Entries from September 2007 ↓
September 13th, 2007 — Body Image & Self Esteem, Media, Marketing and Advertising, Sexualization of Girls
by Tracee Sioux
The American Psychological Association has published a Report of the APA Task force on the Sexualization of Girls.
This 74-page report should be required reading for every mother, mentor, and educator. It contains a multitude of studies and evidence that girls are being negatively effected by being inundated with images and innuendos in all facets of culture that sexuality them.
Sexualization defined as:
* Valued for sexuality rather than other characteristics.
* Being objectified, made into a thing to be used for someone else’s sexual use versus rather than being seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making.
* Sexuality is inappropriately imposed on a person.
Ample evidence suggests that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs, the report states.
* Cognitive and physical functioning. Perhaps the most insidious consequence of self-objectification is that it fragments consciousness. Chronic attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other mental and physical activities. One study had girls unable to do well on a math test if wearing a swimsuit versus a sweater. The boys were unaffected by their attire.
* Sexualization and objectification undermine comfort with one’s own body leading to feelings of shame, anxiety and even self-disgust. Vigilant monitoring of clothing or appearance leads to increased shame about one’s body.
* Frequent exposure to cultural beauty ideals in the media has been shown to be associated with poor mental health including eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem.
* Studies show a link between sexualization and physical health. Girls who reported feeling negatively about their bodies were more likely to smoke and less likely to participate in sports or athletic activities.
* Frequent exposure to narrow ideals of attractiveness leads to narrow ideas about actual feminine bodily experiences like breastfeeding, menstruation, sweating and real sexual experiences.
* Frequent exposure to fictionalized images of sex made girls and women feel worse about real life sex.
Proposed solutions include:
* Formal education about healthy sexual and romantic relationships. Things like dating respect conferences.
* Comprehensive sex education in a human biology sense arms girls with the facts about their biological sexuality.
* Participation in athletics and extracurricular activities not of a sexual nature. Athletics that focus on strength and competence increase self esteem.
* Religious and spiritual practices.
* Girl-centered groups and activities such as mentoring, Girl Scouts, and girl-related after school programs.
* Educating girls about how images in the media are produced and the profit motives behind advertising campaigns.
As a parent, mentor, woman, and journalist I find the findings of this paper to be consistent with what I’m seeing in girls and women.
Culture has meaning, the toys and clothes we allow our children to wear carry significance, the media they are exposed to has consequences. The statistical evidence suggests that perhaps we, as parents, are not taking it seriously enough.
It is my belief, and this is supported by the APA’s report, that mothers are in the best and most appropriate position to impact a girl’s self worth and to encourage a healthy sexuality. It’s difficult to combat an entire culture with media images of sexuality, most of it inappropriate and disrespectful towards girls and women, invading nearly every facet of day-to-day-life.
It’s difficult to draw the line and tune into warning signals our girls give us. My goal, and forgive me if I’m a fallible mother who finds the cultural and beauty myths difficult to interpret myself, is to give mothers a place where they can come and get a perspective that’s a little different from the mainstream. Give mothers a place to sound off about cultural sexualization and how that’s influencing their daughters. I intend to provide some tools to help mothers communicate with their daughters about sensitive issues.
It is our job, as parents, to interpret culture for our daughters.
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September 12th, 2007 — Body Image & Self Esteem, Sexualization of Girls
by Tracee Sioux
The absurdity of abstinence-only “education” and I do use the term education loosely, confounds me. It’s so blatantly anti-girl.
The logic is so extremely flawed. The practice is entirely ineffective in preventing big social problems like teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
From the girl’s perspective, and I do believe girls should have inalienable rights just like any other citizen of this country, they have a right to know the biological facts of their body.
I understand the argument that parents want to tell their children to not have sex. I’m all for that right. It’s a good thing to encourage girls not to participate in sexual activity. But, parents aren’t the ones paying the consequences are they?
To leave girls uninformed about the consequences of sex is neglectful to the extreme.
If a girl is old enough to pay the consequences of pre-marital sex – and she’s old enough for that as soon as her period, which occurs between 9 and 14-years-old then she is old enough to understand how her reproductive system works.
If we educate girls about their bodies they will be better able to decide not to have sex. Accurate information results in sexual and reproductive responsibility.
*Girls a right to know exactly how sexually transmitted diseases are spread.
*Girls have a right to know exactly how babies are and are not conceived.
*Girls have a right to a basic understanding of their own biological reproductive systems.
*Girls have a right to understand their fertility.
*Girls have a right to understand the function of their breasts.
*Girls have a right to understand their monthly periods.
To withhold biological information about the reproductive system is to encourage teen pregnancy and spread of communicable disease and misinformation supplied by teen boys and sexual predators. Withholding reproductive information also results in women not understanding the biology of fertility which leads to lots of heartbreak when they find out they’ve waited too long to conceive naturally.
Babies and STDs are not a consequence of sex in this millennium. Babies and STDs are a consequence of girls and women being uneducated and misinformed about their own bodies.
Take two minutes right now to be an activist for girls’ health by sending a letter to your representatives supporting Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT), along with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), introduced the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act (H.R. 1653/S. 972). It’s a bill that promotes abstinence – and abstinence really is a great thing to promote – but also supplies medically accurate biological information about the reproductive system.
Thanks to the American Association of University Women for supplying this easy letter which encourages our leaders to pass girl-empowering legislation.
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September 12th, 2007 — Body Image & Self Esteem, Media, Marketing and Advertising
It’s interesting that women all want to be the same color, only not the color we are.
Dark skinned women buy bleaching products to lighten the color of their skin to be more beautiful. While white women poison their skin with sun damage and tanning beds to look darker to be more beautiful. (I’m really regretting the tanning, now that I’m fighting melasma with bleaching products so I have one skin tone.)
Does this mean that Hispanic women, who presumably have the ideal medium brown skin tone, feel most beautiful? Or do they have skin-tone issues too?
I like the Olay tag line, Love the skin you’re in.
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September 11th, 2007 — Family Life
by Tracee Sioux
I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center in person, I snapped a photo at that very moment. The anniversary of 9/11 is something everyone on television will be talking about today. They will all be running the most graphic and terrible footage they can find.
I won’t say they shouldn’t show the footage. But, I will say the images that haunt me from that day, and the images still do haunt me, are not the ones I saw in person. They are the ones I saw on television over and over and over. My brain kicked into self-protection mode in real life and I couldn’t even believe my own eyes until the television confirmed it. And television confirmed it with graphic horror shown over and over and over until it now resides as wallpaper in my brain.
It’s important for adults to understand what happened on that day. But, the watching of the footage over and over isn’t good for the mental health. Not good for me, not good for you, and absolutely unfit for children.
Keep in mind that you can DVR shows you want to watch and view them after the kids are in bed. I want to see Oprah’s show on the surviving children of 9/11, but I don’t think I’ll let my kids watch it.
To all the rescue workers out there, I remember what you did. I remember why you did it and I think it’s a disgrace that we, as Americans, have not offered you a lifetime of free health care as you struggle with 9/11 related illnesses. I remember the smoke, the smoldering fire that lasted weeks and weeks. I remember how you risked your health to save any one, any one person you hoped would have survived.
To the leaders who’ve been questioned before Congress for allowing the search to go on too long or whose decisions during that time have been questioned. I remember those missing posters wallpapering the city. I remember how unwilling to give up hope for survivors the families were. I remember the pundits and anchormen using their patriotic banter to encourage the search to go on and on and on. I remember how devastatingly hard it was for the city to look at the thousands of faces on the posters lining the subway stations and fences and accept the fact that they weren’t missing – they were dead.
Every leader who stepped up and made the hard calls and hard decisions should get a free pass on 9/11. There was no handbook, the graphic horror of that day was unprecedented. The shock city-wide and national was real. At least they didn’t curl up in the fetal position and sob like I did.
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September 10th, 2007 — Family Life
by Tracee Sioux
The first week of Kindergarten didn’t go as smoothly as I had planned. Perhaps that’s the problem with having a plan, you get too attached to the outcome and then become disappointed.
Practical problems included the bus taking 2 whole hours to bring my kid home. Two hours is a heck of a lot of time to spend on a bus. We live within walking distance of the school. Literally about 5 blocks. Of course I called the school twice to find out if my daughter was still there, had been brought back, etc. When she finally got off she said all the kids had fallen asleep and had to be carried out by parents. Day 2 same problem. Day 3 I send a note saying I’d be picking her up until further notice. I had talked to several parents who don’t allow their kids to ride the bus for fear of bullies. Apparently, the bullies needed their afternoon nap.
Adding two extra hours on to her school day resulted in emotional meltdowns. Big exasperated shouting and screaming and crying fits. Meltdowns.
I had to go coach soccer without her because she just couldn’t handle an extra-curricular activity. Then we went ahead with a church meeting after school on Day 2 and maybe that was just too much for everyone. She also rejected school lunch and asked me to pack her one. Cheaper and healthier anyway.
Day 3 I picked her up and she was missing her preschool best-friend pretty badly. Not a single one of her friends ended up in her class. I guess they don’t even have recess or lunch as a group. So, I invited her friend over to play. One conflict after another (between us, not between she and her friend) resulted in two pretty major meltdowns. She’s grounded for a week.
She’s was not allowed to play soccer on Saturday. The worst part is that I still had to coach it. Once it was out of my mouth I had to do it.
I sent her to Day 4, Friday, with a massive guilt trip and major shaming lecture. Really sometimes I wish I hadn’t taken an anti-spanking discipline position. Sometimes I think what she needs is to be swiftly smacked in the mouth. That’s probably not what she needs, but it’s what my impulse is. My parents would have gotten out the belt and been done with it. Yes, her behavior was serious enough for a really big consequence. But, she’s 5, what exactly is a really big consequence?
Does external stress excuse really terrible behavior? Does that fact that she’s only doing what we, her parents, taught her to do give her a free pass? Both my husband and I have had really big meltdowns under stress. Does that mean we shouldn’t punish her when she only acts out what we taught her to do?
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