Clothing and media for young girls link to negative effects

By SARAH GALZERANO
Staff Writer

It’s obvious and acceptable that clothing for young ladies and women tend to be sexual. In the past decade or so, clothing for preteen girls has also become sexualized. Now, clothing for even younger (7+) girls is becoming sexualized too, and most parents are purchasing these articles of clothing without noticing what’s wrong with them.

Why? Because sex sells, and this has become so cliché, we’ve started to look past it. We don’t realize that what we’re buying for our children is sexual. Young girls don’t realize that what they’re wearing is sexual- they like all of the pretty factors, and learn to dress/make themselves up from their surroundings (mother, sisters, school, media) without realizing its true meaning, and how far it can go. Studies show that such clothing and accessories can lead to confusion of one’s sexuality, and also many self-esteem issues.

Again, the point here is the growing concern over “sexy” clothing being marketed to girls of an increasingly younger age. Older girls have been experimenting with “sexy adulthood” for decades – it’s natural. The scale for how natural it is for younger girls to be sexual, however, is something that should be limited, because it is real. No girls, of any age, are alone in being told they would look better in shorter skirts, tighter shirts, and skimpier bathing suits.
According to Time magazine, a recent study published in the journal “Sex Roles” exposed that nearly 30% of young girls clothing had “sexualized” characteristics. The Huffington Post talks about another study (in a 2012 article), “girls as young as six years old wanted to be like dolls who were dressed in a sexy way compared to dolls who were dressed stylishly, but covered up. These young girls associated being sexy with being the way they wanted to look, being popular in school, and whom they wanted to play with.” And the American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls released a statement which explained that when girls, themselves purchase clothing that will make them appear more appealing, they are personally sexualizing themselves.

So what exactly is “Sexualization”? According to Lauren Fasig Caldwell, PhD, the APA defines it as a continuum of behavior that occurs when someone values themselves only on their physical appearance, “physical attractiveness is equated with being sexy”, and a person is seen as an object rather than someone who is independent and unique. “Sexualization occurs through three (very important) related contexts.” The first being, as stated above, is when one values themselves only by their sexual appearance. This is called self-sexualization. The second being when people within the girl’s immediate environment sexualize her. This is called interpersonal sexualization. The third being when society suggests that being sexy is normal and important, if you want to do something with your life. The last two are both learnt behaviors.

Multiple APA studies show that girls who are sexualized through learned behavior (whether it’s from parents or society) are likely to experience low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, poor cognitive performance, and bullying (particularly sexual harassment). More often than not, these occurrences act as a domino effect, and can eventually exist within an individual simultaneously.

However, because sexualization is most commonly a learned behavior, parents can prohibit it from affecting their daughters at such a young age. An important thing a mother can do to accomplish this, is to not sexually objectify themselves, in order to set a good example. Schools could also take action with young individuals who’ve already been affected by keeping a watching eye to bullying and sexual harassment, and completely putting a stop to it. Something that would be amazing is if society and the media expressed a different idea of beauty, but this will probably never happen.

Most of you are probably reading this right now and rolling your eyes, because such a majority of girls dress so sexually that it’s considered normal. But somewhere, somehow, there needs to be a limit set, especially for girls who are just children. I know I’m always disgusted when I see a little 8-year-old girl dressed like she’s 20. I don’t know how you couldn’t be.

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