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Let Girls Be Girls: A Campaign to Eradicate the Commercial Sexualization of Young Girls

 

I once asked a friend of mine why her 10 year old daughter was wearing three inch platform sandals. I was appalled at how mature looking they were. Where are the Keds? She responded, “That’s all they have in the stores these days. That’s the style.” Add to marketing the peer pressure of pre-teens and you have a recipe for marketing-controlled, overly sexualized clothing for young children.

Read below about the “Let Girls Be Girls” campaign to reduce this oversexualization of young children and about the girls underwear at Wal-Mart that said “Who needs a credit card” on the front” and “When I have Santa” on the back.

Christina

Moral Panic?

This aim of this campaign is not to police the developing sexuality of children, or to deny that such a thing exists. Mumsnetters, on the whole, aren’t interested in protecting a misty ideal of “childhood innocence” – in fact, they’re pretty keen on being as honest as possible about sex.

But many argue that it’s difficult for children to learn about sexuality – and to decide for themselves how they’d like to express it  –  when they are bombarded with an all-pervasive ‘commodified’ version of female sexuality. This campaign aims, not to remove children’s control over their sexuality, but to give it back. 

And clearly, sexualisation doesn’t only affect children: many Mumsnetters feel that women too are, to varying degrees, affected by the sexual culture we live in. What can be done? The truth is, we don’t know. But we thought that our collective ‘consumer heft’ could be a good place to start, so we worked to influence the products that were being sold to our daughters, in the hope that the next generation of women will be better able to choose who they want to be.

30% of Girls’ Clothing Is Sexualized in Major Sales Trend

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 20 May 2011 Time: 10:36 AM ET

The sexy-clothes trend

Handwringing over the sexualization of young girls is a common theme both in the media and in the mall. In 2007, Wal-Mart pulled a pair of girls’ underwear with the words “Who needs credit cards … ” on the front and “when you have Santa” on the back from the shelves after parental outcry. Those extreme cases get people’s ire up, said Sharon Lamb, a professor of mental health at the University of Massachusetts in Boston who was not involved in the research. But the trend is more insidious than single cases make it out to be, Lamb told LiveScience. [10 Surprising Sex Statistics]

“It’s not just this most outrageous thing,” said Lamb, author of “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). “It’s a lot of subtle little things, too.”

In 2007, Lamb was part of an American Psychological Association Task Force that reviewed the research on the consequences of sexualization for young girls. The task force found that girls who buy into sexualizing media messages are more likely to experience low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. One 1998 study found that girls made body-conscious by wearing swimsuits while they did a math test in an empty room did worse on the test than girls completing the same test while wearing sweaters. There were no differences in test-taking performance between boys wearing swimsuits and boys wearing sweaters, suggesting a link between self-objectification and shame and anxiety in girls.

In one yet-unpublished study, Murnen and her research team asked volunteers to look at pictures of the same fifth-grader dressed in sexualized, childish-but-sexualized, or non-sexualized clothing. The adult volunteers viewed the sexualized version of the girl as less competent, less intelligent, less moral and less self-respecting.

“And she’s a fifth-grade girl!” Murnen said. “The fact that they consider her less moral is really disturbing, as if we do blame her for her clothing choice.”

Marketing sexiness

In the newly published study, Murnen and her colleagues went through the children’s offerings of 15 national retailers, from high-end stores such as Neiman Marcus to inexpensive stores such as Kmart and Target. All of the clothes were sized and marketed for toddlers to pre-teen children. The researchers asked independent adult raters to judge 5,666 clothing items for whether they revealed or emphasized a sexualized body part such as the chest or buttocks and whether they had sexy characteristics such as slinky material, leopard print, or sexualized writing. The raters also looked for childlike characteristics such as frills or butterflies.

Of all clothing items, 31 percent had sexualizing features, the researchers found. Most of these, about 86 percent, had childlike characteristics combined with sexy characteristics. Abercrombie Kids was the worst offender, with 72 percent of clothes featuring a sexualizing aspect. Neiman Marcus boasted about 38 percent sexualized clothing.

Child-only stores like Gymboree tended to do well, though older girls might think of those stores as babyish, Murnen said. Target was one of the better stores, with 80 percent of their girls’ clothes falling in the “childlike” category.

“We think that it is bad right now in part of what is happening in the culture with the sexualization of women that has been documented,” Murnen said. “We think this is trickling down to girls.”

It’s easy to blame parents for buying sexy clothes for little girls, Lamb said, but that lets marketers off the hook.

“Blaming the parents is exactly what the marketers want you to do,” she said. “They spend $12 billion  getting your kids to want the things you don’t want them to have, and then they blame you for buying them.”

Murnen’s study appears online in the journal Sex Roles.

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

Keep it Real: Day Two! Blog It!

Well, I accidentally published day two a day early. Whoops!

http://www.facebook.com/events/409395502438909/

If these statistics aren’t enough to encourage magazines to stop photoshopping their already stick thin models then I don’t know what is. Perhaps a little cellulite in the magazine and media would bring the whole body image thing back down to earth. Personally I remember my 13 year old self thinking I was fat because I could pink skin on my thigh. Where I got that from I’ll never know. We need to do something to help young girls feel good about themselves and their bodies without looking to the media for unhealthy models (and role models) of people that don’t exist in real life, or if they do exist, are so thin that it’s unhealthy. The beauty industry has extremely unrealistic expectations of the employees. I recently read that Jennifer Aniston was asked to lose 30 lbs in order to be employed by the television show “Friends.” Unbelievable. Keep it Real asks magazines to stop the photoshopping and start redesigning beauty to involve a dose of reality – because even reality can be beautiful, believe it or not….

(Did you know that in some African countries, the bigger you are the better because that shows that you family has the means to feed you well.) The definition of beauty is constructed or created by our society and by the media that we consume. We get our ideas about beauty from the magazines we look at and the actors and actresses we see on t.v. How many slightly plump actresses are walking the red carpet. Ummmm….almost none…! And to make matters worse, how many pregnant actresses are shown three weeks after the baby is born with their pre-birth body all back in shape!? What kind of ideal are we striving for as pregnant women? It puts undue and unnecessary pressure on women, on children, on young girls and it’s not healthy!

American teenagers spend 31 hours a week watching TV, 17 hours a week listening to music, 3 hours a week watching movies, 4 hours a week reading magazines, 10 hours a week online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day.

Source: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation “Daily Media Use Among Children and Teens Up Dramatically From Five Years Ago” http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia012010nr.cfm

53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17.

Source: National Institute on Media and the Family http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&page=fastfacts

3 out of 4 teenage girls feel depressed, guilty and shameful after spending 3 minutes leafing through a fashion magazine.

Source: http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/

Twenty years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today that number is 23% less.

Source: http://www.jeankilbourne.com/resources-for-change/beauty-body-image

48% of teenage girls wish they were as skinny as models.

Source: http://www.girlscouts.org/research/publications/healthyliving/healthy_living.asp

65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors.

Source: SELF magazine and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=4726783&page=1

Forty-two percent of first to third-grade girls want to be thinner, while 81 percent of ten-year-olds are afraid of getting fat.

Source: Dove Real Beauty Campaign, 2004

Eighty percent of 10-year-old American girls say they have been on a diet. The number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner.

Source: justthink.org

32% of teenage girls admit to starving themselves to lose weight.

Source: http://blog.girlscouts.org/2012/04/healthy-media-commission-for-positive.html

The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed in America increased by 457% from 1997 to 2007.

Source: http://www.skininc.com/spabusiness/medicalesthetics/16212492.html

“The Keep it Real Challenge”: A Plea to Magazines for Real Images of Women

These statistics are mind boggling and frightening.
42% of six, seven and eight year olds want to be thinner!? 81% of 10 years olds are afraid of getting fat!? What kind of world are we living in?

The Keep It Real Challenge, which runs from June 27th – 29th, 2012, is designed to start a media revolution and help girls, women and their allies realize the power of their individual and collective voices to create positive change. SPARK Movement, MissRepresentation.org, I Am That Girl and LoveSocial have joined forces to host this three-day social media campaign to urge print magazines to pledge to use at least one non-photoshopped image per issue.

Tell magazines to drop photoshop! Inspired by 14 year-old Julie Bluhm’s petition of Seventeen Magazine, we’re promoting a 3-day social media campaign to challenge photoshopped beauty standards and empower women and girls to use their voices to create change. We’re making a simple request of magazines:

Pledge to print at least one unphotoshopped picture of a model.

Day 1: Wednesday, June 27: Tweet it. Twitter users will use hashtag #KeepItReal, directly asking magazines to pledge to change their practices around photoshopping bodies.

Day 2: Thursday, June 28: Participants will create a blogging firestorm – personally reflecting on how unrealistic images of beauty have impacted them.

Day 3:  Friday, June 19: On the final day, via Instagram, users will post their own photos of “real beauty” to be entered in the #KeepitRealChallenge – with selected photos to be featured on a billboard in New York City later this year.

SPARK is a girl-fueled activist movement working collaboratively with girls, activists, scholars, parents and educators to challenge and end the sexualization of girls. The SPARK network is creating a cultural “tipping point” where the sexualization of girls is unacceptable, intolerable, unthinkable and unprofitable, while simultaneously building support for girls’ healthy sexuality. www.sparksummit.com

MissRepresentation.org is a cross generational movement organizing millions of small actions to awaken people’s consciousness to recognize the true value of women; change the way women and girls are represented in the media; interrupt and stop patterns of sexism; level the playing field; and ensure a tipping point that will lead to gender parity in leadership throughout the United States and the world. Learn more about the campaign at www.missrepresentation.org

Lovesocial was founded in 2009 with a vision of creating authentic and creative communication strategies through the channels of social media. With a motto of, “keep it simple, find the value and communicate it well,” Lovesocial quickly became what is now dubbed an “anti-agency”. With a commitment of not further cluttering or saturating an already crowded online space, Lovesocial works to create clarity and value for their clients to help accomplish their goals.www.lovesocial.org

I AM THAT GIRL aims to be the definitive voice on the intellectual, emotional, and social needs of millennial girls by building an online and offline community devoted to inspiring and empowering girls to discover their innate worth and purpose. This community provides girls with a safe space to have honest conversations, consume healthy content, and collaborate with other girls seeking to be confident in their own skin. www.iamthatgirl.com

http://www.facebook.com/MissRepresentationCampaign
http://endangeredbodies.org/
http://www.pitchengine.com/keepitreal/spark-movement-missrepresentationorg-lovesocialorg-and-i-am-that-girl-launch-the-keep-it-real-challenge