I’m angry…and you should be too.

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.

 

34 thoughts on “I’m angry…and you should be too.

  1. I’m angry too. I don’t have a girl. My son is 32, and I have two grandsons. I taught my son to respect women. And I think there is a lot we can do (as parents, grandparents). I am horrified to see how some children and young girls are dressed – in magazines, at the mall – all to fit in? Look sexy? There is a lot we can do as consumers – stop buying these magazines, stop buying the clothes, write to them and tell them why. And take a stand with our children – just say no. Thank you for taking a stand, Susannah!

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    • Yes! There is so much we can do! There are more posts to come on the surrounding issues etc and one of them is how we raise our boys…the men of our society who also have a great power to change the status quo.
      And I agree, stopping buying the products, the magazines etc sends a big message to the big corporations. They supply because we buy!

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  2. It makes me angry too, and every time I’ve commented or posted about this, I’ve had the trolls following me. I have both, boy and girl. Neither follows the stereotypes. I’ve known mothers when my daughter was 3 who were pushing them to have their nails done, their faces painted…It’s only a little bit of fun, they said.
    If that is called sheltering, bring it on. I let my children make their own choices when suitable. They don’t want to follow trends, they’re fine with who they are.
    Isn’t it sad seeing girls like Rihanna “lose it”? She’s obviously very unhappy. Why do girls have to be half-naked to be popular?

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    • Good on you! Parents that perpetuate this damaging culture make me the maddest – make up and nails at 3??? Please! And you are so right – it’s instilling in them the absolute truth about who they are and being okay with that, well, more than okay, teaching them to be ecstatic about who they are!
      So many girls start out in the pop culture beautiful and sweet and are all too soon sold the lie that they need to take their clothes off and become sex symbols to sell records. Those executives have blood on their hands, as far as I’m concerned.
      I hope the trolls haven’t stopped you speaking out. I have plenty more to say about this issue, regardless of the trolls! I’ll definitely be going over to your site to read what you have said about this – sisters unite! 🙂

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  3. Reblogged this on Writing on Board and commented:
    I reposted a picture with two lines of models on Facebook because I was angry at the myth we’re telling girls and women: the myth that skinny is best and that being considered a sex object is a good thing. I’m not perfect. I’ve probably obsessed too much about avoirdupois since the pounds have accumulated in the wrong places. But here is a sister who has gotten angry and who wants to see a new attitude for our girls and women. Good for her. Good for us as we join her.

    Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles: unite. .

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  5. From a male perspective you look at this currently according to age. The younger element without children will be fed a diet of uncovered breasts through newspapers and magazines and the novelty is going to make him want them. Since a large number of children seem to be ( of necessity ?) latchkey kids, the influence of a parent could be missing. He’ll see all the films where the man gets the girl, beds the girl and that’s where his interest stops.
    From the adult perspective I’ll have to speak for myself an from the point of view of a father. Lets start with the magazines. They’re usually on the top shelf of a newsagents. I can live with that. The women who pose for these things do so of their own accord and men seem to enjoy it. I’m being careful here as it’s quite subjective. Most of these women seem to have been enhanced into a category of bra I didn’t know existed unless listed as ‘cor blimey’. Personally I don’t find any appeal as I’ve always had a Katherine Hepburn hang up. Newspapers are a different issue
    ( sorry) I really dislike page 3 girls. I prefer my page 3 to be filled with news since that’s my prime purpose for buying a paper. Incidentally, I buy neither magazines or newspapers of that type
    .
    As a father, I wouldn’t like a son to be one who preys on women at an early age- or any age, as I’d prefer him to respect her and her him. But having a daughter scared me because of the pressures she was under from a young age.Peer pressure to have certain labels on clothes, even for school. Pressure to conform to a certain size no matter what her natural build would dictate. Pressure to follow fashion no matter how high above the knee it went. I was lucky in that my daughter was easy to talk to. My explanations that I couldn’t buy the labels some of the others had was accepted as was the fact that I wouldn’t buy them for school though I might for outside school. A talk about keeping to a healthy weight so she could enjoy the activities she liked went OK as did my explanation that all girls grow at different rates and in different shapes without it impeding their popularity. The only one with slight sticking points was my insistence on a certain standard of dress..ie no mini skirts until she was old enough to buy her own clothes.Her mother and I agreed on all these points. Our differences became clear only on the subject of dating though we tried not to let that show. I didn’t want her dating too early and my return times for going out weren’t very flexible.Her mum didn’t mind the dating because she trusted our daughters common sense, and would have been more relaxed about return times.Compromise let to later times t the weekend if she went out less in the week.

    I suspect a big difference is the fact that one of us was at home as she grew up instead of both working so we helped her grow up.
    A final word… The fashion for young children including the use of bras is almost as nauseating as the beauty pageants for young children in which they’re made up to look like mini adults.Leave children with a childhood and stop pandering to these perverse displays unless you’re prepared to have children become the adults they portray while still too young. It may be too late to raise the age of sexual consent but we don’t want it lowering.
    Thank you for listening.

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    • You make many excellent points.

      I think the ease with which we can guide our children does sometimes depend on their personality and openness to communicate – that however, should not be used as an excuse, if they do not want us talking to them about these issues – we must find a way regardless!

      I agree that having parents consistently there, after school etc, plays a large part in protecting our children from the pressure of peers and the culture. And the other point you raise that you and your wife were a united front (even though you had your differing opinions) is a major contributor as to the success of raising your children to not seek to become the stereotypical teenagers. Consistency is such an important part of parenting, that is so often overlooked. Be consistent, mean what you say, and if you as parents don’t agree – find a way to reach a compromise and then back each other up!

      Thanks so much for stopping by – there will be more posts to follow on some of the aspects you have raised here. It’s great to have a male perspective, too – it is, after all, an issue for us all, male, female, young, old.

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  6. We should be angry. It’s not my role to be my child’s friend. I’m his parent and one of my jobs as that parent is to set boundaries and say no. Companies make a fortune on the back of parents not being able to say no. He is not allowed violent games regardless of the age suggestion on that pack. It’s my job to find out just what is in that game. While I don’t have a girl, if more mothers of girls said no to push up bras they won’t sell them, therefore they woudn’t make them.

    If we refused to buy those magazines that promote the sexualization of young girls, they would soon go out of business. If we never brought the products that use photo shopped models in their campaigns they too would go out of business. We need to be aware rather than siting back and saying we are helpless. We aren’t.

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    • Absolutely! There will be a post soon on the increase in violence being sold to boys, which in turn impacts girls and women. Good on you for taking a stand on that – so many parents of boys don’t. I am constantly horrified when I’m shopping and see mums buying their 10-12 year old boys games that are M15+ or even R rated. The boys can’t buy them themselves as they are underage, so the parents buy it instead!! Unbelievable. I want to go to them with my daughters and say, “Do you know what this stuff does to, not only your own boys, but to girls like mine???” And then I would like to shake them til they see sense.

      As well as buying the products and the magazines, we also buy into the lie that we are powerless. And as you already said…we aren’t. And in particular, parent’s need to stop giving that power to their children. I like it that you said that about being friends with your kids….best bit of advice I’ve ever had as a new parent was “Don’t try to be their friend, they have plenty of those. Be their parent! You’re the only one (or two) of those!”

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      • Yes yes yes to everything you’ve said. After one hour of playing a video game that has violence, young boys were shown to be less cooperative, have half the concentration skills, be less polite and less helpful…their empathy was literally turned off. Horrifying.

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        • It is scary. And more parents need to sit up and listen to those sorts of stats. Not to mention how many of those same games objectify women, leading to a distortion of their views about women, sex and relationships.

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  7. As always, love it, Susannah. I’d love to see some thoughts on the backlash of the feminist movement- that since women’s supposed ‘liberation’, many of us now have to work a double shift of work outside the home as well as an unfair proportion of childcare and housecleaning. Worth a thunk =]

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  9. Hooray! I am indeed with you on this one. My daughter is 9, my son is 7 and I feel like it’s me shielding them against the world. Already I have seen the implications of socializing with peers whose parents let them do anything. I am mortified by the language, the clothing, the behavior of some of these kids–and I absolutely blame the parent. While we can’t control what is out there, we can certainly filter what comes into our homes and we can teach them at a young age right vs wrong.

    I consider myself to be on the protective, sheltering side as well. I won’t let them watch The Hunger Games, nor read the books, even though my daughter is reading at a 12 year old level. Those books are not meant for 9 year olds but I can’t believe how many young kids I see walking around with them. It’s an uphill battle, and the best weapons I seem to have is the fact I can stay at home with them, that I volunteer at their school, that I get the chance to meet their friends and their friends’ parents, and that I’m old-fashioned at heart. But every year it gets tougher and tougher.

    Awesome post!

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    • Yes, I think much of the blame does need to rest with the parents. I think many parents have forgotten one important thing – THEY ARE THE PARENTS! I applaud you on your stand re your kids esp the reading issue. All my children were reading beyond their age and I was always frustrated by the lack of suitable material for them, as, like you, I refused to let them read books that were unsuitable, just because they could. I agree it’s tough, and getting tougher, but it’s not impossible. Aren’t we always telling our kids that easy is usually not best? And that the right choice is, more often than not, the hard choice? Why do we then capitulate on such important issues that will undoubtably effect their ongoing lives and relationships?

      And you are so right – being involved makes such an enormous difference to our kids, and is often an unsung, and underestimated, component to successful child-raising. I know not everyone is able to do this ie be a stay at home parent, volunteer etc but my husband and I always remained firm on me being there to pick them up and drop them off at school. That was a non-negotiable. And besides, I don’t want to miss out on my kids lives – it’s goes so fast!

      See, now I’m all fired up again! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

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  11. AMEN!! Your post needs to be on the front page of every major newspaper in the country!

    My kids are grown and gone (1 boy, 1 girl), and we ‘sheltered’ them, too. No TV, very conservative with movie and book choices and I was up front with their friend’s parents about my preferences. They are both well adjusted, responsible and contribute to society. They both married people who also know how to entertain themselves without electronics and engage in genuine relationships.

    It makes me sick to hear about those tv shows for toddlers in beauty pageants etc. What in the world is wrong with their parents? They probably have a hundred reasons ready to justify why it’s great or it’s ‘really because she loves it’. Bah!

    Awesome post!!!!

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    • Thanks Denise 🙂 And I agree, the proof is in the pudding, isn’t it? Our eldest is 22, mature, responsible and conscientious, our middle daughter is 15 and we are not having to deal with any of the ‘complaints’ her friends parents seem to have about their daughters – and we aren’t about to change our parenting style or beliefs with our nine year old either!
      Glad you liked the post – it seemed to resound with many people, which, to me, is a great sign that together we can change our harmful culture.

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