19th March, 2017
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Like everyone else growing up in the 70’s, I was not immune to the messages that bombarded us constantly from television, the media and our culture at large. Even with the dawn of feminism in the US — and a good amount of opportunity with sports and outdoor time in nature — I still absorbed plenty of questionable information about what it meant to be female. My favorite toy — Barbie — is a perfect example of how we are subtly, yet profoundly, conditioned by unreal, overly sexualized images. To this day, I still crave the abnormally long legs and thin waist of that doll! And fashion magazines are some of the worst offenders in promoting warped ideals of femininity.
Fortunately, I realized at the age of 17 that the only purpose of those magazines was to damage self-image with their unrealistic portrayal of beauty, and to promote a voracious appetite for shopping — selling us products that help us conform to that skewed ideal of “beautiful”. From that day forward, I never purchased another fashion magazine again, and was far happier for it. But kids today (and over the last decade or so) are not as lucky.
While media and advertising has become far more explicit in its use of sexuality, it’s also harder for kids to turn away from the influence of mass media, with 24/7 access to computers, smartphones and social media, and less time in the “real world” (ie. sports and nature). Parental choices today are also quite dubious; infants as young as three-months-old are being targeted with hyper-sexualized clothing, and it’s not uncommon to see toddlers sporting racy bikini swimwear, or four-year-olds wearing clothing that look as though it should come with “a complimentary pole and hooker heels.” Fine examples include the heavily-promoted Kardashian baby line and Elizabeth Hurley’s “disturbing” and “inappropriate” kids bikini line.
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