Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The self-esteem of many young girls is CONTINGENT upon their ability to please boys



I was able to see the documentary above, "What a Girl Wants," at a film festival in 2000, when it had just been produced. It affected me profoundly. And this was before I had children...

I contacted one of the filmmakers, Elizabeth Massie, who also lived in Los Angeles. I told her that I wanted to show the film to my book club. She gave me a copy of the video. If you ever get a chance to see the film in its entirety. Do.

These are some of the Key Points of the documentary:

When young girls are asked what their dreams are, and what they want to do with their lives, they reveal goals that are varied and ambitious. The media, however, present limited and narrow definitions of what it means to be a girl- definitions that tend to revolve around beauty, popularity and sexuality.

The self-esteem of many young girls is contingent upon their ability to please boys.

Gregory Dark, who directed Britney Spears' video From the Bottom of My Broken Heart and Mandy Moore's video Walk Me Home, has directed more than forty pornographic films, including Sex Freaks and Shocking Truth (1996) and Psychosexual (1997.)

Roger Ebert said, "Teenagers used to go to the movies to watch adults having sex. Now adults go to the movies to watch teenagers having sex."

"In recent years, mainstream media have increasingly cashed in by sexualizing young girls and teenagers. More and more, we see teen models and icons captured in seductive poses that draw attention to their bodies. When teenagers emulate the celebrities and models they see again and again in media - whether in dress, style, attitude or behavior - they are in effect emulating a carefully crafted fiction that is expressly designed to be consumed as an object."

How do YOU feel about this?


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17 comments:

blognut said...

This drives me crazy! As the mother of 2 teen girls, I am constantly talking to my girls about this issue. They've heard me say, at least a million times, that their value does not depend on how they are viewed by boys/men, but how they view themselves. So far... so good.

Professor J said...

I think it's sad. And scary.

Reluctant Blogger said...

I am rather glad I do not have any young daughters. My own daughter seemed to escape all this. She has always been self-contained and unswayed by peer pressure - rather contrary in fact like me. But other than, as I have said before, the fact that we don't watch TV, I can't think why she would have escaped this way of thinking that seems so prevalent. I suspect things were not so bad back then when she was younger.

Mary Alice said...

I have two teenage daughters and one teenaged son, I feel overwhelmed and disappointed by this. When this is the prevalent depiction of femininity how do we compete? How do we create a louder and more relevant message for our young women….and for our young men?

Our popular culture informs our youth. It teaches young women HOW they should be viewed, how they should look and behave in order to be popular with males….and it teaches young men how to view young women.

The current popular culture message continues to devalue females. It continues to hold females up as having value through their ability to provide pleasure for males. Visual, sexual, whatever. Consequently this cultural definition of feminine value….not only devalues YOUNG females, but it further devalues OLDER females….who have lost relevance along with the obvious loss of fertility through age.

Unless we are young and nubile and sexually attractive for the purposes of mating we have no relevance in popular culture. This is the message. Not that that everyone wants to have actual babies…but that is the biological issue behind the sex drive and the perceived attractiveness of the nubile young lithe female body held in such high cultural esteem.

skywind said...

Self-esteem is a person in this world have on the value of the direct embodiment. The reason why people become a people, that is, because he (she) has self-esteem.
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Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Wow. This is so true and it just keeps getting worse. I struggled with this issue as a girl and it has crept into my adult life as well. It scares me for my daughter and just reinforces that I need to keep teaching her and my sons what the truth really is.

Librarian Lee said...

I have six daughters. I have thought, and continue to think about these issues - almost constantly. Very likely I have nothing new to add to the conversation but I did have a thought that won't leave me in the last few weeks.

I've been looking at lots of images used in scrapbooking and altered art. There are loads of vintage images of children. And do you know, "art" that others consider attractive, pretty, and the word some use is innocent - I consider almost vile. It often makes me sick to my stomach how young girls are sexualized. I find it disgusting and yet, no one else seems to notice! is it just me? And, has this been going on maybe forever and just seems more so now b/c we're experiencing an explosion of information and resources? I can't stop thinking about this.

Margaret said...

I feel a couple of different ways. One, I really appreciated seeing that video link, so thanks for posting it. But I was actually very impressed by those kids' abilities to reflect on what they've seen in a critical way. Those are public education kids in LA! And they are thinking! And they sound really smart! That's a good thing, right?

Now, like Reluctant Blogger, we don't really do TV. We don't have cable. A big TV moment is watching Wheel of Fortune. We do watch DVDS. As a consequence, I think my 11 and 13 year old girls are a bit innoculated from this stuff, although I still want to cover their eyes when we walk by a Victoria's Secret. But my own kids, today, at this moment, are in a healthy place, and I'm grateful.

Again, this was really illuminating. Thanks.

Angeline said...

as much as it hurts a part of my heart, I must say its true...very true...
my nieces are only 8 and 9 and they are not completely exposed to so much of 'nakedness' over here, yet, in their mind and their speech, its always going around those 3 words you had mentioned.

Jen said...

The whole thing makes me sad and angry at the same time. We can blame the media, and I do to an extent, but if no one watched the crap they are selling, it wouldn't be on TV, or in the movies. I guess I mainly blame the parents who allow their children to watch it. Also, parents are too afraid to have the serious discussions about sex and respect that are desperately needed.

pasadenapio said...

What this girl wants is for those girls to learn how we baby boomer professional women paved the way. We had to unlearn all the girlie-girl silliness that had been ingrained in us. There was no other way to make it up the ladder in corporate America in the 1970s. It was damned hard work and now it's being undone. Sadly these girls today don't know the difference.

Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas said...

I feel sickened. And glad my daughter is 20 and we're at least through the teen years.

g said...

Yeah, this actually sucks. I think I first started getting disturbed by the whole "girls gone wild" phenomenon. Not by the fact that there was a scumbag out there willing to exploit girls like this. But that there were girls who were willing to be exploited.

Kate said...

This issue really gets to me. In high school (I'm 26 now), I wanted to fit in with the "cool girls" but couldn't because I wasn't "pretty" enough. I've battled, and still do battle, bad acne that I couldn't/can't get rid of short of medication that I couldn't/can't afford.

The value placed on beauty was crushing for someone like me, who couldn't attain that "outer beauty" that television and film actresses have and that teens, and even many young adults, want to emulate. There were days I didn't want to go to school because I was tired of being picked on. It's a cruel time, teenage years.

For me, the coping mechanism of choice was to become tom-boyish. Wear a lot of black, baggy clothes. Thankfully, it was a lifestyle that I really ended up enjoying. I became friends with other tom-boyish girls, I took up target shooting at 12 years old and went hiking instead of to the mall and in 10th grade I joined a martial arts school. That was the real turning point. Gave me the self-esteem I'd been lacking. I'm so grateful for that place. (I even met my husband there...)

My twin daughters are only 21 months old, but I sincerely hope things are different when they are older. I don't really believe they will be, but one can always hope, right?!

We don't watch television, but we do watch DVDs and DVD releases of tv shows. (I.E. ER and the Pretender) In future years, when the girls are in school, it will be hard to continue I guess if there is peer pressure to do the "in thing". Maybe they'll be like me (with much better skin, I hope...)and break away from that. Only time will tell. But it is a bit scary.

Janet said...

I worry about this, since my daughter is 5. We don't have TV, which may help, but once she gets to school, it will be an uphill battle. All the clothes available for tweens and teens are completely unsuitable for anyone not standing on a street corner. Hopefully that will change before we get there. So far she doesn't really ask for the stuff other people have (she's the only 5-year-old in dance class who does NOT own a Nintendo DS), but that may change. I hope that her stubbornness and current sense of independence will carry the day (at least on this issue).

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I am terrified and talking with my daughter about sex in ways I never imagined, because she hears so much.

And I am thankful EVERY AWKWARD TIME that she talks to me and asks me questions.

phd in yogurtry said...

Overwhelmed. By the sheer massive prevalence of these sexualized images, by whatever innate forces or hormones or gender linked traits contribute toward girls too eager to please boys, by the fact that I am too educated and enlightened to fall into the trap but I still find myself carrying around these impulses, the drive to make myself attractive.

I feel too much to be contained in a comment box, obviously!

But I would love to find the documentary of which your post speaks.

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