Monday, March 19, 2007

Spaghetti Straps and Lasagna

An op-ed in the Friday New York Times by Judith Warner is all about the sexualization of young girls and its negative effects:

Bling-Bling Barbies and pouty-lipped Bratz. Thongs for tweens, and makeover parties for 5-year-olds. The past couple of shopping seasons have brought a constant stream of media stories — and books and school lectures and anguished mom conversations — all decrying the increasingly tarted-up world of young girls and preteens. Now the American Psychological Association has weighed in as well, with a 67-page report on the dangers of the "sexualization" of girls.

The report takes aim at the music lyrics, Internet content, video games and clothing that are now being marketed to younger and younger kids, and correlates their smutty content with a number of risks to girls' well-being. It finds that sexualization — turning someone into "eye candy" — is linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression in girls and women. Adopting an early identity as a "Hot Tot" also has, the researchers wrote, "negative consequences on girls' ability to develop healthy sexuality."

This isn't surprising, or even new. But what did surprise me, reading through the A.P.A.'s many pages of recommendations for fighting back (like beefed-up athletics, extracurriculars, religion, spirituality, "media literacy" and meditation), was the degree to which the experts — who in an earlier section of the report acknowledge the toxicity of mother-daughter "fat talk" — let moms themselves off the hook as agents of destruction requiring change.

Then Ms. Warner goes on to put the blame squarely on the mothers' shoulders, because those shoulders are wearing spaghetti straps in the vain attempt to look more like hotties than mommies. Mommies should be more lasagna-like: layers of secrets, all looking admirably put-together and sturdy. That way daddy could just tuck in without having to worry about the strings.

Where did that last sentence come from? Probably from the total absence, once again, of anything having to do with dads in these opinion pieces. It's regarded as risque and novel and fascinating to point out that women try to look younger and sexier than they deserve to be and that their tiny daughters might be trying to emulate this. It's not at all interesting to look at the rest of the family or the society or the corporations to see what they think of all this sexiness chase.

The sexualization of very young girls is commercial. It is driven by the popular culture, the television and the corporations which sell stuff. It even has links to the suddenly much more acceptable view of women as the service stations for blowjobs and the presence of porn (focusing on women's bodies only) everywhere. And it has links to the idea that plastic breasts are necessary if yours don't stick out like sore thumbs or balloons. Young people grow up thinking that this is where the value of girls will be and the sooner they learn to be good at it the better.

Making mothers dress differently is not going to do anything to stop this wave of changed thinking. Go to the stores and look at the clothes that are being offered for sale in the pre-teen girls market. Check out some of those websites for the new sex dolls sold as Barbie replacements. Spend some time on the threads of blogs to find out what the general views are on women's bodies and how they should be employed in sex. Listen to some popular music the kids listen to. Then you will begin to get an inkling of the enormity of the task any parent resisting this trend is facing.

And no, this is not the fault of feminists, although you will hear that claim soon enough from some wingnut writer. Feminists want women to be full human beings, not sex dolls.