At Alternet, Tana Ganeva reports on Gigi Durham’s new book, concerning the corporate media’s sexual objectification of girls. Durham characterizes the overall problem as the “The Lolita Effect,” which is the media’s sexual objectification of young girls. Here’s an excerpt:
In 2006, the retail chain Tesco launched the Peekaboo Pole Dancing Kit, a play set designed to help young girls “unleash the sex kitten inside.”
Perturbed parents, voicing concern that their 5-year-olds might be too young to engage in sex work, lobbied to have the product pulled. Tesco removed the play set from the toy section but kept it on the market.
As M. Gigi Durham points out in The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It, Tesco’s attempt to sell stripper gear to kids is just one instance of the sexual objectification of young girls in the media and marketplace. Some of the many other examples include a push-up bra for preteens, thongs for 10-year-olds bearing slogans like “eye candy,” and underwear geared toward teens with “Who needs credit cards … ?” written across the crotch.
Perhaps it’s because I have two young daughters, but this issue has been strongly on my radar for a few years. I truly can’t believe what I see in mainstream stores and on the streets. I’ve previously addressed some of these issues here , here and here.
Ganeva’s article includes an interview of Durham.
Durham was asked what is driving this movement to sexualize young girls, she blames parents for not leveling with and protecting their daughters, but she also focuses on corporate profit-seeking. It’s the
marketers’ realization that they could cultivate cradle-to-grave consumers by targeting very young kids by getting them to buy into the frames that older women have been persuaded to buy into for a long time, such as trying to achieve unattainable bodies and present themselves as highly desirable to men.
What kind of conversations should parents have with their daughters to nullify the harmful effect of the media? Here’s Durham’s answer:
The media are for-profit enterprises, and we need to recognize that from the start. Whatever they do to represent any aspect of human experience, it’s going to be connected to generating revenue. When they represent sex and sexuality, very obviously it’s going to have a commercial motivation behind it… [A]ny adult can start a conversation with their kids, even when they are really, really young, even as young as 2, which is what I’ve done with my kids. Not even specifically about sex, but about the selling intent behind advertising and comparing what goes on in real life compared to fiction and helping them sort out facts. You can start getting them to be critical of the media when they’re very young.