Turley-Hansen: Just say no to girl sexualization - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

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Turley-Hansen: Just say no to girl sexualization

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Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2012 3:04 pm

You’ve seen ‘em. Those low-cut jeans the girls wear, which barely cover the pubic place. There’s a tiny zipper and then the usual grommet-like closure, which draws the eye right to the spot where polite boys never look.

Nearly every manufacturer of name brand jeans offers them. A vast number are waiting for our kids, in our East Valley clothing stores, ready for back-to-school shopping; ready to titillate our daughters, who desire to be fashion plates on campus, popular and trendy.

Sexualization of our girls continues.

This past week, I had the adventure of taking five nieces and two granddaughters on our yearly shopping trip to prepare for school. The nieces are the granddaughters of my deceased sister, thus my privilege of standing in as surrogate grand-mama. For more than a decade I’ve enjoyed this fun and in that time have observed the growing trend towards younger, sexy attire.

The shops are staged, awaiting anxious girls with eager senses, sensual music blasting, arrangements carefully chosen to include thumping and throbbing rhythms.

The fight with my young wards that day began early. Their mothers had alerted them they would not tolerate the crotch-cut jeans. But, still, being youth, they had to try. Now, I have to tell you, it was startling to see their little bodies bedecked in such sophistication, sexuality newly apparent. The girls’ demeanor instantly changed; they could feel what was different and their blush was obvious in the dressing room mirrors.

Again, I visited with them about why appropriate dress benefits them and others in their social circle. To their credit, they acquiesced, plus they had no interest in facing their mothers’wrath. Surely if more adults reasoned with their tweens and teens on this matter, fewer merchandisers would stack their shops with provocative items.

Results this past week of several studies confirm the problem and show why it’s insidious: Live Science reports 6- to 9-year-old girls were shown two dolls. “One was dressed in tight and revealing ‘sexy’ clothes and the other a trendy, but covered-up, loose outfit.

“Across-the-board, girls chose the sexy doll most often. The results were significant in two categories: 68 percent of the girls said the doll looked how she wanted to look, and 72 percent said she was more popular than the non-sexy doll.” ( www.livescience.com21609-self-sexualization-young-girls.html)

This is the good news: Researchers tell us that parents, both mothers and fathers, hold effective influence. But, not if they’re timid and are driven themselves to keep up with fads.

It begins with the mother’s own outlook about her sexuality as well as her daughter’s. Lead researcher, Christy Starr says, “Moms can help their daughters navigate a sexualizing world by instructing their daughters about their values and by not demonstrating objectified and sexualized behaviors themselves.”

Besides appearance, a child’s dress influences sexual activity as well as mental abilities. Consider this study reported in aboutkidshealth.ca (see sexy babies): College students were given a swimsuit or a sweater to wear. Then they completed a math test.

Astoundingly, young women wearing swimsuits “scored significantly worse” than those wearing sweaters. No such effect with the males. “The implication is that attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources to complete other tasks.”

Of course you know the sexualizing trend has reached all areas of a child’s world: Toys, music, all media and now cosmetic surgery, up 15 percent among teens under 18.

Parents, what are we doing? What are we thinking? If we reject the marketing pushed on us, we hold control of our options. Allowing early sexuality to drive our children’s life choices is a sure formula for their sorrow and ours. Research this problem. It’s real, it’s harmful.

My shopping experience reintroduced the seriousness of this issue. These children have so much more to offer our world than being sexual provocateurs. Moms, dads, be the leaders. Choose to educate them about a much better way.

• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (turleyhansen@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.

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