There has been a very consistent downgrading of girls happening lately. It seems like one thing after another telling them that their looks are most important, that smarts are to be hidden (if they even had them in the first place) and that they need to hurry up and dress like, behave like, and believe they are ready to be “a woman” all before they hit…kindergarten? Fourth grade? Yes…certainly before middle school.
We know that it affects our girls negatively—as studies highlight links to eating disorders, body image issues, and a host of risky behaviors. And we know, intuitively that consistently stressing looks above all else– and downgrading all other qualities, robs our girls of their true assets and replaces the vacancy with fat talk, poor body image, low self esteem, and insecurity.
But what message are we sending to our boys… about our girls?
Some might argue that boys don’t notice things like girls. Ridiculous. Boys are not stupid nor are they oblivious. So when messages are sent to them in text and in pictures, they see them, learn them, and store them just like anyone else. Especially when boys are young, and brains think concretely, such messages are not seen as sarcastic, cute, or nuanced.
What do you think a boy would learn from seeing a girl in class wearing some of the most recent t-shirts advertised; “Allergic to Algebra,” “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me,” “Future Trophy Wife,” “Diva,” “Drama Queen,” or Skool Sucks?”
The message is sent that our girls are ornamental, that girls who are smart are uncool, and girls like being thought of as over-emotional and snobby—so much so, that they where it proudly on their chest.
And what might boys think when they see girls in advertisements wearing adults clothes and adult make-up, posed in adult positions?
It sends the message that girls are ready for sex even if their behavior counters that claim.
Sexualization of young girls, when “sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person” has been in the media so much lately- from the push-up bikini bras for 8 year olds to the 4 year olds in loungerie to the 10 year old in Vogue, and more. We’ve been yelling “this is destructive to girls!” But what about the boys here?
Sexualization can negatively impact boys because it can affect their relationships with girls, how they see girls, how they respect girls, how they connect with girls, how they empathize with girls and how they value girls.
As sexualized messages become more pervasive, there can be a rise in violence against girls and sexual harassment.
Dumbification. Dramatization. Sexualization. Certainly not the messages I would want to send to my girls…or boys.
What do you think? What message DO you want sent to our boys…and to the girl who looks at herself in the mirror?
Please see the AWESOME round-up by the amazing Amy Jussel about the GREAT messages out there for girls (lots of alternative t-shirts that totally ROCK). And, see chapter 9 of my book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat for my HUGE personal black book of AMAZING companies, people, and products that are underscoring assets for girls. Thank YOU for all you do!