Hello Fellow Bloggers!
As I wandered the streets of Maastricht, aimlessly looking for something to fill my time with, I started to look around me and notice the many billboards that graced the sides of the street. Everywhere I glanced it seemed that there were endless amounts of flawless faced women with beautiful figures piercing me with their doe eyed gazes. Drawn to their stares I moved a little closer to one of the billboards in front of me. Something about this photo was not quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it. As I leaned in to study one of the models' faces, it dawned on me, this girl was no older than sixteen years old and yet she looked like she was at least 25! Her makeup was done in such a way that she looked like a grown woman. Her posture was provocative and she had a 'come hither' look that was emphasized by her perfectly pouting lips. The male models surrounding her were older by at least five years and were extremely muscular giving off the illusion that this girl held sexual power and with it she could do anything.
After inspecting the billboard a little bit longer, I decided to move on before people started to wonder what on earth I was doing. As I strolled onward I began to pickup on something that I hadn't noticed before. Not only did the girls in the advertisements look way older than they really were but so did the majority of the girls on the street! I was astonished as a pack of middle school girls pushed passed me. I watched as one girl, who couldn't have been older than fifteen, dressed in patent leather high heels, a mini skirt with black tights, and a fitted leather jacket skipped passed me. Her youthful face was masked with a layer of makeup that accentuated her large blue eyes and rosebud lips. She laughed hysterically revealing a mouthful of braces, as one of her friends dropped their ice cream cone on the ground causing it splatter all over their shoes while, at the same time, sliding her hand into the back pocket of her boyfriend's blue jeans as she leaned in to provocatively kiss him in front of the crowd. 'Can't wait for tonight, baby' I heard her say as the group slowly dissipated and began to walk away.
Suddenly, it dawned on me: these fashion advertisements were having much more of an impact on today's youth than I thought! How could a young girl who, on one hand has braces, laughs hysterically with her friends, and seems to be totally carefree, be so concerned with makeup and sex at such a young age? What happened to the age of innocence when life was filled fireflies and fairytales? Could it be that the media are slowly taking over as they target younger and younger audiences each year, encouraging them to leave their innocence behind and come into the real world by forcing them to discover their sexuality at obscene ages?
Of course, with adolescence comes rebellion and 'self discovery' and therefore the media can't be blamed completely but they must play some role even if it is just partially. Melissa Magner and Georgia Hall in their article Media, Marketing Creating Early Sexualization for Children, Authors Find discuss the sexualization of children within the media. They reference Diane E. Levine, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. when they explain, "Marketers have long targeted children as potential consumers, and they know that using sex and sexiness is one of the most successful ways to get children’s attention in order to make them want to shop". As a result of the media increasing sex appeal in order to get children's attention, issues are starting to arise in the child's everyday life. "The sexualized childhood environment influences dramatically the social climate in the classroom. It teaches children to treat one another as objects — being judged and treated based on what they can buy and how they look." explain Magner and Hall. The classroom is no longer a place of play and learning, it has instead become a place for sex and sexualized ideals. The media are basically creating a very shallow generation of people who don't really understand the true meaning behind sex and sexuality. Sex, in this sense, is becoming a fashion accessory and in turn a popularity contest. Those with the most sex appeal are the most popular and have the world at their feet. This attitude can cause many deep-rooted problems such as insecurity and low self-esteem as many young girls will stop at nothing to achieve a high status, even it means displaying their body for all to see.
Children are losing their innocence without even knowing it. Sex has become a part of the fairytales and fireflies of childhood. Not only does Cinderella get to ride away with Prince Charming but she now gets to do so in a skimpy dress! Any concept of intimacy and caring between two people is thrown out the window as the new message of 'less is more' replaces it. Nowadays sex is everywhere. Just check out these t-shirts that are for sale:
These are the types of things being sold to young children before they even fully know what any of it means. I mean really, is it necessary that a two year old be wearing a t-shirt that says 'Pimpin' All Over the World'? I think not.
The more sexualized images the media put out there the more likely children are going to internalize them and begin to make them a part of their identity. It is getting harder and harder to monitor what children are seeing especially since sexualized advertisements seem to be everywhere. It is time that the media take a step back and reconsider the message they are sending out to people. Sure, sex sells and I find no problem using sex appeal to sell certain items but it should be held within its limits.
Advertisements such as this one, that basically tell young women that they are objects and should be treated as such is a serious issue. This advertisement uses young people who are clearly teenagers or who have literally just turned 20. The message being sent here is 'less is more' as well as 'the more the merrier'. A young girl who does not fully understand the meaning of sex and what it should be like, will most likely take this advertisement literally and assume that it is okay to be young and participate in such activities. In fact, if she doesn't do so she probably isn't very cool. The sexualized image paired alongside a brand that tends to be popular among youngsters is pushing the message even more, 'if you want to wear these clothes you have to act this way.'
Unless we talk to youngsters about the power of the media, things may really start to get out of hand and talk of childhood innocence will only be a distant whisper on the wind. After all, it is so easy to want to grow up, but once you do, you can never go back.
I would love to hear what you guys have to say about this topic! Do you think the media has gone a little too far in terms of sexualizing children? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments!
Hanna McLean (Community Administrator)
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