A 6 year old girl is “sad” because she can’t get married to a football player. She’s, you know, too young so she cries about it and the video goes viral. Football player learns about it. He comes to the rescue with a “marriage proposal”. Girl happy. Everyone sighs by the adorableness of it all.
Why this is f*ed up:
The sexualization of girls is a problem. But wait, some of you cry out, there’s no sex going on here! And to that I reply sexualization, not sex. Sexualization in the sense that little girls are commodified as adult, straight women with adult desires when they aren’t. JJ Watt’s “marriage proposal” and its accoutrements of ring pop, flowers, “dress” and dancing sexualizes this little girl. The adult speaking in the video, “he’s handsome, isn’t he?” does the same. When we sexualize girls, we foist adult feelings, desires and behaviors on them in a way that not only isn’t appropriate but that they can’t possibly be ready for. Sexualizing young girls also reinforces harmful gender stereotypes (man= pursuer, woman= someone to be wooed, rescued) which in turn can confuse them as to what a healthy relationship actually looks like. Lastly, sexualizing young girls also puts pressure on them to act older than they really are, like little Breanna in the video, without an understanding of their own behaviors. How confusing! It’s not hard to see why a sexualized little girl might then in a provocative manner, acting out sexually or worse.
Where we go from here:
I think we want our daughters to define their own happiness, to learn through play and other organic ways what makes them happy, not learn how happiness is defined through television, advertising or other media. My daughter is only 8 months but it still strikes me as important to let her be her age, now and in the future. Let her play with trucks…or dolls. We’ll be skipping Disney for obvious reasons and I hope one day she’ll be a ninja for Halloween instead of a princess. I want her to feel good about herself as long as she possibly can and I’ll help her get there by allowing her to be a child when she is a child.
For more on the sexualization of girls, see So Sexy So Soon website or pick up the book.
And here’s the video if you haven’t seen it.
What behaviors have you noticed in little girls (or boys) which cause you concern? Share a thought below.