Check out our amazing executive director Dana Edell talking about the sexualization of girls on 20/20 in this clip from Friday, November 25th:
We were so excited about her being on the show that we held a livechat at the same time! We hung out with the SPARKteam, our leadership team, and our allies Jaclyn Friedman, Shelby Knox, and Jenn Pozner to talk about what Dana termed “eroticizing childhood” in mass media. We were also joined by our amazing partners from Pigtail Pals, About-Face, Miss Representation, Women’s Media Center, Hardy Girls Healthy Women, Powered by Girl, New Moon Girls, Shaping Youth, Dr. Robyn Silverman, and Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker’s Operation Transformation. Thank you to EVERYONE who joined us, partner, ally, or first-time caller!
Read the whole chat here, or just check out some highlights below:
SPARKteam member Ness re: Toddlers & Tiaras: “Forcing daughters to do things in the name of ~beauty~ and not listening to them SCREAMING NO sends the message that what other people want from them is more important than what they want for themselves.”
Chatter Mani Nayar nails it while talking about tanning/skin lightening: “This forced tanning stuff becomes all the more tragic when seen in context together with the many parents who try to bleach their children’s skin. … It’s good to mention these two together perhaps as it really shows that at the root of all this objectification and self-hatred lies an unattainable perfection that is meant to keep us inferior.” [For more on skin bleaching and colorism, check out this great short doc Fair or Not? The Snow White Complex.]
Jaclyn Friedman on not blaming Moms: “The phenomenon of sexualization isn’t driven by individual moms. They’ve been pressured, sexualized and influenced, too.”
Jamia Wilson on staying centered: “I received some GREAT advice from one of my friends and “gurus” Meggan Watterson from REVEAL. She told me to get a picture of myself when I was young, happy, “fully embodied”, and focused on all of the possibilities and love I had and the world had for me and look at it whenever I have disparaging thoughts–when I need to be reminded of my power and beauty in a world that tells us that we are notr enough–because we ARE. I look at that picture of me at age 4 all of the time.”
Shelby Knox on success: “Notice: online activists got that padded A&F bikini taken off the shelves. Protest works. We must hold sellers accountable.”
SPARKteam member Carina on the message getting out: “all I hear are gasps from the chairs next to me lol…..we are reaching to our audiences guys :)”
Jamia on parents and the system: “The parent blame is a bandaid on the issue–this is a systemic problem–we’ve got to grasp it at the root and let advertisers know–sexualization sells but we will NOT be buying it. Give us healthier alternatives.”
Shelby on positive role models: “WE must model that there is more to girlhood and womanhood than plucking and pretty.”
SPARKteam member Rachel on marketing to kids: “Capitalism totes personal choice but girls this young LACK THE CAPABILITY to make healthy choices for themselves, plain and simple. To aggressively target this age group is unconscionable.”
Jennifer Pozner on shifting the focus: “”Let’s not focus on moms – let’s focus on the entire media system. ” YES! Jaclyn’s right. That’s been a real challenge for me in the last year: every time I’ve done a book reading or a media interview for Reality Bites Back, everyone (reporters, people in audiences, students, etc) wants to blame the moms who put their kids on Toddlers and Tiaras, or the women who go ON The Bad Girls Club for “representing themselves badly,” as if THEY are in charge of the casting, editing, and narrative arcs that are created very consciously by networks, producers and product placement advertisers. And whether we’re talking about reality TV or the selling of inappropriate and offensive clothing for elementary school kids at big box chain stores, we need to be focusing our attention on the INSTITUTIONS that are responsible, not on the individuals who are manipulated by those institutions.”
Ness on SPARK: “It’s not about sheltering girls or being over protective, but rather giving them the ability to make INFORMED choices and to let them know they are not bound to a small box that dictates how to be a girl.”
Where the dads at? SPARKteam member Bailey noticed that “they left this as entirely being a “women’s issue” – not a single man featured in that segment,” and SPARKteam member Crystal said “Boys and men are definitely affected by this issue too and they need to be involved for sure.” [Turns out there were several fathers and other supportive guys on the chat with us! We were so glad to have them–this is a fight that we can’t win without the help of male allies!]
Unsure what to do now? Check out this list of 11 things you can do TODAY to help us fight back against the sexualization of girls in media. We can’t do this without you!