The Facts of Body Image in the 21st Century
- According to Adios Barbie, 50% of 3 to 6 year old girls worry about being fat.
- 80% of girls feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty advertisement (Source: Adios Barbie)
- 80% of girls have tried a fad diet by the time they’re in the fourth grade (Source: Adios Barbie)
- According to Dove, 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful.
These statistics about girls and body image are alarming, and there are no signs that they will change. Media and advertising conglomerations continue to push the boundaries on the hypersexualization of young girls in magazines, print advertisements, and television commercials. Where do we draw the line?
Modelling is a Business
At the end of the day, the bottom line is this: modelling is a business that influences people to buy products. These can include products like garments and shoes, but can also include services and other products.
So, to the young girls and women who are reading this and thinking that all of the models they see in magazines and other advertisements are perfect, the message is: they are not close to perfect. They have flaws just like you and I. The majority of time, these models are struggling with the same body image issues that regular girls go through. I think as human beings, it’s natural for women to not like their thighs or their nose. We are our own self-critic. It’s important to separate yourself as a person from the models you see in ads. It’s always about business, and not meant to make you feel bad.
Why Do Models Look So Perfect?
Photo shoots have a wardrobe stylist, make-up artist, hair stylist, the client, a production assistant, and photographer on set. This team of creative professionals are all there from beginning-to-end with one goal in mind: to make the model look good. Once the photo shoot is done, the chosen pictures are altered through Photoshop and other computer software that enhances features.
That’s why models look so perfect – it’s Photoshop! Just kidding. It’s a combined effort of a team of professionals that construct an image of perfection to sell products and services. Want proof? Watch this TEDx Mid-Atlantic presentation by fashion model Cameron Russell and she’ll fill you in on what it’s really like to be a model.
So stop comparing yourself to the models you see in magazines and on the Internet. Believe it or not, a lot of models (even the most successful supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford) admit that they do not wake up looking the way they do in pictures. It’s just not realistic. So what the media is feeding you is an image of perfection and it has nothing to do with your body image and self-esteem.
What Is Hypersexualization?
According to the Canadian Women’s Health Network, “Hypersexualization of young girls – is to depict them in a sexual way or as sexual objects. It also means sexuality that is inappropriately imposed on girls through media, marketing, or products directed at them that encourages them to act in adult sexual ways.”
With the advent of social media and the demarcation of the age group called “tweens”, retailers have gone full throttle hypersexualizing child models in advertising campaigns, commercials, TV shows, and on the Internet. Is the bombardment of such messages a problem for parents of young girls? It sure is, and even for boys too!
The Hypersexualization of Girls in Selfies and Social Media
Girls as young 6 may be aware that they are expected to be sexual. You wonder why at such a young age, girls would know this? Just take a look at the Internet and social media and the bombardment of sexualized advertisements are everywhere.
Hypersexualization isn’t something new, it existed long before social media came around. But now, especially with the popularity of enormous social media channels such as Instagram, I have to say that hypersexualization has become mainstream.
By simply browsing through the thousands of tweens and young girls posting selfies of themselves on Instagram in their bathrooms and bedrooms wearing hot pants and bras, I have to pose the question: What do the parents of these young girls think of this?
It seems like the generation of millennial girls are consciously hypersexualizing themselves on social media. Instagram has become a virtual land that has churned out millions of girls and young women who thrive to take soft-porn style selfies of themselves on a regular basis. It’s hypersexualization on speed, if you ask me. I guess you can thank Kim Kardashian and the whole clan for that.
But when it comes to hypersexualizing young girls by major retailers and advertising companies on social media, they see no problem in targeting the tween markets with provocative and hypersexual campaigns. It goes back to the famous saying, “Sex sells.” But where do we draw the line between sex sells and selling a poster child as a sex object?
Who Are The Child Models?
In 2011, French Vogue caused a controversy when they featured then 10-year-old child model Thylane Blondeau in a provocative pictorial. The fashion spread caused international concern from parents and child abuse advocates who thought that the images were hypersexalized due to the child model looking like a seductive woman. Want to know more about the 14-year-old supermodel and see the pictures? Watch the video below for the story that caused quite a stir.
What do you think about the pictures of the 10-year-old model? Are they too provocative, or are they fine for the general public? If the parents of the child model are comfortable with it, then should it be considered a problem? Children modelling in magazines isn’t a new phenomenon, but the way hypersexualization is being pushed to its limit is.
What is Corporate Pedophilia?
Advertising studies reveal that children can recognize brands before they can read. So advertising companies, specifically, use child models in both their printed and filmed advertisements to specifically target child and teenage audiences to sell products to. Children make up 70% of parents’ consumer decisions and teenagers control $43 billion of spending power in the U.S.
So what is corporate pedophilia? It is action taken by corporations to sell products to children in a sexual way. In recent years, many corporations and companies have denied using corporate pedophilia to their advantage.
Watch the video below on “The Commercial Sexualization of Children – The Feed” and see how family-friendly magazine “Haven” caused an uproar when they featured a 9-year-old child model on the cover of the magazine.
What are you thoughts after seeing the cover of “Haven” magazine? Do you agree or disagree with the statement that the child model’s hair looked like ‘big hair’ and made the picture suggestive? The editor-in-chief thought that the picture was beautiful and non-sexual. But when they showed the picture to passerby’s, a lot of them thought that the child did look a little proactive, while others said outright that the picture was inappropriate.
Short-Term Effects On Young Girls
So what short-term effects of corporate pedophilia and hypersexualization are there on young girls, specifically, tweens and teenagers?
Watch the video “Sexualization of Teen Girls” below and find out what one teenager’s advice is to young girls about how to deal with the pressures of body image through hypersexualization in the media.
Do you agree with the short-term effects of hypersexualization described in the video? Let’s discuss some of the short-term effects hypersexualization has on modern teenagers today:
- False Values. Studies have shown that hypersexualization in advertisements send the message to young girls and teenagers that looking sexy and desirable is important for validation. Obviously, this notion gives young girls false values. By buying into hypersexualization, young girls and teenagers learn at a very young age that dressing sexy and looking sexual is important for them to be accepted and liked.
- Challenging Clothing Choices. Just like the young lady said in the video “Sexualization of Teen Girls”, she has a difficult time finding clothes where she can dress modestly. With fashion retailers selling tight-fitting and revealing clothing to the tween and teen markets, it’s made girls believe that dressing sexy at a young age is acceptable. It’s no wonder that many school systems have revised dress codes pertaining to what girls can and cannot wear to school because it is deemed inappropriate to wear items such as short-shorts and half tops.
- Materialism = Happiness. Hypersexualized advertisements of young girls drives consumer consumption. It also tells young girls and teenagers that the more you buy, the happier you’ll be. We all know that that acquiring material things does not bring everlasting happiness to a person. It looks like a lot of teenagers don’t buy into mass consumption, check out this blog by Zoe called “Awakening of a High School Student“.
- False messages from young celebrities. Young girls and teenagers turn to celebrities who are similar to their age to see what they’re wearing and who they’re dating. We’ve seen a handful of celebrities like as Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Selena Gomez cater to their target audience: mostly young girls and teenagers in their endorsements and music videos.
Long-Term Effects On Young Girls
Before we discuss how hypersexualization can disturb a young woman’s healthy development into adulthood, watch actress Geena Davis talk about the long-term effects of hypersexualization on young girls and boys.
So what happens when girls and teenagers buy into hypersexualization in the media? Here are some long-term effects:
- Cognitive and Emotional Problems: Hypersexualization undermines a young person’s self-esteem and acceptance of their own body. This can result in poor body image problems and develop into shame, depression, and anxiety.
- Physical Health. Girls and boys who struggle with poor body image or low self-esteem based on what they see in the media are more likely to develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, as an attempt to try to look like the computer-enhanced pictures on the Internet and in advertisements.
- Getting Plastic Surgery While Still Going Through Puberty. This is a new phenomena affecting young girls due to the prevalence of plastic surgery clinics open and affordable to the public. Since hypersexualization presents girls looking perfect and sexual, many teenagers are opting for plastic surgery for breast implants, butt implants, and facial reconstruction, in order to look like models in the media.
- Sexual Development: Research claims that the hypersexualization of girls has a negative impact on their ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image. Low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence can lead to promiscuity, poor performance in school, and alcohol & drug use.
What Can Parents Do?
The good news is that hypersexualization can easily be dealt with if you’re raising girls in the 21st century. Here’s some tips to follow when helping your daughter deal with hypersexualization:
- Keep your kids active. The less time girls spend browsing through magazines and social media, the more the chance for parents to keep them active in hobbies that are non-virtual! This also means turning off the T.V. When girls are active in something that is unrelated to what they look like, such as playing sports, dance classes, arts & crafts, and even Girl Guides they gain self-confidence based on the activity and rewards that are not based on looks.
- Talk about digital footprints. It’s scary nowadays knowing that one provocative picture can be forwarded to thousands of social media accounts with just one click of “Send”. Talk to your kids about the dangers of posting pictures of themselves online. Remind them that any pictures they upload will stay out there forever. I know you’re cringing now, but with so many users ‘sexting’ online on social media, your daughter could be faced with the request to send nude pictures of herself to strangers. Take the time to talk to her about respecting her body online and offline.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is: hypersexualization is saturating the market and teaching girls to be sexual at a very young age. But as parents, you can talk to your daughters about the effects of hypersexualization and help them gain self-awareness. If you and your kids want to shop ethically, check out Organic Natural and Healthy Clothes For Your Little One.
Do you have a personal story about the hypersexualization of young girls and body image? Share your story, by becoming a Trusted Clothes volunteer and help those going through the same.
What are your thoughts on corporate pedophilia and hypersexualization in the media? Is it going away any time soon? Is it harmful to kids? Tell us your comments and thoughts, we’d love to hear from you.