Taking back girlhood
Thank you for "Pretty in Pink?," the Sept. 26 cover story. As long as our culture considers sexuality to be the primary attribute of being a woman, girls will continue to be objectified by marketing – and will mimic their elders by objectifying themselves.
I have long been disturbed by what I think of as the "Cosmopolitan" trend (after the magazine): Instead of both men and women being liberated from gender roles, so-called liberal thinking and peer pressure increasingly encourage girls and young women to embrace the hypersexuality that used to be the province of only men.
This is neither progress nor a sexual revolution. It is a subtle restatement of feminine oppression. When it is "cool" for men to be compassionate, thoughtful, and communicative, and women to be strong, authoritative, and intelligent, and when sexuality is treated (as it should be) as the secondary and private privilege of an adult, our society will be making progress. And this will be reflected by both boys and girls.
Thanks for the excellent article on the growing problem of young girls being lured by marketers and media outlets into early sexualization, and for the accompanying brief guide to parents, "Rethinking your approach." While the guide was helpful, it struck me as incomplete. I'd suggest a few additional bullet points.
•When your 8-year-old daughter asks you to buy her a padded bra, say no (and explain why).
•When she asks you if she can wear makeup, say no (and explain why).
•When she asks you to buy her thong underwear, say no (and explain why).
•Watch the TV shows your children watch. If you find them inappropriate, explain to your children why they will not be allowed in your home. (Discuss as needed.)
A big part of being a parent is being willing to take charge of your small children's lives. Parenting doesn't mean "just" saying no; it should involve explanation and discussion, and sometimes compromise. But sometimes it does mean saying no. Marketers are sneaky and often unscrupulous, but the only way an 8-year-old girl can wear a padded bra is if her parents allow it.
The article may have correctly identified the major culprit in the sexualization of little girls as unrelenting marketing pressure, but it seems to have misidentified the target as only the young girls themselves – instead of their parents. Since when do 7-to-12-year-olds have $1.6 billion to spend on thong underwear?
The story discusses the most effective way to protect young girls from the forces bombarding them (direct parental involvement) in a passing manner. It's time to teach girls' parents, especially their mothers, to withstand commercial forces as well.
Fletcher C. Downey