The sexualization of children and adolescents epidemic has been all over the news and across the internet, partly due to the recent announcement from Mattel, Inc and Nickelodeon that Dora the Explorer is going skank, but also because of the new Tattoo Barbie, Pregnant Barbie and other toys for children and clothes that are sexualizing girls and boys at a very young age.
CNN’s headline report “Dora the Explorer Going Skank, Moms Fear” quickly became a hot topic on various forums and social networking sites including Twitter, with users poking fun at upset moms and dads who fear their children are being targeted by media moguls and marketers to grow up faster than children should.
Sexualizing children is not funny and it’s not a joke, and if parents don’t start paying attention to what the American Psychological Association (APA) report found to be the growing trend to sexualize young girls and boys through video games, television shows, movies, music videos, song lyrics, magazines, clothing styles and toys, you’ll find yourself scratching your head wondering what happened to your little prince or princess well before they reach the teen years.
The definition of the sexualization of young girls or boys means to “make sexual in character or quality”, and sexualized images suggest “sexual availability to the exclusion of other personal characteristics and qualities”, which is inappropriate, obscene, and harmful for young children.
Sexualization of Children – So Sexy, So Soon
If you don’t believe me, just try and go shopping for children’s clothes and underwear that aren’t too tight, body-fitting, low-cut, too short, “sexy”, with messages and sexualized images that say things like “eye candy”, “So many boys, So little time”, “Who needs credit cards”, “Mr. Pimp”, “Mr. Well-Hung”, all while hearing your little prince or princess repeat song lyrics like “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me”, “so blow me bitch,” “I rock for topless dancers,” and “I tell hoes all the time, bitch get in my car.”
“Hot Tots” and “Prostitots” are just two of the descriptive urban slang terms being used to describe girls who dress like tarts, as today’s tarted-up society teaches young girls as young as 4 and 5 that body image and looking like sexy lolita’s is important, even before reaching the tween years.
The Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. sees patients as young as six with eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem, as young girls worry and obsess about their weight and physical appearance, expressing increasing dissatisfaction with their bodies at a younger age than ever before.
Young girls who are barely out of diapers are getting a little girl “princess makeover” at kiddy salons, and are being encouraged to wear make-up, skin-tight mini-skirts, push-up bras, thong underwear and high-heeled pumps, to the extent that wanting to look pretty and cute has developed into something sick, demeaning and depraved.
Sadly, some people just don’t “get it”. Some people, including parents, view the sexualization of children as something of minor importance, while the APA report concluded that young boys and girls are growing up to view themselves as sex objects and are more likely to experience poor self-image, eating disorders, depression, academic failure in school, low self-confidence, with increased likelihood of engaging in sexual activity at a very young age, due to the fact that girls who look older tend to attract more attention from boys.
The “Ban Barbie” movement is very real, as is the online petition opposing the new sexy Dora, started by authors of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes, Lyn Mikel Brown and Sharon Lamb, who are asking the SoCal companies to resist giving Dora the Explorer a tween makeover and turning Dora into a skanky Bratz doll saying, Let’s Go! No Makeover for Dora!. The petition asks, “What next? Dora the Cheerleader? Dora the fashionista with stylish purse and stilettos? Dora the Pop Star with Hoppin’ Dance Club and “Juice” Bar?”
“We don’t need any more tween dolls teaching girls that growing up means turning into a fashionista, excited about secrets and crushes and going shopping… Please don’t push this version of what it means to be a teenager on young girls. It limits them, narrows their options, and leads them to think that what matters most about themselves is how they look and what they buy.”
Look Like a Barbie Doll? Look Like Bratz?
Young girls, tweens and teen girls are searching the internet for information on “look like Barbie”, “look like a Barbie”, “how to look like Barbie”, “want to look like Barbie”, “look like a doll”, “look like Bratz” and “Barbie look a like” just to name few. Add “look like Dora” to that “look like” list for girls, who try and copy the look and appearance of Bratz dolls, Barbie dolls (and soon the Dora the Explorer Goes Skank doll), and the battle over Barbie vs. Bratz vs. Dora the Explorer will rise to new heights.
Do you really want your daughter growing up thinking she needs to look like a Barbie doll pop tart? What about your young sons? Boys face sexualization too, as has been seen in Calvin Klein ads, where pubescent-looking boys pose provocatively with perfectly sculpted six-pack abs hawking teen fashion clothing lines, to point out one noteworthy example.
If you don’t have daughters but you do have sons, don’t ignore or discount the effects of seeing or being around little girls who dress like little prosti-tot tarts can have on your little boys. Just because the APA report focuses primarily on girls being targeted with sexualized images and products, with 85 percent of ads sexualizing and objectifying girls in some form or fashion, the damage and harmful effects on boys is of great concern to many.
Parents, read the APA report yourself in its entirety and make up your own mind. Protect your children’s innocence. Take the television out of their bedrooms and monitor what your kids watch, and don’t allow your children to have computers in their bedroom where you can’t monitor what they’re doing online.
Don’t buy “sexy”, skanky, racy, inappropriate clothes, toys, games or other products for your children, and don’t accept inappropriate gifts for your kids from others. Learn to say No and mean No! Be the parent, not their friend.