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Friday, April 18, 2008

Empowering Girls: Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood Summit

A6212F8A-6283-4043-A7F6-60D40137FF6F.jpg

Because I was unable to attend the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood's Sixth Annual Summit in Boston I have invited a guest poster to fill us in.

Lisa Ray, founder of Parents for Ethical Marketing and author of Corporate Babysitter has been kind enough to write this post for So Sioux Me to help us understand what sexualization of girls is costing us and what we can do about it. Thank you Lisa.


Not a day goes by that an example of the new sexualized childhood doesn’t rear its ugly head. This week, the U.K. is up in arms over a plunging, defining sexualization – when a person is sexually objectified and not seen as a whole person. The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls identifies sexualization of girls by this criteria:

* a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics; or

* a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy; or

* sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.


Sexualization is not about sex.

And the problem is not that children are learning about sex when they are young. Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne’s presentation, based on their upcoming book So Sexy So Soon: the New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids, suggests that children are being robbed of positive, age-appropriate experiences and are instead learning to treat themselves and others as objects. Kids are exposed to – and mimicking – highly sexualized behavior long before they are able to understand and appreciate what a healthy sexual relationship means. Girls learn narrow definitions of gender and that their value is based on how well they meet a sexualized ideal.

The world of the sexualized child has reached into pornography, as we learned from Gail Danes, co-author of Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality. She discussed the prevalence of “teen porn” (using models who appear younger than 18) and the explosion of pornography on the internet, saying that “soft porn” has moved from adult magazines into marketing and advertising.

One of the primary messages of the Summit was that the sexualization of children is becoming a more integrated aspect of our culture. Since it’s out there more, we see it less. It’s becoming an accepted part of our lives and our kids’ lives. Parents complain about the clothing choices available for young girls, yet stores continue to sell them because parents continue to buy them.

What to do? Two solutions that were repeated by multiple presenters and attendees are:


* Ban advertising to children (age cutoffs range from eight to twelve); and

* Talk to kids about healthy sexual relationships, including a robust sexual education curriculum in schools.


The beauty of the CCFC Summit was the number of committed people attending who will continue to work against childhood sexualization. Levin and Kilbourne noted that we need to work together to “create a society that supports the healthy sexual development of children and that limits the ability of corporations to use sex to sell to them.”


Visit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Visit Corporate Babysitter

Visit Parents for Ethical Marketing

10 comments:

Summer said...

It never fails to disgust me how sexualized the world can be towards children. I wrote a post last night about young girls being assaulted from all sides by these images of sex and idealized beauty. Thank you so much for sharing this article.

Violet said...

"Parents complain about the clothing choices available for young girls, yet stores continue to sell them because parents continue to buy them."

Amen. I see children trying to explore these issues, and I think it's very normal to be interested in the adult world. What seems to missing is parents limiting exposure and tempering normal curiosity with BOUNDARIES.

Coupled with the manipulation of advertisers who just want to sell products, it seems like a recipe for disaster.

I'm not sure I understand why parents don't limit more. Is it that they feel it is too pervasive to limit?

Tracee said...

I've observed two reasons:

I think many parents feel they are not providing well enough for their children or keeping up with the Jones' well enough and this results in a lack of limits.

For instance, when you see programs about consumption and waste you see parents "buy love" or "overindulging" children to a harmful degree so they will appear successful and their children won't feel "deprived."

This explains why some of the most financially struggling people I know spend the most money on lavish toys for their children.

I also see that there is an "assumed trust." In the past a consumer could trust a bank not to lend them more than they felt the could pay back. The buyer felt safe in their decisions because they assume the banker wants his money back.

I think this explains the mortgage crisis - the borrower was trusting the bank to want them to pay back the loan. (the banker sold the loans to investment banks and didn't care whether the payments got paid.)

This was obviously a misplaced trust. Consumers didn't get the memo that the rules had changed and so they made big mistakes.

The same is true for marketing to children. Parents trust the marketer to operate under a general principle that "what they're selling to children isn't bad for children."

I think we're experiencing a time-delay in parental judgement. Marketers have abandoned all ethics, but parents have been slow to get over their shock and respond appropriately. I find even most responsible parents are bewildered by how fast marketers are crossing boundaries and don't understand how to respond.

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Violet, I think parents don't limit more for several reasons:

1. As you said, it's too pervasive. I think many give up because there really aren't any other choices.

2. Marketers have successfully taught kids how to "nag" for their products and let's face it -- every parent has to pick their battles. Many don't see/know how important this battle is.

3. Parents live in the same consumer culture. We are as immersed in it as our kids are. Many young parents now really don't know anything different (television advertising to children was deregulated in 1984).

Parent education is such a big part of this issue. Blogs like Tracee's are a great step.

Tracee said...

Thanks Lisa.

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Tracee, I think you are right on with the "time delay." Again, the need for parent education.

Tracee said...

Lisa, Are you saying it was illegal to market directly to children prior to 1984?

Why did that change? Marketers lobbyists?

Can we, as parents, change it back?

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Tracee, no, I'm not saying that. But in 1984 it became possible to market to children directly through television programs (think Care Bears, which was created specifically to sell licensed Care Bear toys/products).

Also, the FCC repealed the 1974 policy that required some educational programming (School House Rock, etc.)

Those two acts changed the face of children's television quite dramatically.

A great book on this is "Abandoned in the Wasteland" (Minow and Lamay).

And yes, regulation is one of the ways to fight this fight. Corporate control of the airwaves makes it harder than ever, though.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of parents worry about their child fitting in - having the cool game/doll/etc. I know sometimes I do.

We sent my step son a Wi game for Christmas and his mom wrote back and said he had finally made friend in their new town (who apparently loved that game too - it was what they had in common) and it made us feel pretty good about the gift. Even though I don't feel like material things should be the basis of our children's connections - they sometimes are. I can certainly remember wanting to go over to so and so's house who had the trampoline.. so it's hard.

I also agree with the comment about it being pervasive. Maybe some parents are intimidated by explaining to a 4 yr old why they disapprove of a provacative doll - maybe they don't want it to turn into an awkward conversation.

There really NEEDS to be regulation. If they aren't allowed to go after kids for things like cigarettes on tv why are they allowed target them with other inappropriate messages?

Ashley

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Tracee, if you don't mind I'd like to put a plug in and ask all those conerned to sign up for the mailing list at Parents for Ethical Marketing ("Join Us" in the left-hand column, at the bottom). The more parents we can rally together when issues come up, the more we will be heard. Thanks.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Empowering Girls: Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood Summit

A6212F8A-6283-4043-A7F6-60D40137FF6F.jpg

Because I was unable to attend the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood's Sixth Annual Summit in Boston I have invited a guest poster to fill us in.

Lisa Ray, founder of Parents for Ethical Marketing and author of Corporate Babysitter has been kind enough to write this post for So Sioux Me to help us understand what sexualization of girls is costing us and what we can do about it. Thank you Lisa.


Not a day goes by that an example of the new sexualized childhood doesn’t rear its ugly head. This week, the U.K. is up in arms over a plunging, defining sexualization – when a person is sexually objectified and not seen as a whole person. The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls identifies sexualization of girls by this criteria:

* a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics; or

* a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy; or

* sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.


Sexualization is not about sex.

And the problem is not that children are learning about sex when they are young. Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne’s presentation, based on their upcoming book So Sexy So Soon: the New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids, suggests that children are being robbed of positive, age-appropriate experiences and are instead learning to treat themselves and others as objects. Kids are exposed to – and mimicking – highly sexualized behavior long before they are able to understand and appreciate what a healthy sexual relationship means. Girls learn narrow definitions of gender and that their value is based on how well they meet a sexualized ideal.

The world of the sexualized child has reached into pornography, as we learned from Gail Danes, co-author of Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality. She discussed the prevalence of “teen porn” (using models who appear younger than 18) and the explosion of pornography on the internet, saying that “soft porn” has moved from adult magazines into marketing and advertising.

One of the primary messages of the Summit was that the sexualization of children is becoming a more integrated aspect of our culture. Since it’s out there more, we see it less. It’s becoming an accepted part of our lives and our kids’ lives. Parents complain about the clothing choices available for young girls, yet stores continue to sell them because parents continue to buy them.

What to do? Two solutions that were repeated by multiple presenters and attendees are:


* Ban advertising to children (age cutoffs range from eight to twelve); and

* Talk to kids about healthy sexual relationships, including a robust sexual education curriculum in schools.


The beauty of the CCFC Summit was the number of committed people attending who will continue to work against childhood sexualization. Levin and Kilbourne noted that we need to work together to “create a society that supports the healthy sexual development of children and that limits the ability of corporations to use sex to sell to them.”


Visit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Visit Corporate Babysitter

Visit Parents for Ethical Marketing

10 comments:

Summer said...

It never fails to disgust me how sexualized the world can be towards children. I wrote a post last night about young girls being assaulted from all sides by these images of sex and idealized beauty. Thank you so much for sharing this article.

Violet said...

"Parents complain about the clothing choices available for young girls, yet stores continue to sell them because parents continue to buy them."

Amen. I see children trying to explore these issues, and I think it's very normal to be interested in the adult world. What seems to missing is parents limiting exposure and tempering normal curiosity with BOUNDARIES.

Coupled with the manipulation of advertisers who just want to sell products, it seems like a recipe for disaster.

I'm not sure I understand why parents don't limit more. Is it that they feel it is too pervasive to limit?

Tracee said...

I've observed two reasons:

I think many parents feel they are not providing well enough for their children or keeping up with the Jones' well enough and this results in a lack of limits.

For instance, when you see programs about consumption and waste you see parents "buy love" or "overindulging" children to a harmful degree so they will appear successful and their children won't feel "deprived."

This explains why some of the most financially struggling people I know spend the most money on lavish toys for their children.

I also see that there is an "assumed trust." In the past a consumer could trust a bank not to lend them more than they felt the could pay back. The buyer felt safe in their decisions because they assume the banker wants his money back.

I think this explains the mortgage crisis - the borrower was trusting the bank to want them to pay back the loan. (the banker sold the loans to investment banks and didn't care whether the payments got paid.)

This was obviously a misplaced trust. Consumers didn't get the memo that the rules had changed and so they made big mistakes.

The same is true for marketing to children. Parents trust the marketer to operate under a general principle that "what they're selling to children isn't bad for children."

I think we're experiencing a time-delay in parental judgement. Marketers have abandoned all ethics, but parents have been slow to get over their shock and respond appropriately. I find even most responsible parents are bewildered by how fast marketers are crossing boundaries and don't understand how to respond.

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Violet, I think parents don't limit more for several reasons:

1. As you said, it's too pervasive. I think many give up because there really aren't any other choices.

2. Marketers have successfully taught kids how to "nag" for their products and let's face it -- every parent has to pick their battles. Many don't see/know how important this battle is.

3. Parents live in the same consumer culture. We are as immersed in it as our kids are. Many young parents now really don't know anything different (television advertising to children was deregulated in 1984).

Parent education is such a big part of this issue. Blogs like Tracee's are a great step.

Tracee said...

Thanks Lisa.

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Tracee, I think you are right on with the "time delay." Again, the need for parent education.

Tracee said...

Lisa, Are you saying it was illegal to market directly to children prior to 1984?

Why did that change? Marketers lobbyists?

Can we, as parents, change it back?

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Tracee, no, I'm not saying that. But in 1984 it became possible to market to children directly through television programs (think Care Bears, which was created specifically to sell licensed Care Bear toys/products).

Also, the FCC repealed the 1974 policy that required some educational programming (School House Rock, etc.)

Those two acts changed the face of children's television quite dramatically.

A great book on this is "Abandoned in the Wasteland" (Minow and Lamay).

And yes, regulation is one of the ways to fight this fight. Corporate control of the airwaves makes it harder than ever, though.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of parents worry about their child fitting in - having the cool game/doll/etc. I know sometimes I do.

We sent my step son a Wi game for Christmas and his mom wrote back and said he had finally made friend in their new town (who apparently loved that game too - it was what they had in common) and it made us feel pretty good about the gift. Even though I don't feel like material things should be the basis of our children's connections - they sometimes are. I can certainly remember wanting to go over to so and so's house who had the trampoline.. so it's hard.

I also agree with the comment about it being pervasive. Maybe some parents are intimidated by explaining to a 4 yr old why they disapprove of a provacative doll - maybe they don't want it to turn into an awkward conversation.

There really NEEDS to be regulation. If they aren't allowed to go after kids for things like cigarettes on tv why are they allowed target them with other inappropriate messages?

Ashley

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Tracee, if you don't mind I'd like to put a plug in and ask all those conerned to sign up for the mailing list at Parents for Ethical Marketing ("Join Us" in the left-hand column, at the bottom). The more parents we can rally together when issues come up, the more we will be heard. Thanks.