Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Sexualization of Our Girls Must Stop

Recently I read an interview in USA Weekend with the actors of "Men, Women and Children", a new film soon in theaters that I hope never to see, because it sounds completely cynical of human relationships, depressing, alien to my own view on life and filthy. The conversation centered around the effects of technology on modern existence, and though I am not hyper-connected through social media, I thought much of what was expressed was thought-provoking and a little terrifying. For instance, one of the teenaged actresses said she knew of many girls her age who regularly post revealing pictures of themselves on twitter or Instagram and that they are the ones who by far have the most likes and followers.

Now think about that. Teenage girls are dealing regularly in sexual commerce to gain validation. They are wielding their bodies as currency for acquiring recognition, power, and "followers". And their male counterparts are feeding on all these thin, heartless images. Sexting also continues to be a common practice. These girls will no doubt heartily regret these wholesale choices later when they grow wiser, smarter, and learn to value themselves as more than objects of sexual gratification.

The reality of this makes me furious, but if we think that our young women will be the only ones to suffer from this shallow pandering to the lowest common denominator of human interaction, we are blind. The young men are exposing themselves to a cancer of character that I believe will hamper successful, meaningful relationships with members of the opposite sex for their entire lives if they do not have positive role models.

The world is a crazy, lop-sided place, and it appears to be losing its depth with a lot of help from the media, social or otherwise. This has to stop, if not at large than at the home of concerned parents and guardians. To read more about the sexualization of girls, you can read this scary report by American Psychological Association.

What can we do? The article gives a few ideas, but there is also our own common sense and moral compass. Since, as the article points out, women are the ones far more likely to suffer from objectification and thus self-objectification, we can begin as moms by striving not to be vain and immodest ourselves and then by nulling the unhealthy emphasis on our daughters' appearance. I have seen little girls dressed up in crop shorts and halter tops, and it saddens me to think they may have lost a sense of their own childhood while being blasted with sexual messages from the mad world of computers, smartphones and television sets.

We also need to limit our daughters exposure to the sexualization of women and girls by turning off commercials that use women as erotic bait, by watching movies with our young kids and not allowing them to see ones with inappropriate sexual content, by speaking to our older children about media-literacy and by limiting their activity on social media and on smartphones until later teen years if at all possible, and by communicating with them often about this issue whenever an image, article or post brings it to the forefront.

But I also think it is absolutely vital that men, fathers especially, play a role in combating this. I think the most important thing a man can do for his children is to show love and respect for his wife, his mother, daughters and all women by his proper attitude toward them. In short he should revive the concept of honor and behave like a gentleman. A man's son and daughter should not hear him speak or see him ogle images of women that will lead them to believe that he values women based solely on their sexual desirability. That means not making a raunchy comment about the young woman in a low-cut blouse, jeggings or short skirt who passed you in the mall or sporting goods store.

It means we must all stop taking it for granted that women are being prostituted daily to the public eye, because it should not be that way. It is unfair; it is degrading; and it perpetuates the lie that we are valuable only if we meet demeaning standards of physical attractiveness and promiscuity, a lie that leads our young women to send a portfolio of suggestive pictures to boys who do not respect them and do not respect themselves. This is a vicious, poisonous cycle. Do we really want to live in that society? It has to stop. We need to teach our young men to reject the paper-thin world of erotica, to become gentlemen who know how to interact with real, whole women, to be respectful, self-controlled. And we need to teach our young women how to truly value their bodies, protect their dignity and be confident in their whole selves as talented, intelligent, compassionate people.

We must do this as parents. The media will not help us. Let's turn the tide for posterity.

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