Go ahead, be gone with it
Let me see what you’re working with
Go ahead, be gone with it
Look at those hips
Go ahead, be gone with it
You make me smile
Go ahead, be gone with it
Go ahead child
Go ahead, be gone with it
And get your sexy on
Go ahead, be gone with it

Justin Timberlake, Sexyback

Did you know? Half of girls between the ages of 12 and 14 say they are unhappy because they feel fat. The average fashion model is thinner than 98% of women in the United States. The average person sees 5,000 ads in one day and one-third of these ads speak directly to beauty and appearance, giving us ideas and expectations about how we should look.

Scarlet Pomers, on Studio 2B

Sexualization occurs when

* a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

* a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

* a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or

* sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization.The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children.Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized.

from the Executive Summary of the Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls

My partner’s daughter just turned 12, so I have a sense of this commercialized ‘girl culture,’ from Limited Too to Star Doll. It’s clearly a systemic attempt to train young consumers, and the web has accelerated the commercialization of every aspect of their lives.

What I always find surprising is that the sexualization is so rarely protested. We would go to these dance shows, in particular, in which girls as young as 9 or 10 seemed to be mimicking strippers or Jason Timberlake videos. The audience would be full of very conservative people– most Christians, no doubt– cheering along happily. It makes you wonder what drives the passivity. Is it that they don’t want to deny their girls the experience?

Meanwhile, of course, this commercialization and its close companion sexualization, has real consequences for some girls. It’s Anarexia awareness week, and Scarlet Pomers, of the TV show Reba, is the latest young actress to talk about her disease, its’ diagnosis, and treatment. “Be comfortable in your genes,” she says.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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