Women and girls are under tremendous pressure to focus on beauty rather than brains in a world far too preoccupied with sex and sexuality. From steamy music videos, commercials, and video games, to the Internet and TV shows, we’re bombarded with images of scantily clad women enticing us to buy products or watch some show. It’s all about money. Sex and female body parts can sell anything. But what does this constant proliferation of sexual imagery do to the psyche of young girls and boys?
Mass media is a very powerful medium that I believe contributes to eating disorders, sexism, violence against women and low self-esteem. Low-self esteem can also lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Some boys and men will view women as sex objects needed for vague sexual hook-ups, arm pieces or simply to gawk at as you stroll by half naked. Some men will take their sexist attitudes to the office, so fields viewed as intellectual like philosophy, science, technology, and math will be viewed as too difficult for women since we’re seen as objects, not intellectuals.
Young people must understand they’re being manipulated to look, act and dress a certain way. In addition to seeing far more sexually aggressive women on TV, current pop stars (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Madonna, Katy Perry) promote the sex kitten/Dominatrix image to the point where most of their videos are soft porn. Katy Perry stated: “I like to play the sexy card because it’s fun.” Thanks a lot, Katy, and the rest of you pop stars for your willingness to exploit your bodies for money and then claim your music empowers women. I can only imagine how confusing these mixed messages are to young girls who want to view these women as role models.
Below are tips to help young people thrive in a world that values a woman’s sexuality over her intellect:
- Educate girls about their power to shape their own image by developing self-esteem classes as early as kindergarten. Teach children that women and girls offer more to this world than beauty and sex appeal.
- Educate young boys that they don’t have to be tall, good looking and maintain a body chiseled out of stone.
- Teach children to block out the noise of the world and be brave, bold, and confident.
- Position obtaining a college degree as an expectation, not a choice.
- Organize a women’s film festival so children hear different perspectives from women who are aware of these image issues.
- Teach children to think critically about the images they see and how it makes them feel.
- View positive programming that tells the story of our intellectual achievements.
- Look for teachable moments in everything from the unrealistic body proportions of Barbie dolls to the overtly sexual Bratz dolls or the action and aggression type toys for boys. Make young ones aware of the gender differences in the type of toys available to them.