The Sexualisation Of Girls
Is feminism dead? As 2010 comes to a close, one of the clearest trends was the increase in campaigning and publications highlighting the way old female stereotypes in an increasingly aggressive manner.
Natasha Walter's book Living Dolls: the return of sexism details how pornography has now come off the top shelf and is now part of our mainstream culture. So much a part of it that highly sexualised outfits are now being peddled at children. There was, for instance, a campaign against padded bras being sold to girls as young as seven. Playboy is also targeting children and many primary school children already wear make-up at school.
Some argue that there is nothing wrong with this. Children have long wanted to dress up in their mum's clothes, including high heels (Bratz, who out-Barbie Barbie in their total obsession with shopping, have a whole range of high heeled shoes for kids) and bras. But dressing up for play is one thing; wearing these type of clothes on an everyday basis is quite another.
Not only do they encourage children to think of themselves as mini adults, but the role models they entice them to mimic are ones which are entirely obsessed with their looks and body image and which make them see themselves as sexual objects. They are being taught that exploiting their sexuality - the very narrow, shallow interpretation of sexuality pervasive in mainstream porn - is the way to success. Rather than exploring who they are, what they like to do and how they fit into the world, young girls are being narrowly channeled towards a certain vision of what it is to be a woman.
This caters to the market's needs well because this type of woman is an ultra-consumer. Her main interest is shopping and she will spend a great deal to "look good", whether that is through cosmetic surgery, buying an outrageously priced handbag or super high-heeled shoes.
Girls are endlessly fed interviews with other women who tell them that their main interest is shopping and that, somehow, this is "empowering". Anything that "makes them feel better about themselves" is empowering. Why then do surveys of young girls, such as Unicef's 2007 report on children's mental health , show them suffering increasingly from mental health problems?Continued on the next page