and for those who have not paid attention, let me clue you in.

If you walk through any department store, or stores like Target, you will see bras being marketed and sold to girls as young as seven (7) and eight (8).  These are padded bras to give them the look of having developed breasts.  Add very skimpy, bikini underwear, and you have a mini version of Victoria Secret models.  Look, there is nothing wrong with Victoria Secret models, they are gorgeous women.  But, an eight (8) nine (9) ten (10) or an eleven (11) year old should not have anything in common with them. As let's be honest here;  Victoria Secret models are objectified. By men, and by women who want to be them. When women accept that they are defined by their sexuality, all women lose some sense of equality.  That is how it is.   As adults, we can choose how we want to be seen by the world.  Young girls today do not have that choice.

  When I see Tom Cruise and wife Katie parading their very young daughter, Suri, in outfits that are very grown up, it makes me cringe.   My daughter used to go out in her princess dresses, wearing plastic high heels, carrying purses, wearing jewelry...but, there was no mistaken that this was purely dress up.  Suri Cruise is often photographed wearing high heels and a line of clothing that is anything but dress up/play clothes.  And, I read that Suri often picks out Katie Holmes clothes for events such as premieres, etc.  Katie:  really?  Seriously?  At the age of three (3) and four (4)?  The question to Katie Holmes is why isn't she picking out more appropriate clothes for her daughter?

Growing up is hard enough.  For girls and for boys.  But, boys have a head start....they are not treated as sexual objects and are allowed and encouraged to explore their interests at a very early age.  Whether that interest is something in sports or academics,  the added pressure of their physical appearance does not play an important role, as is the pressure bestowed upon young girls.  Imagine if you will, the same department stores selling those padded bras to girls, begin to sell jockey shorts that are padded, providing a larger "package" for the boys.  Why not?  That would be a form of equality.  It would still be sexist, but, there would be some balance in marketing to boys as well as the girls.  I think if that would happen, there would probably be some legislature on the table blocking that from happening.  Why?  Because historically, sexism is so widely accepted when it comes to females and seems more offensive if there is sexism directed at males.
I know there are many more opportunities for girls now,  than in the past.  Especially in sports, thanks largely to Title IX, and also in the field of math and science. The challenge is getting past the notion that girls must be sexy at such a young age. Whether we like it or not, or whether you agree or not, objectifying young girls into sexual objects plays a role in gender equality.  Girls are not given a road map to their sexual maturity.  What used to be marketed to young adults in the form of sexy clothing,  has been marketed to very young teens.  And what used to be marketed to teens, in now the target for pre-tweens...ages 8-11.  Sexual discovery is occurring at a much younger age, and it is not healthy.  Eleven year old should not be concerned with being sexy enough to be noticed by boys; but, the reality is, it is very much on their minds.  I am sure the boys are feeling the push to notice the girls also.  I think the struggle to have gender equality is stuck; the pendulum is swinging...but, still with some friction. ......when I was twelve or thirteen, I was not worrying about my sexuality...even though I was crazy about boys.  When a boy told me he was better than me because he had a penis and I had a vagina, I looked him straight in the eye and said " as long as I have a vagina, I can have all the penises I want."!  Well, actually, that was a joke I learned in the seventh grade, but, it said something to me about how the world viewed women, and how I chose to respond.

Those who know me, know that I am a free spirit when it comes to sex and sexuality.  I like to feel sexy,  look sexy and be considered appealing to the opposite sex.  I have already come through the cycle of self-discovery.  Those of you who have followed this blog know some of my history;  know about the rape and other experiences that have caused me pain and have caused me, in the past, to question my self worth.  I do not define myself by any of those experiences, and that has taken a long time.  I embrace how I feel about sexuality, just as I embrace how I feel about equality.  My wish for my granddaughter and other young girls is for them to have the opportunity to discover who they are without sexual nuances getting in the way, to discover their sexuality when they have acquired the maturity to do so, and to pursue their dreams without the cloud of inequality.

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