The Sexualization of Early Childhood

I completely agree with the article So Sexy So Soon and after reading the preview, I would love to read the book.  I can definitely relate to the fact that a girl’s/woman’s value is perceived to com from sex appeal and physical attractiveness (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009).  I struggle with this myself sometimes when I look at magazine covers or see other moms around me that are skinny and beautiful.  The first thing that I thought about when reading the article was how each day, I hear myself and my coworkers comment on how cute one or more of the girls are dressed or how cute the female child is.  We are praising them on their physical appearance, rather than who they are as a human being.

The other thing I though about was the girls clothing section of the store.  Have you been in there?  I do not have any little girls, but I would be a little worried if I did.  All I can find, especially in my Target in California, were short shorts, short skirts, tank tops, and belly shirts; for toddlers!  This is a huge problem for me, and like I said, I do not even have a daughter of my own, but I have a son.  And I do not want my son thinking that all there is to a woman is her physical beauty and sex appeal.  This sex appeal is depicted everywhere!  In music and movies; in the girls toy section.  And then most of the boys toys are macho and superheroes that save the day.  Another thing is, have you ever tried to find boy doll clothes.  They rarely exist!  Why can’t dolls be boys?  I believe that sexualization of our children also coincides with the gender stereotypes that exist in our society.

brat doll.jpgsuperhero

This sexualization of early childhood children is extremely harmful in their ability to have healthy attitudes about themselves and their bodies as well as their ability to have caring relationships when they grow up (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009).  And in the worst case scenarios, some of these children will grow up and associate with behaviors such as sexual abuse, pedophilia, and prostitution.  What astounded me was the fact that girls as young as nine years old are engaging in prostitution.  This just sickens me!  Our poor young children are being victimized by media and society.  The other alarming fact that I ran across was 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually abused (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009). This only shows me that as an early childhood educator, I need to make sure that children are finding value in who they are as a person, rather than how they are defined in their physical appearance and I can do this by not commenting as much on the clothes they wear or how cute they are.  I need to comment specifically on behaviors that they do that makes me feel like they are the cutest, sweetest, or most compassionate child.  I would also like to read the book, to gain additional strategies for combating the sexualization of our early childhood children.

Levin, D. E., & Kilbourne, J. (2009). [Introduction]. So sexy so soon: The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids (pp. 1-8). New York: Ballantine Books. Retrieved from: http://dianeelevin.com/sosexysosoon/introduction.pdf

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3 thoughts on “The Sexualization of Early Childhood

  1. Marijean,
    I couldn’t agree more with your post! It seems that children these days are exposed to sexuality way too soon, and I too have seen low-cut tank tops and mini-skirts for toddlers, and even infants!! I remember one year I was bathing suit shopping with my mom at Target, and they had STRING BIKINIS for babies and toddlers!!! Do you believe that?! It’s ridiculous, and I hope that if I have a daughter someday, she will look up to me rather than the models she sees on television and in magazines. Not to brag, but I think I’m pretty “kid-friendly” when it comes to how I dress. 🙂

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  2. Hi Marijean,

    I enjoyed reading your post for this week’s blog. I can appreciate your comments about the clothes you notice as you walk through the girls section of the retail store. I have two teenage daughters and can tell you the struggle is very real. When they were little we struggled finding them clothes and shoes we felt were appropriate and they liked. Shoes even as young children had heels. Shirts, skirts, and shorts were very short. Shopping was always interesting with a battle over what was in style and what we felt was appropriate for them to wear.

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  3. Agh! I completely agree! You’re right! Even in just clothing stores, the clothes are very sexualized! I watch my friends with 13 year old girls and I wonder how they tow that line. It’s almost impossible to keep these girls looking like children. I have been watching “Gotham” also and they have girls in there that are about 12 or 13. The way they dressed is also difficult to see them as just children.

    I admit, I agree with you and I struggle with it also. The messages of attractiveness and the standards of society are everywhere: grocery store, highway, gas stations, etc. It is impossible to escape and wonder if I fulfill the standard and what I can do in order to fit it.

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