The sexualization of girls in fashion advertising is not a recent phenomenon. Who in the industry can forget that twenty years ago, Calvin Klein – known for his controversial advertising – had 15-year-old Brooke Shields saying in one of his adverts “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins.”
Today the sexualization of children is way over the top. Witness some contemporary children’s clothing by Beyounce which one commentator called “where the playground and the prostitute meet”. Its racy stuff. But there is more who can forget that in April, ‘Vanity Fair’ a featured 15 year-old Miley Cyrus — daughter and ‘the pride’ of singer Billy-Ray Cyrus — in a topless photo-shoot. What were they thinking she is only 15. Clearly they were not thinking but Vanity Fair did achieve what marketing wanted which was to drive sales. Just check the stats of Vanity Fairs sales for that edition. The June issue as reported by ABC Rapid Report sold 435,000 newsstand copies.
It seems there is no end to how far marketing will go and how unthinking they will be if not monitored.
What are we marketers thinking when they release T-shirts for girls with the slogans such as ‘so many boys, so little time'”., thong panties, padded bras, and risqué Halloween costumes. And what are marketers thinking when they release T-shirts that boast “Chick Magnet” for toddler boys.
The problem of exploitation of children is pervasive and something has to be done. But that is another story which I will write about in the next few weeks. In the interim do have a look at websites such as the Campaign For A Commercial Free Childhood.
And read up and get a copy of So Sexy So Soon which is an invaluable and practical guide for parents who are fed up, confused, and even scared by what their kids–or their kids’ friends–do and say. The book is very readable and authored by Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., both internationally recognized experts in early childhood development and the impact of the media on children and teens, They offer parents essential, age-appropriate strategies to counter the assault. For instance:
• Help your children expand their imaginations by suggesting new ways for them to play with toys–for example, instead of “playing house” with dolls, they might send their toys on a backyard archeological adventure.
• Counteract the narrow gender stereotypes in today’s media: ask your son to help you cook; get your daughter outside to play ball.
• Share your values and concerns with other adults–relatives, parents of your children’s friends–and agree on how you’ll deal with TV and other media when your children are at one another’s houses.
Filled with savvy suggestions, helpful sample dialogues, and poignant true stories from families dealing with these issues, So Sexy So Soon provides parents with the information, skills, and confidence they need to discuss sensitive topics openly and effectively so their kids can just be kids
Read about the book So Sexy So Soon
Website of So Sexy So Soon
View an NBC interview with the Authors