Episode Information

The Sexualization of Girls
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
Aired:
03/04/2008
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In this episode:

Where We Live discusses the sexualization of girls.

 

 

 

Episode Audio

52:05 minutes (25 MB)
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Teen Girls at Pathways - Senderos: Photo Catie Talarski Teen Girls at Pathways - Senderos: Photo Catie Talarski
Parents have always complained that kids "grow up too fast." But in the case of young girls, it may really be true.

Last year, a study by the American Psychological Association found that the increase of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising and media is harmful to girls' self-image and healthy development.

Where We Live takes a look at how companies market clothes, styles, music and more to teenagers and "tweens." Do these trends encourage early sexual behavior? What role can parents play in stopping this early-onset "adulthood?"

We'll talk to young people about these issues. We'll also hear from Quinnipiac Professor Michele Hoffnung and Author Sharon Lamb. Her book is called Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes. We'll also speak with Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence.

 

You can contact us via email at [email protected].

Suggestions, Questions or Comments? Add them below!


 
Teen Girls Conversation 1

3:29 minutes (1.68 MB)
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Teen Girls Conversation 2

3:10 minutes (1.52 MB)
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Teen Girls Conversation 3

3:37 minutes (1.74 MB)
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I was listening to the show, and I'd like to say it was a very interesting discussion. One thing I'd like to bring up is that growing up with alt/rocker style I always had pressure from other girls to conform to their standards of beauty. I was picked on mercifully in Middle School up to early high school because I didn't wear the trendy clothes, didn't care about make-up and because I had my own style. I was also taunted because of my high grades, and called a loser, a dork, a nerd, and even told "No one will ever love a girl like you". Now that I've reached adulthood, I see there's now many alternative model websites that have girls with tattoos and piercings. But many of them are skinny and really the same as the blonde hair blue eyed "normal" girls you see everywhere, just with tattoos and different colored hair. Many of these sites have finally made the move to add bigger models to their site, but users usually comment on these girls as "thick" or "fat" or other negative words. It's like you can't win, whether you're conforming to your own style or what the media sells you, it comes down to being thin.

-Heather

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Thank you for doing the story about the effects of the media on girls' development. As an elementary school teacher and mother of a four year old girl, I am very concerned about this problem. I wanted to add that the billboards along our highways in CT should be removed. I get a sinking feeling every time I drive by one of those billboards that advertise the "adult stores," etc, with a picture of a scantily dressed, "sexy" woman. I think it's awful that everyone, but especially children, are subjected to these images every time they travel on the highway - there is nothing a parent can do to protect children from viewing them.

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Dear John,

Thank you to both you and your guests for this morning’s segment on Where We Live. I’d like to comment that I grew up in a wealthy community where moms had augmentation surgery, my 11 yr old girlfriends got nose jobs and my second grade girl scout troop earned a “Beauty Badge” learning to give each other manicures and make-overs. How did I survive? Perspective.

My parents did a very good job at giving both my sister and I healthy doses of perspective. We had access to TV, but with discussion. We also had access to National Geographic. Intellects were cool and Teen People magazines were full of junk, according to my family. We weren’t taught to fear media, but to judge it carefully, not personally. I think my parents gave us the world in balance, which quickly led to my sister’s and my ability to rise above the pressures provided on TV and within our community.

We were also athletic, which gave us many reasons not to subject ourselves to the same pressures of looking “pretty”. We didn’t have the time and being athletic was viewed as an acceptable alternative, giving us positive self-images without being conventionally tall, skinny, blue-eyed and blond-haired.

However, I would caution anyone who claims athletic involvement alone pads girls from the harmful media pressures to self-image and healthy development.

While I felt “cool” and was considered “popular” growing up on sports teams without following the ways of my Glamour-obsessed girlfriends and their surgically enhanced mothers, It was my involvement in sports that later led to an eating disorder. During my freshman year of college my coach assigned me a nutritionist to help me manage a “healthy anorexia” to get my body even leaner and more toned to achieve even faster times in my sport. I was already considered medically just heavy enough to be healthy, but at a new school with many other social pressures, how could I not question my body image reporting my daily eating habits to a critical nutritionist?

Thanks to the perspective my parents gave me growing up, though, I was able to get out after I started to feel “fat” and no longer pretty. I found another sport that actually required me to gain weight, still watch TV and make fun of the obvious media pressures, and read National Geographic. Since, I’ve put on maybe 5 lbs too many but feel as beautiful and accomplished as ever.

I guess the point of my personal story is that this healthy perspective was the best tool my parents could have armed me with, without having to shelter me from the world. Disallowing a TV or encouraging sports doesn’t alone spare a young girl pressures, but allowing her to question the pressures in a healthy way will do more in the long-term.

All the best,

Kate W.