New video on sexualization of girls shows influence of media on kids

Tina Wolridge sent me this message:

I work for the American Psychological Association. This is my work project. This video titled, “GIRLS TALK: SEXUALIZATION OF GIRLS”, shows the reactions and commentary of 6 middle school girls towards various forms of media, pop culture, and people who are associated with or directly influenced by over-sexualization of girls.
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I really like the video, and I’m happy Wolridge made it. It’s important to hear girls give their own point of view about what they see and experience in the media. These girls are smart, perceptive, and articulate. They also seem real and passionate, not rehearsed or coached. Watching the video, though, I still feel like these girls believe there is some “right” way that a woman should look. It kind of reminds me of how it makes my skin crawl when I hear people talk about how this movie star or that one is too skinny. I feel like responding to those kinds of comments, “Fuck you. Can you just stop talking about her size?” I understand the point of the focus on appearance in this video, but it still makes me sad that these girls have to spend so much time thinking about this. Maybe that’s part of what makes the video powerful but I wish the emphasis were addressed more directly. Michelle Obama is celebrated by the girls for looking “right.” It’s good to show examples of the positive but can you imagine Barack being celebrated for his outfits? I posted something on Reel Girl a while back from a Vanity Fair article by Michael Lewis where Obama actually says he only wears gray or blue suits because he doesn’t have the mental energy to focus on what he is wearing. I get that. Especially since I’ve become a mom, or maybe it’s also being in my 40s, but there is only so much brain power I have. There’s only so much time. I need to choose carefully what to focus my mental energy on. We all do.

And one more thing this video brought up for me. Sexuality is different from sexualization. I don’t know if these girls know that. I want to end this post with a quote from Peggy Orenstein on this issue. Hopefully, these girls will grow up into women who celebrate and honor their sexuality. Female sexuality should not be oppositional to being smart or successful. Females, like males, shouldn’t have to make that choice. These girls are too young to understand sexuality but I worry that sexualization has already become conflated with sexuality for them. Here’s the Peggy Orenestein quote:

“Let me be clear here: I object– strenuously– to the sexualization of girls but not necessarily to girls having sex. I expect and want my daughter to have a healthy, joyous erotic life before marriage. Long, long, long before marriage. I do, however, want her to understand why she’s doing it: not for someone else’s enjoyment, not to keep a boyfriend from leaving, not because everyone else is. I want her to explore and understand her body’s responses, her own pleasure, her own desire. I want her to be able to express her needs in a relationship, to say no when she needs to, to value reciprocity, and to experience true intimacy. The virgin/ whore cycle of the pop princesses, like so much of the girlie girl culture, pushes in the opposite direction, encouraging girls to view self-objectification as a feminist rite of passage.”