from the February 20, 2007 eNews issue
An American Psychological Association report released Monday has announced what many parents have already observed; advertisers promote sexuality to young girls, often to the harm of their emotional and psychological health.
From plummeting necklines to mini-skirts and tight-fitting shirts, young girls - not just teenagers - are being told that sexy is cool. Magazine and television ads and even the dolls on the market too often present girls in provocative clothing or stances, or have adult women posing as girls. The result, according to 300 studies the APA analyzed over the past year-and-a-half, is that pre-teen girls are facing depression, eating disorders, and an overly sexualized view of themselves.
The report was particularly critical of the Bratz dolls, which are marketed to girls ages 5-8. These dolls wear heavy makeup, have pouty, red lips, and often wear immodest clothing.
"The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls' healthy development," said Eileen Zurbriggen, the APA's task force chairman. "As a society, we need to replace all these sexualized images with ones showing girls in positive settings. The goal should be to deliver messages to all adolescents — boys and girls — that lead to healthy sexual development."
Dr Jean Kilbourne, co-author of an upcoming book "So Sexy, So Soon: The Sexualisation Of Childhood", also believes that gender identity and values are being misdirected by sexualized advertising. She sees a direct link between sexual clothing and a high teen sex rate. Dr Kilbourne told The Daily Telegraph: "You see these clothes everywhere, tight T-shirts for little girls saying 'so many boys, so little time', that sort of thing."
The APA's concern is mostly directed toward young females. However, further studies would most likely show that young men are also affected. Not only do ads place in girls' minds the idea that they need to be sexy, but these ads also present to young boys an unhealthy view of what is feminine. Boys' expectations of what girls should wear are probably affected by these ads as well.
Unfortunately, girls may not realize how sexualized their views of femininity have become. Many girls just think that what they are wearing is "cute" and do not realize the homing beacon they have become for sexual predators. They need to know that even men with strong morals can get the wrong message when girls wear sexually-stimulating clothing.
Parents do not need to let their girls be prey for a sexually charged culture. They can avoid buying their daughters provocative clothing or dolls. Beyond these things, however, parents should lovingly foster in their daughters and sons an appreciation for a Biblical view of feminine beauty. Fathers are important in their daughters lives, affirming and loving them and letting them know their value does not depend on looks. Parents should teach their children that modesty demonstrates respect; a respect for the God who created them as unique treasures, a respect for their parents, and a respect for themselves.
A sexualized culture too often presents girls as sex objects. Girls and boys must be taught to respect women as precious people for whom Christ died - and never as objects to be used.