CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Destroying our Daughters’ Innocence

Feb 26, 2007

For years pro-family and pro-faith groups have been complaining about the hyper-sexualisation of society and the stealing of our young peoples’ innocence. There exists a callous industry that is happy to get rich by sexualising our kids. Young girls have especially been targeted.

Yet our concerns have been dismissed by the intelligentsia and the mainstream media as being puritanical, intolerant and censorious. We have been told we are wowsers and kill joys, and we are hung up on sexuality. Kids are not damaged by such sexual images and marketing, so just back off.

Well, it seems others are beginning to be concerned as well. In 2005 the decidedly non-conservative writer Ariel Levy penned her Female Chauvinist Pigs in which she described the rise of “raunch culture” and decried the way women and girls are being sexualised and trivialised.

Last October the left-of centre Australia Institute issued its report “Corporate Paedophilia: Sexualising Children By Advertising and Marketing,” attacking the corporate world for aiming at our kids, seeking to turn them into young stylish tarts.

This month another group has issued a stern warning about the same subject: the American Psychological Association. It has just released a report entitled “The Sexualization of Girls” in which it condemns pop culture for the way it is denying young girls their innocence and childhood.

Most aspects of pop culture, be it television, music videos, magazines, advertising, merchandising, or the Internet, are blamed in this study. The popular Bratz dolls are especially singled out, with their fishnet stocking and bikini outfits. In fact, there are also “Bratz babies” aimed at three-year-olds featuring leather and lingerie outfits.

The clothing industry is also doing its bit to sexualise young girls. G-string underwear and lacy camisoles are marketed to pre-teen girls, while five-year-olds are encouraged to buy T-shirts with the word “flirt” on it.

The report says that this tidal wave of sexually explicit material and advertising aimed at young girls has a dangerous impact. Problems such as poor self-image, shame and anxiety, and eating disorders can be attributed to the way our daughters are being targeted by the exploitative marketeers.

And various pop stars such as Christina Aguilera, the Pussy-Cat Dolls, and 50 Cent are also adding to the problem, with near-pornographic music videos and outrageously sexual performances.

Thus this issue is now becoming a concern of broad sections of the community, not just the so-called Religious Right.

Writing in today’s Washington Times, columnist Mona Charen assesses the report. The APA report, she says, focuses “on the increasing rates of eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem among younger and younger girls. Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for example, is now seeing patients as young as 6 with eating disorders. Girls are worrying about their weight and expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies at younger ages.”

She cites one reporter on the state reporter of preteen fashion: “Ten-year-old girls can slide their low cut jeans over ‘eye-candy’ panties. French maid costumes, garter belt included, are available in preteen sizes. … And it’s not unusual for girls under 12 to sing, ‘Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me’.”

Of course girls have always been interested in looking good. But the desire to be attractive to others is starting at younger and younger ages, with girls as young as four now wanting to get the “look”. Says Charen, “There’s a world of difference between simply wanting to look good – little girls like dresses and ribbons and even nail polish at extremely young ages – and dressing like a little tart. Sadly, little tart clothes are out there in abundance, whereas parents of girls tell me it’s a struggle to find simple, age-appropriate attire for the under-16 set.”

She continues, “When girls barely out of diapers are encouraged to wear makeup, skin-tight miniskirts and push-up bras, we’ve left the realm of wanting to look pretty and gone into something sick and tawdry. Whatever we may think of immodesty in grown women, there is little doubt it is disgusting, demeaning and depraved in little girls.”

So what’s a concerned parent to do? “Fathers and mothers, protect your girls’ innocence. Take the TV out of their rooms. Monitor what they watch. Don’t purchase the racy clothes or music or movies. And try a dose of what Bill Bennett and Joe Lieberman attempted to do more than a decade ago – shame the purveyors of smut.”

Quite so. It is time parents took back their daughters (and sons) from the corporate pedophiles, and the immoral marketeers at Hollywood, Madison Avenue and MTV. Of course resisting and challenging popular culture is not easy. Parents need the help of sympathetic governments who will work to regulate or remove some of the more perverse aspects of raunch culture.

But it is good to know that it is not just the “wowsers” who are concerned. When groups like the APA and others get into the act, then perhaps it can be said that we really do have a serious problem on our hands.

washingtontimes.com/commentary/20070225-095903-5529r.htm

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7 Responses to Destroying our Daughters’ Innocence

  • It is shamefull what adults do to children. The advertising and the marketing strategies are thought up, designed and implemented by adults. Most children these days already have increasing incidences of attachment issues and loneliness and ‘looking good’ for a girl does not substitute for a loving father that lives in the same house as their loving mother.

    C. S. Lewis once wrote ‘Human desire will be met rightly or wrongly but it will not go away’

    There is an intrinsic desire of all human beings to be loved and to love and to know and be known by others. How horrible that our children need to feel that they look sexy in order to be sure that they will recieve positive attention and reinforcing affirmation from peers and parent figures.

    Joshua Ferrara

  • As a parent of preteen girls, I can attest to the challenges…

    Marketers here have no moral barometer at all, it seems; only a lust for more market-share and the perverted quest to turn ever younger children into “enightened” consumers.

    And they don’t seem to see anything wrong with the explicit eroticism of so much of their promotional devices.

    Now… how do I explain to my 9-year-old that her dancing — mimicking Shakira or some other teen starlet — would be called “erotically charged”, were she just a few years older, and yet at this tender age, looks just wrong.

    I almost feel like I have to pollute my daughters mind just to explain to her why she shouldn’t dance that way!

    And by the way, she hasn’t learned this kind of dancing from stealing into the living-room late at night to watch adults-only TV. No… she’s seen it at 9:30am on a Saturday morning when the cartoons got boring.

    Very distressed.

    Alister Cameron, Melbourne

  • See also Calling All Fathers: Save the Girls by Kathleen Parker:

    Also missing from the report is the single factor that seems most predictive of girls’ self-objectification — the absence of a father in their lives. Although the task force urges “parents” to help their daughters interpret sexualizing cultural messages, there’s little mention of the unique role fathers play in protecting their girls from a voracious, sexualized culture.

    Fathers, after all, are the ones who tell their little girls that they’re perfect just the way they are; that they don’t need to be one bit thinner; and that under no circumstances are they going out of the house dressed that way.

    It can’t be coincidence that girls’ self-objectification — looking for male attention in all the wrong ways — has risen as father presence has declined. At last tally, 30 percent of fathers weren’t sleeping in the same house as their biological children.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Finally, Bill, an issue we can agree on! While I acknowledge that we are sexual creatures from the moment we are born, I agree that the overt sexualisation of children is a real concern. What happened to letting kids be kids?!

    However, Jonathan Sarfati says:
    Fathers, after all, are the ones who tell their little girls that they’re perfect just the way they are; that they don’t need to be one bit thinner; and that under no circumstances are they going out of the house dressed that way.

    I don’t see why this role is particular to fathers. BOTH my parents told me throughout my childhood that I was ‘perfect the way I was’ (and that I wasn’t leaving the house dressed like that!). Are you presuming, Jonathan, that mothers in general don’t believe their children are beautiful the way they are, and that they allow their children to leave the house dressed inappropriately? Are you perhaps assuming women are more shallow?

    And remember, young girls can still have healthy male role models in uncles, friends of the family, older brothers, cousins and teachers.

    Zenobia Frost

  • Thanks Zenobia

    I think you are both right. Children desperately need both a mum and a dad, and both contribute to their moral development, Yet a mountain of research does indeed suggest the crucial role of fathers in this area and many other areas.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • As an old ‘leftie’ I agree entirely. Unfortunately we seem to live in a Mammonite society, judging by the importance we place on money.

    Would you lobby the government to ban advertising to children? I would.

    Michael Morton

  • Thanks Michael
    I am not sure I would want to see a complete ban, but I think a good case could be made that we really need to tighten things up here, and much stronger restrictions and/or regulations are certainly in order.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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