Imagine looking at an advertisement with a woman propped up on a sink with her legs wrapped around a man in a towel – then, imagine a young girl seeing that same image. Most people see this image and think this is an advertisement for a sex product but it is an advertisement for Candies’ perfume. Advertisers use associate principles in their ads. In this Candies’ perfume advertisement, market researchers learned that sex sells so they associate their product with the cultural value that has a positive connotation on their product sales. This is Candies’ market strategy most of these sexualized images have very little to do with the product they are selling.
Candies’ products used famous-person testimonial to attract buyers. About 10 years ago, young pop stars like Britney Spears or Fergie were used to promote their shoes. Today, they are using Disney stars like Vanessa Hudgen (age 23) and Hayden Panettiere (age 22). The image Candies’ has developed, is using grown woman to look like young girls. The creative director and design team dress these young adults in bras and panties with frill, ruffles and bows or cute pastel colored baby-doll dresses. Often, they will have their fingers in their mouth, blowing bubble gum or licking a lollipop. Also, they pose them in a sexual manner doing household activities like ironing or they will be posing in a child-like manner for example, spilling milk. Candies advertisements are just one of the examples of how woman are sexualized in society through media.
Often, people are numb to these sexualized advertisements because these ads are normalized in our society, but they shouldn’t and can’t be ignored because of how young girls are interpreting and mimicking these images and ideals? This paper will looks into: Issues of sexualization. What are ways media sexualizing girls? What are the effects of the sexualiaztion?
Children ages 2-7 see average of 17 minutes of advertising a day (about 38ads). Annually, they see 13,904 ads which, is nearly 106 hours of ads. Children 8-12 years old see 37 minutes of advertising a day (about 83ads). Annually, 8-12 year olds see 30,155 ads, that is, about 230 hours a year. Children 13-17 years old see 35 minutes a day of advertising (about 79ads). Annually, 13-17 year olds see 28,655 ads, nearly 217 hours a year. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2007) The Kaiser family foundation found these are the numbers of the overall exposure of advertising among children on all topics. Children are constantly exposed to media’s images.
In media, sexual images aren’t wrong if they are portrayed appropriately to the correct audience but “the ultimate consideration for regulators appears to be whether such material is ‘acceptable’ for the potential target audience.” (Buckingham and Bragg, 92) It’s an understood fact that ‘sex sells’ but advertisements are going beyond the usual. Especially when, teen idols like Britney Spears and Vanessa Hudgens are the posing provocatively to grab the attention of young consumers for product sells. Children are a target to be marketed to.
- Valuing a person only for their sex appeal and sexual behaviors,
- Imposing the standard of sexy=attractive on someone,
- Sexually objectifying a person, meaning that the person is seen only as something to gratify someone else’s sexual desires,
- Inappropriately imposing sexuality on someone (for example, implying sexuality or sexual behaviors before they are mature enough to understand sexual activity).
It could be argued that these sexualized advertisements are a form of ‘art’. It is a display of the human body, much like the statues in the historical Victorian era. But, those statue and images, bestow a philosophical discourse that justifies bodily displays. Thus, those images do not display unrealistic body images, unlike the advertisement girls see every day. The bodies displayed in most sells ads are often used merely to titillate. These superficially displays of women are unachievable, despite what all the advertisements say. Girls can start fulfill their dreams of becoming beautiful with, “My Dream Make-up Set – Princess Make-up” at age four, according to the toy label.
These ads aren’t showing girls that they are human beings but that they are objects to be made better. Jean Kilbourne touches on the idea of hegemony. That media economics creates the ‘normalcy’ of what society thinks is valuable. By ad, after ad, girls see and are told what is normal or what they should look like, and how they should talk and act. Lite skin color, thin, perfect straight hair, make-up, flawless, beauty, and if, you don’t look like that – then, advertisements show the product that will help you to achieve those VALS. This is exploitation and objectification to sell. Warped and perverse could be better words to describe the sexualize advertisements or images displayed in the media.
Propriety, ideology, and spectatorship – what’s decent, what’s the message, and what happens when you look at an image? These are terms and questions are how someone views media when they become media literate. How media is being produced and circulated can be manifested simply as ‘selling sex’ to young girl. Clearly, this discourse invokes the prospect about the media effect. Although, the concern here is not so much about the moral consequences of the sexualized images, but more so about the attitudes or values they might be seen to promote. Media literacy is cognitive learning lesson. Young girls do not have a full understand of the message they are seeing. In accordance to the social learning theory, girls will see these images and will mimic them as accurately as possible.
Dress-up is in active many children take part in, boys become Super-man, fire-fighters, or a cowboy – girls become princesses, mommy, or Barbie. This has been seen as harmless but why aren’t little boys playing care-takers and little girls playing cowboys. Yes, it in part has to do with psychology or genetic differences and body make-up but there is a bigger picture, or media picture, that brings up a different prospective. That media is making discussion for us starting at a very young age. In many advertisements, boys will be captured running or doing more lively forms of playing. Girls will be captured in more submissive poses like playing sitting down and standing still. When young boys and girls are together in pictures the boy is always taller with a masculine poses, the girls will appear gentle with a soft smile. Kids are very aware that boys stuff is for boys and girls stuff is for girls and playing with or wanting the other genders product is thought to be odd. Media lays the guidelines of how we should be and act. Girls learn that they should fulfill stereotypical role of what a woman should be at an earlier age through advertisements, TV programs and even the most thought to be harmless media, Disney movies.
Watching the stories unfold in Disney Princess films is always the same ideals of male and female relationships. Jeff Brunner created a visual image called, Disney Princesses, Deconstructed. The visual shows the Princesses with descriptions of their life roles and Brunner, nails down the stereotypical role of each of the Disney princesses. He describes Princess Jasmine in the film Aladdin, “This princess must get married to satisfy the requirements of the law. Her reluctance to do so causes her powerful father no end of trouble. She is enslaved by a powerful man and is only saved by the wit of a street rat.” Jasmine is an object in a game of power between men. Another example is from Cinderella: “she is saved from terrible living conditions by a prince. He does this, not because she’s such a hard worker, but because she is beautiful.” Cinderella is a servant to her step-mother and sisters. This shows girls that a woman, as close as your mother will cross and hurt you – but there is hope because if you are beautiful you will be saved from all the evils of the world because a man will find you. Arial from Little Mermaid “drastically changes her physical appearance so to be more attractive to a man. The price is that she can’t speak. No problem, she has nothing of value to say anyhow.” This shows girls that the cost of beautiful and appearance outweighs all other things. Also, it is better to be seen, not heard and it’s good to sacrifices everything you know and love to be with a man.
Brunner may seem forthcoming and a bit over the top, but the truth is that these are the bold plot lines of these films. Be beautiful to be discovered and save by a man. Each of these Princesses are powerless unless a man is standing beside them as a protector. In most Disney films it is a kiss that is the key to unlock happiness. Each princess uses beautiful and sex as their salvation. Young girl think that this is the mainstream views of how life is.
The story of Lolita is about a tween girl becoming a victim of child sexual abuse by her stepfather after her mother passed away. The reason her stepfather married her mother is because he was a child sexual predator and he prey was Lolita. Gigi Durham, author of The Lolita Effect, relates Lolita’s stepfather or attacker to media. Lolita had no choice to becoming the subject of sexual abuse because that is how her step-father viewed and pursued her. Much like the girls today are victims of sexualization by the media. “Girls are the targets of media and marketing corporations: they don’t originate these fashions and these projections of sexuality.” (Durham) Media is objectifying and dis-empowering girls with image similar to pornography and erotica. Girls are taught that they should have skinny bodies and that they need to be consumers of clothing, make-up, and accessories in order to look “pretty,” “grown up,” and “sexy.” Girls have toys like, Barbie Lingerie, who comes dressed in sheer black lingerie and stockings. A similar toy is Brats dolls, which also sells girls on consumerism and sexiness.
In related news, a child lingerie line was created in France. Jours Apres Lunes is marketing its product with photos of young girls with big hair, posing on a bed or sitting on top of a makeup table wearing bra tops and panties. It is a cross over from adult wear into the kid’s zone. But, this doesn’t hit to far from home because American parents in search for stardom will do anything to get their children into the spot light, which is demonstrated in the show Toddlers and Tarras on TLC. Parent are displaying their children in adult make-up and hair, dressing them up as Dolly Parton in a padded bra and encourages the child the dance around a stage. There is a fine line between girlhood and womanhood that is being crossed.
Childhood is full of imagination and play, but what happens when manufactures and media start to direct your child’s imagination. Toy and products designers are generating consumerism, as well as the creating products that are sexualizing little girls. In the film, Killing Us Softly 3, Jean Kilbourne is surely right about media images are telling us who we are and how we should be. She is aware that advertising is the foundation of the mass media and the primary process of the mass media, is to sell products. But, it also sells values, images, and concepts of love, sexuality, romance, success and most important normalcy. One of the key ideas is that media lets woman know that looks are most important.
Sexualization of girls is a topic that needs to be explored more in depth, because it is an “increasing problem and harmful to girls.” (American Psychological Association, 2007) Today’s children are bombarded with large doses of sexual content that they cannot process and that are often terrifying. They are immersed with overwhelming amounts of mature sexual content that is raiding them in a primeval time of adolescent growth. It is speeding up the girl’s childhood causing a large amount of health issues. Their cognitive and emotional development is affected, pertaining to the idea that objectification undermines confidence. Sexualization affects their mental and physical health, causing eating disorders or depression. Finally, sexualization has a negative impact on girl’s healthy sexual self-image which affects their sexual development.
There is no need for young girls to be sexualized through media. Images are telling girls that sexy is good at far too young of an age. Media needs to change how they idealize youth or young girls will be force into unhealthy develops younger and younger.
Same up to date:
Women’s interest Blog http://www.becomingabetterwoman.com/
Buckingham, David and Bragg, Sara. Young People, Sex, and the Media the Facts of Life? Great Britain: Rowe, 2004. Print
Food for thought. (2007). A Kaiser Family Foundation Report.
Harman, Amy. “Sexualization of Young Girls Round-up and Twitter Party.” Becoming a Better Woman from the Inside Out. 9.6.2011. 11.3.2011 (http://www.becomingabetterwoman.com/2011/09/sexualization-of-young-girls-round-up.html)
Kilbourne, Jean (Producer), 1987. Killing Us Softly 3, Advertising’s Image of Women[DVD]. Cambridge Documentary Films.
Olfman, Sharna. The Sexualization of Childhood. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2009. Print.
Olfman, Sharna. Childhood Lost How American Culture Is Failing Our Kids. Praegar Publishers, 2005. Print.
Sexualization of Girls. American Psychology Association.
(2007). Sexualization of girls harming self-image and healthy development. The Hindustan Times,
Silverman, Robyn. “Dr. Robyn Silverman Today Show Parenting Export – Controversial Loungerie.” Today Show, NBC. 8.18.2011. Youtube. 11.3.2011 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ydhb79YhdFs>
Stardy, Marin. (2007). Sexualization Harms Girls. Mothering, Iss.142. 31.
(May.8.2008). The Lolita Effect. 11.1.2011. www.tellinitlikeitis.net/…/the-lolita–effect-the-media-sexualization-of-young-girls.html/