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Too sexy too soon: A mother’s battle against the sexualization of girls

A mother’s take on how sexualization of girls in media affects her daughter.

By G. Tina Wolridge

One of the hardest responsibilities of being a parent to a 13-year-old girl is explaining the sexualized images of young women that are seen on TV and in skimpy clothing, magazines and sexy videos (the list goes on). It seems like all I do is say, “You can't watch or wear this.”

I want my daughter to be valued for her mind, for what's on the inside and for being a good person. I want her to understand that you don't need to get your value from your looks alone. This can often feel like an uphill battle for all parents when the media is so saturated with these harmful images.

According to the report of the APA Task Force on Sexualization of Girls, sexualization happens when:

  1. a person's value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
  2. a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  3. a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others' sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  4. sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

This kind of exposure can harm my daughter and other girls' self-image and healthy development. The report explores sexualization's consequences for their mental and physical health and its impact on their development of a healthy sexual self-image.

Exasperated at the world and feeling frustrated after reading the report, I decided to use my role as a member of Public Interest staff to produce the video Girls Talk: Sexualization of Girls.

I invited middle school girls to sit down and share their thoughts about the sexualized images of girls they see all around them and how they feel about the way girls are portrayed today. My goal was to educate them about the term, “sexualization of girls” and hope they could share their experiences with friends. As you can see, the girls had a lot to say to each other and to the companies that perpetuate sexualized images.

This is a tough battle; however, we can educate and empower our girls. We can give them the power to stand and fight the battle.

Here are some tips on what parents can do (PDF, 124KB):

  • Tune in and talk
  • Question choices
  • Speak
  • Understand and educate
  • Encourage, be real and be a model

Our daughters and future women are on the road to success. Our daughters and girls are listening and we have to keep on discussing this hot topic: sexualization of girls.