Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Lolita Effect at Random Acts of Unkindness

On Wednesday, May 28th, 2008, Dr. Gigi Durham, the author of a new groundbreaking book entitled The Lolita Effect, The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What we can Do About It, will be at Ello's blog for a Q&A session to talk about her new book. Please make sure to stop and interact with Dr. Durham on a very important issue.

I don’t have daughters, but I have a seven year old grand-daughter. Half the time I don’t answer when I hear the word, “Grandma” because obviously, that can’t be me. I don’t bake, I have a bad habit of swearing (I’m trying to get over it, really), I eat popcorn for dinner if I feel like it and in my head I’m still 30. But apparently the Grandma gene is in me somewhere and I’m on the hunt every Christmas for practical things, like boots, jackets, hats, pajamas and school clothes. It never ceases to amaze me that the clothes for tiny little girls look like miniature versions of something you’d see on a pole dancer.

I’m not sure where the discussion with Dr. Durham will go with regard to the media’s culpability, but I do know that product is marketed and sold to buyers and if people weren’t buying tiny stripper outfits, makeup, nail polish and cell phones for children, nobody would be selling them.

There are two problems I have with the way little girls appear to be marketed and sold to, and this trend isn’t altogether new.

The first is the sexualization of children. Enough said about that. Clearly, it’s hard enough to be a child without the confusion of being in an adult’s costume.

The second is simply the superficiality and the consumerism of raising girls to believe that they have to be pretty and skinny, above all else. When I shop for toys for my granddaughter, I have to sift through all of the dolls, toys and games that are plastered with photos of Hannah Montana and High School Musical. I am the relative who (naturally) stocks the kids with books, but little girls don’t want to read about little girls. They want to read about big girls.

Why isn’t there a role model who is smart, who cares about the environment, who cares about other people and who cares about animals? Isn’t there a character who is trying to find a cure for cancer, solve world hunger or spread peace on earth?

The good news is that I know that not all little girls are like this. I read about kids (mostly here) who want to save the tigers and who recycle and who are kind to other children and it makes me glad that I know all of you. Thanks to those of you who take such care to raise your sons and daughters to have a real sense of who they are of their true worth.

Now don’t forget to stop at Ello’s tomorrow…


Carleen Brice said...

Thanks for the heads up!

Ello said...

Thanks so much Lisa!

But wait did you say you are a grandma? NO way! I saw your pictures! You are lying!! Ok youngest grandma in the entire world!

But you bring up the bigger issue that I definitely believe will be discussed tomorrow. And that is the whole issue of role models and our girls self esteem. the overemphasis on looks instead of other more important character traits. I am so passionate about this and am really looking forward to our live discussion. My blog goes live at 12:15 tonight (for the sake of my European readers!) and I hope we have a big turnout of questions and commenters from people so that a full and completely thorough discussion is had.

Lisa said...

Carleen, I'll see you there.

Ello, You are very welcome! Technically, I am a step-grandmother. My stepson is 27 and I am 46, so although I could be a biological grandmother, I am not.

I'm really glad you're hosting this very important discussion. After I learned you were doing this, I made the mistake of looking into one subject that creeps me out more than almost any other -- child beauty pageants. This is an entirely different subject, but it all adds to my mystification over why parents would want to do this to their daughters. I am sure you will have plenty of lively discussion and you know I'll be there!

Leatherdykeuk said...

I despair of it. My 10 year old girl wants to be 21 NOW and my 9 year old step-step grandson is more mature than his mother.

SzélsőFa said...

A great heads up for a very important issue, Lisa!
I happen to believe that there are those other role models you referred to, but we have to get active and look for them.
It's much easier to take what we get for granted (wait, that is not even true - people pay hard cash to get their kids spoiled.)

debra said...

Thanks for linking to Ello's site, Lisa, and for addressing this issue. As the mother of 2 girls,almost 20 and 16, I am so aware of the over-sexualization of girls. My oldest is a college student in NYC whose major is Culture and Media.
My youngest frequently tells me that she does not want the media to control her of to define her sense of style.

CindyLV said...

One young Grandma to another (I'm 46 also), thanks for bringing this ugly phenomenon to light. I agree that we bring entirely too much sex to childhood, then watch in dismay when children are sexualized. My Mom wouldn't let me play with Barbies because they had boobs. I never saw the harm in a simple doll. Two years ago, while shopping for Christmas presents for my nieces, I was appalled at the Exhibitionist-Barbies on sale for $4.99. I asked the checkout clerk if that was the hourly rate. Living as I do in Sin-City (Vegas), kids here are exposed to smutty billboards and commercials depicting semi-nude contortionist women. I support the Moms who petition against such displays. Thanks again for spotlighting! I'll be checking out Ello's blog.

Jennifer said...

I'm not a mom (yet), but I often wonder how I'll deal with this issue when and if we adopt. It makes me sad to see small children wearing "Porn Star" t-shirts, or jeans with writing across the back side. I made myself watch one of those documentaries on the child beauty pageant circuit, and felt so nauseated afterward. Children can hardly be children anymore.

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

My childhood was pretty innocent, and definitely less stressful. It seems that children are forced to look and act in certain ways from very early on, instead of being allowed to just be. Why is this happening? Is it all simple because of the new-found spending power of tweenies? Hey cindylv, the streets of Las Vegas are certainly not a place for children - it's littered with leaflets selling sex! Ew.

Lisa said...

Rachel, I know what you mean. Unfortunately, I don't think the genie can be put back into the bottle.

Szelsofa, I think we do need to seek out and recognize good role models. We know the names of far too many people in our culture who don't represent anything meaningful and we know the names of far too few who do.

Debra, I was thinking of you when I wrote this last night because I know that this was probably something you never had to battle in your house. From everything I know of them, I'd love to meet your girls (well and you and your husband too, of course).

Cindy, I can't even imagine trying to contend with the exaggerated sexuality in Vegas with kids -- although I'm pretty sure that people who actually live there don't spend much time on the strip, right?

Jennifer, Ouch. I hate seeing those girls in clothes with slogans across them too. I watched the HBO documentary, "Living Dolls" (probably the one you saw too). I just kept shaking my head and asking, "why"? I don't think I've ever piled on as much makeup as they put on the two-year olds -- or worn a wig. Why would anyone do that to a child?

Electric Orchid Hunter, Kids don't even play anymore. It's an entirely different world from the one I grew up in. Kids can't go outside alone, all of their entertainment is electronic, appearance is everything, they are overloaded with school and extracurricular activities. I am sad for them. Cindy has to cover her ears (although I know you're not a native Cindy) -- When I think of Las Vegas, I think of what all of the fundamentalist Muslims must picture when they think of the west -- if they could even imagine it. I loathe Las Vegas and everything in it. It is everything in phoniness, consumerism and excess that I hate about American culture. Naturally, it is a cheap place to hold a conference or expo and I have two customers in Las Vegas, so even though it's the last place I want to go, I end up going about every other year.

The best thing in Las Vegas is Cindy :)

CindyLV said...

Oh Lisa! You're too sweet! Thank you for the compliment. But now I feel a misson coming on. I'll have to blog my ten favorite things about Las Vegas so you and your readers will know that there is, in fact, a whole city outside the strip where some of us even keep our *#*#*#*#'s covered up with more than just sparkles.;^D

Yellow said...

When I was younger, there was a fasion to wear layered skirts, and my mum, being broke, was ging to make me one. Unitl she found out they wee called Rah-Rah skirts. She drew the line at that. This was the same year that kids in the UK were wearing 'Like A Virgin' t-shirts. If you go to mu local town centre on a Saurday you will see kids, and their mothers, wearing almost identical outfits. I'm all for women on a night out dressing in sexy St Trinian's garb, but I shudder when I pass girls heading to the senior school with skirts up their arses, walking in heels with sexy wifggles. They're 11 years old, and probably not even menstruating at that point. I hate Bratz, but Hermione in Harry Potter is cool. My 4 year old daughter loves Milly Molly Mandy and Pippi Longstocking. I'll never buy her a Bratz book, ever ever, I swear to you all.

ChrisEldin said...

THanks for stopping by my blog, and for the kind words about my story piece!!

I linky-loved you back.

Vesper said...

I'm worried about these issues, Lisa. I have two daughters, 7 and 4 - I feel they are bombarded every day by wrong messages and the praise of false values.

Melissa Marsh said...

Thanks for the link, Lisa. I am extremely proud of my daughter - sometimes to the point of awe - that she has such a strong belief in saving the animals and being her own person. She is my inspiration. :-)

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