I recently heard Melinda Tankard Reist speak at a local school. For those of you who are not familiar with Melinda, she is an author, speaker, media commentator, blogger and advocate for women and girls. She is known for her work on the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls in our culture, particularly addressing the use of media to perpetuate these issues.
I have always had major issues with how women are portrayed in the media and the widespread disease of pornography. Since having my two girls, I have become acutely and increasingly aware of how they are marketed to.
These issues are complex and involved, far too big for me to intelligently and successfully write about, so I won’t even try. For information, stats etc, it is worth going to Collective Shout and especially checking out their resource page.
But I will say this since listening to Melinda: I am angry.
Angry that companies make push-up padded bras for girls under 8; angry that magazines such as Dolly and Girlfriend, which are run by women, encourage and endorse underage sexual activity; angry that there are virtually no non-photoshopped pictures of women in the media; angry that for all the women’s movement, women are still told that their main use in the world is as a sex object; angry that there are websites promoting and encouraging anorexia;……I could go on and on.
And I am especially angry that women buy into it, propel it, and continue to be complicit in this damaging path our culture is on.
We can’t sit back as women and blame men, although their part to play is large and not to be ignored or diminished, we need to rise up and make a stand. And stop sending the message to our girls that looking thin and beautiful, and available for a man’s use, is all there is.
There is the notion that we, as individuals, are all but powerless to combat this onslaught on our children. It seems it’s easy to think that we can’t do anything about what our daughters wear, the age they start dating, how much time they spend on facebook and other social media, how early they have mobile phones with cameras and easy access to the internet.
Parents who shrug their shoulders and say “Well, what can you do? They are all like that” need to check their responsibilities as parents.
I have been accused by some of ‘sheltering’ my children from the ‘real’ world. They will have to be out in it one day, they say, so you are doing them a disservice by not letting them experience it now.
The words I want to say back to those parents, I won’t say here but what I will say is that they are wrong.
The female brain doesn’t stop developing until they are 23; the male brain, 25. So, ‘sheltering’ my children from sex, drinking and pornography when they are teenagers allows their brains to develop in a healthy way. Then, when they are out in the ‘real’ world, they will be fully equipped, with all their brain functions intact, to deal with those things – at the appropriate age.
How many parents would say they try to teach their children to not succumb to peer pressure? Most would say they do. Yet those very same parents bow to peer pressure every time they buy those short shorts, pay another month on a mobile phone, let their kids have ‘just one drink – it’s okay, I’d rather they had their first drink at home with me than out at a party’, or let their daughters go on dates too early.
Parents, it’s time to grow a back bone. Say no every so often, or even regularly!
Stop being scared your kids won’t like you, or think you are cool, or that your child will be the only one not going to that party.
Wake the hell up and take a good look at what is happening to our children. If we as parents aren’t prepared to take a stand, what chance have our children got?
See? I told you I am angry.
For practical tips on saying no and other fantastic parenting advice, I recommend the Family Smart website. For a great article on saying no – see this post. I wish I had written this article. I agree with every single thing the author says.