Two stories that have received a lot of attention lately have caused me to have more hope for our young girls. I’m speaking of Mike Jeffries, owner of Abercrombie and Fitch, and his comments about fat people not being welcome in his stores, as well as the outcry over the ways the Disney Company changed the lead character from the movie Brave, Merida, when they added her to their princess line of dolls. Here’s why I am more hopeful.
The best way to change the way the culture is sexualizing and objectifying girls at younger and younger ages is to raise our awareness of how universal and ubiquitous the detrimental messages and images about women are. I hope every parent becomes more cognizant of just how omnipresent these unhealthy images are. They are seen in most mall windows, magazine ads, TV shows, movies, and all over the internet; they are everywhere!
When you notice them, point them out to your daughters and then help them make sense of them. Ask them questions about why companies would present sexual images, and guide them in understanding that what they see in these ads is not real. All girls need to know that the girls and women they see in these advertisements have been airbrushed and photo-shopped, and that almost no one looks like that. Thus they don’t need to internalize them as the expectation they are to live up to.
Having this awareness will make it easier for girls to accept that the way they look is just right for them, and to spend less time comparing themselves to false images. It’s a process for girls for sure, especially as they maneuver through the challenging middle school and high school years, and in particular the many changes in their bodies brought on by puberty.
But being media savvy takes some of the unnecessary pressure off of them. That is why I am more hopeful today. Parents are coming to the realization that we have a role to play in educating our girls about all of the images that infiltrate their lives. Girls will not become victims of them if we teach them to take charge of them.