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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Sexualization of Childhood

“Years ago there used to be separate worlds for children. Now they are exposed to the same things adults experience. Dr. Tarshia Stanley,in Final Call's "America's Sex-mad Culture"

Final Call did a story("America's Sex-Mad Culture") about the consequences of the sexualization of children in an attempt to get them hooked on adult products and Black folk's internalization of oppression. I think it is a must read. The reporters spoke with psychologists and experts from around the country about the effects of bombarding children with adult imagery and words.

The article highlighted the Sexualization of Childhood Symposium which will address the impact of growing up in a sexualized culture on children’s health and welfare, and how parents, mental health professionals, educators and policy makers can address these issues. The conference is June 13-14 and is being hosted by Park Point University in conjunction with A Home Within.

The presenters are Sharon Cooper (Sexual exploitation of children through internet crimes and prostitution), Gail Dines (The meteoric rise of child pornography with the advent of the internet), Matt Ezzell (How boys are socialized and sexualized through video games, media and internet pornography), Melissa Farley (As American children become sexualized, trafficking and child prostitution are on the rise), Diane Levin(Sexualized culture teaches teens to ‘hook up’rather than form meaningful relationships), Susan Linn(Girls’ gender identity is shaped by media imagessuch as the ‘Disney Princess’), Sharna Olfman, Sandra Steingraber (The falling age of puberty in U.S. girls as a consequence of toxic chemical exposures), and Carolyn West (The (s)exploitation of black adolescent girls in rap(e) music and hip hop culture) you can read about there bios in the conference brochure. I wish I could go :(.

Some points from the article, America's Sex-Mad Culture:
Abercrombie & Fitch sold little girls thong underwear tagged with the phrases “eye candy” and “wink wink.” Young readers of the magazine Seventeen were offered “405 ways to look hot” like Paris Hilton.The sexualization of ‘tween girls, girls between the ages of 8 and 12, is a growing problem fueled by marketers’ efforts to create cradle-to-grave consumers.

“Years ago there used to be separate worlds for children. Now they are exposed to the same things adults experience. Today we have very young parents and we aren’t protecting our children. Popular psychology said that this was OK,” explained Dr. Tarshia Stanley, a Spelman College English professor.“As a result, we have really high rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world, twice that of the U.K. and eight times that of Japan,” added Ms. Durham.
Another problem is Black internalization of oppression, which is borne out in the “pimp and hoe” culture and even support for singer R. Kelly, who is accused of sexual crimes against a child, she said.

Singer Beyonce is talented, but her clothing line, which doesn’t show skin still sells lip gloss and grown folks clothes to children, Ms. Davis said. It’s unsettling that clothes are sold to children that look like clothes made for adults, she said.

"Little girls are taught to trade their bodies for benefits and acceptance...Their only value is what they can be used for and for boys the question is how many “hoes” do I have...Boys as well as girls are put in boxes to play out this foolishness”

You should read the entire article, they spoke with activists, academics and cultural critics. These are people whose work you should watch.

The merchants of misogyny and the supporters of the Regime of Bullets, Booty, and Bling are willing to fight for the hearts and minds of out children, but apparently they don't have to because society in general rolls over and plays dead while the walk straight to the bank on the backs of your children.

I agree that in addition to protesting these images, we HAVE to offer an alternative. Thousands of alternatives. Why on earth are we ceding the hearts and minds of our girls and boys to the likes of people who have no compunction about putting thigh high three inch boots and garish makeup on a toddler? And NO, this ain't the same as dress up when we were children. When we dressed up, we looked like kids in grown ups clothing not child-sized versions of adults, and there is a distinction.

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