I have some issues with the new study out of Knox College that reported overwhelming numbers of very young girls choosing self-sexualization over a more appropriate choice. I was holding back sharing the links until I had time to digest it more and write about it.
I absolutely want more research out there on sexualization and young girls, and I absolutely want it to be good science. I’m not convinced this is it.
What stood out to me most was that the outfits are too extreme and too opposite each other for me to buy in to the stats coming out of this. I think the questions are leading, encouraging the girls to answer more to what culture expects them to think as opposed to how they truly feel. Also, unless these were children with no paternal influence in their life, I don’t understand how the influence of fathers is completely disregarded in this study.
Maybe my issue is more with how the study is being headlined, because the important factors influencing the research are more notable to me than the “Nearly 70% of young girls choose to sexualize themselves in new study” media sound bites. It seems ridiculous to title something “Why 6-Year-Old Girls Want to Be Sexy” when the “WHY” was never asked during the study, and the “why’s” are speculative conclusions focused largely on the mothers of these girls. It also puts the onus on the little girls. Last time I checked, little girls are the collateral damage of a sexualized culture, not the reason for it. Little girls don’t want to be sexy, they are conditioned to thinking “sexy” equals “to be a girl”. A more appropriate title might have been “How Culture Teaches Little Girls to View and Relate to Narrowly-Defined Sexiness”.
I had a very similar experience with my two kids as the author of this post. My 6yo wouldn’t understand the nuance of a question asking her which girl is “more popular” because that is not a concept or word she knows. My daughter would have chosen both dolls as a choice to play with, because in her mind, the dolls equal people who have feelings and she has been taught to be a friend to everyone.
When Amelia chose the sexy doll for the questions I asked her, I then asked her why. (The “why” of the girls’ choices was missing from this study) She said it was too hot out today and she felt like wearing a skirt.
I agree with the conclusions the researchers made about moms being a key role in girls’ self-identity and push back against sexualization, low media is not a magic bullet (co-viewing appropriate media and teaching values is), getting girls in sports/dance, etc.
I disagree that religion is a buffer (often chastity instruction is equally sexualizing) and I do not think religion is necessary to creating a media literate family. Non-religious women can equally have “high body-esteem” and communicate morals and values. The inclusion of the dance studio girls seems odd to me. We talk frequently about how grossly sexualized many hip hop dance routines and costumes are for young girls. Mothers sign up their daughters for these studios, take them to lessons, and get them ready for performances. I’d like to know more about kind of dance studio it was, because it felt like that element was included intentionally to be able to draw the “sports is a booster shot” element. Girls ages 6-9yo are hugely influenced by their peers, and that was missing from this study.
How did you feel when you read about this study? It just never sat well with me, and I’ve been gnawing this over for a week. Thoughts?