Every girl is born with a brain : the over sexualization of girls in the media
I found it really interesting and funny to read some of the comments people made about my last comic 30 years of little girls learning dance moves from music videos around the web, especially on Tumblr, which is known to be a social network used by young or very young people.
First, there were people who could relate to the comic, those – mostly with kids – who felt concerned by the thing, and those who laughed.
Then there were those who summarized my comic by saying “I think it’s funny to see all the parents powerless in the comic when they’re supposed to be the ones in control” and “how did that little girl made these knots anyway, terrible parenting” and “so it was all Shakira ‘s fault right” because the turning point of my comic takes place in 2001 with Shakira. (Believe me when I say I do not think Shakira is the worst example for our girls, far from it. I actually like Shakira a lot.) But this is a comic people, a comic summerizes things. Illustrates things.
And then there were those saying that my comic was too alarmist, putting forward the fact that in the 80s and 90s as well there were singers who showed everything and had sexually explicit attitudes, and that it has always been the parents’ responsability to monitor what their children watch on TV anyway, that people have been complaining about raunchy music since the very beginning of music so that there was nothing new nor smart in my comic. Ouch.
What I found even more interesting is that most of the people who expressed these opinions – I did not say all, I said most, didn’t check them all one by one – were young or very young persons, 15 years old, 16, 19, 20. Like if they were offended that someone would criticize the time they live in. Just like we were offended when our parents and grandparents said “In my time things were different/better.” Am I that old ? Maybe. :)
It reminded me that history repeats itself, again and again. We can only see through our own eyes and teens born in the late 90s or later cannot really conceive the world as it was before their birth, just like people like me, born or raised in the 80s, could not conceive the world of their parents, and our parents before us and so on.
So yes, the point of view of the comic is mine, a person who grew up in the 80′s. A person who also thinks that only because some things were said before doesn’t mean that what is said now is not true. A person who were once a teenager too who also thought she had it all figured out. And also a person of my time, who happens to not think that being of my time means I have to agree to everything that is going on in my time. Where would change come from if everybody agreed to everything?
Therefore what I will say is addressed to you, today’s young people, who think that seeing mainstream female singers showing their beautiful asses in their music videos is nothing new, to you who think that seeing young women in bikinis shaking their asses in pools next to a male singer or rapper everyday has no effect on you nor on society, to you who see nothing wrong seeing child stars taking a 180 degrees turn, going from the cute little girl with pigtails to the young hottie in a g-string, and especially to you who think that the Internet, laptops and smartphones have always existed.
Over sexualization in music videos
I’ll start by answering those who said there’s always been sexually explicit music videos, even in the 80s and the 90s, that Lil ‘Kim was there at the same time as TLC, Adina Howard too, and that Janet Jackson also made sexually explicit videos where she was half naked and that she is and I quote “the freakiest of freaks”.
My answer is very simple : that is not true. Not in the way you mean it.
Yes, there was sexuality in music videos before. Not as much as there is today, but there was some. I never said there wasn’t. Again, my comic was made to make a point, so it summarizes. I wasn’t writing a movie or a book, it’s a comic.
Yes Janet Jackson suddenly started to talk about sex in an outrageous way but if you look at my comic closely, you’ll see I picked two songs from the time when she didn’t. And yes singers like Lil’Kim did contribute to the introduction to what was going to happen next. Is that an excuse to let it go further and further and worse and out of control ?
I also think it is important to differentiate between a mainstream international big star singer and another one.
When Lil’Kim released Hard Core in 1996, along with her music videos, she was not mainstream. Every little girl in the US and around the world was not listening to Lil’Kim, she was not a role model, she was not THE singer every little girl wanted to be and was trying to emulate her every move.
Again, the problem in my opinion is that the singers we see today half naked, shaking their naked asses, dancing in their underpants showing their crotch, are mainstream artists we see everywhere on TV and magazines and hear all day long on the radio. They’re the ones who serve as models for little girls today. Little girls today simply cannot escape from them. Even though this girl wrote somewhere it’s the parents responsibility to choose the music their children are listening too. Oh you mean like our grandparents managed to keep our parents away from Elvis and the Beatles ?
Millions of little girls loved Christina Aguilera – who came out of Disney let’s not forget that – who became famous thanks to Genie in a bottle, a video in which she wore hideous wide orange pants and was almost candidly looking at the camera. She became mainstream. Her fans weren’t much older when three years later, the same Christina, who had meanwhile become Britney’s first rival, appeared in panties, spreading her legs wide and showing her butt in Dirrty. The same young fans, who loved her when she was cute and girly, were still watching.
If Lil Kim shocked in her time, it’s because no one did what she did by then. What she did was different. New. Weird. It was not the NORM. It was not mainstream.
Today, the music industry wants everyone to think that it’s normal for a female singer to show her ass, her crotch, her tongue or to publicly rub her ass against a male singer’s genitals on a show that is known to be watched by millions of teens in the US. They also want us to think it’s normal for female singers to sing songs in which they call themselves and other women “bitches”, and when I read a young girl say “there always was sexuality in music”, I know they have succeeded. But sweetheart, I can remember a time when there was no connection between singing and stripping. And FYI, there are still today some singers who just sing. YES. Singing with no stripping. Some even write some amazingly empowering lyrics.
From the women’s liberation movement back to the objectification of women
A little bit of history. The parents of my generation are from what is called the sexual revolution. From the 60s to the late 70s, the face of the Western world changed. Emancipation of women, birth control and right to abortion. Minds were changing. Women had decided they would be the equals of men. They had been fighting for that. They no longer wanted this patriarchal society. They no longer wanted to be “own” by men. They wanted to be free, to be respected, to work, to earn money, to own businesses.
Don’t you find strange that the further we get away from these times, the more women go back to being objectified ? The more men are allowed to objectify women again ? Don’t be fooled. If men are allowed and even encouraged to objectify women they see on TV, what do you think they will do in real life with women they meet ?
Let’s go back to our parents. Most of our parents did not see music as a danger to morality. They let their parents think that if they wanted to. In general, the thing bothering our parents wasn’t the music we were listening to, it was how loud we listened to it. Besides that, most of us could listen to whatever we wanted. I can’t remember one little classmate telling me ” My parents do not want me to listen to Madonna”, when, let’s face it, she was one of the most sexualized singers we had at that time, but it was done in a way that went over little girls minds. And although some parents didn’t want to hear rap music well… some kids must have been listening to it anyway as it’s now one of the biggest sellers.
We also were living in a time when everything was more controlled and monitored.
Although “absolute freedom” has always been teens first fantasy – I’ve been there – and that you – the youngest – might feel sorry for those of us who didn’t have access to everything through the internet, you will have to grow up to realize that there are pros and cons to everything in life and that in a way we were lucky to not being able to see whatever we wanted.
If parents said ” No, you’re not gonna watch “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3″, you’ll have nightmares.” we simply couldn’t watch it. And if we tried to see it on a VHS at a friend’s place, we were doing so having heart palpitations, hoping our parents wouldn’t find us there. We knew we were watching something we were not allowed to watch, something that was not for children.
If the censorship in 92 said : “No you are not gonna see Madonna’s new music video Erotica, it’s too sexually explicit.” we couldn’t see it and that was it. At that time we couldn’t secretly get on our laptop or our father’s computer to watch it. Wasn’t on TV ? Didn’t see it.
Parents VS internet and the new technologies
Today, kids own smartphones, iPads, TVs, laptops or computers at a very young age. If they don’t own one, their big sister do. Internet is everywhere, and parental control is not effective enough for my friend’s 8yo NOT to come across last Rihanna’s video, “Pour it up”. With the internet and all its devices, it all got out of control, not to mention that sex is all over the place now, in music videos, song lyrics, movies, commercials, magazines, and of course on the internet… It all got out of control for the parents. For the music industry and all the other industries connected to it, it simply all got easier to do what they wanted to do.
A study shows that each year, 14,000 sexual references are shown on television only. Little girls’ minds have no filtering tools and no firewalls against that. Of course parents must monitor what their children are watching, but again, this is everywhere, everyday and all the time. Parents can’t follow and watch their kids 24/7.
In the 80s and the 90s, they trusted the censorship to help them protect their children’s minds, and even if by then the censorship didn’t work perfectly – thankfully, I’m not a fan of dictatorship don’t worry – now they’re on their own, trying to fight TV, radio and the internet all at the same time. That’s impossible.
Every girl is born with a brain
Another girl said that parents should request more of what they wanted their kids to listen to. Yes. Agreed. But do you ever take responsibility for yourself ? Being young doesn’t forbid you to think and then to act for your own interest you know. Like some people decide to eat healthy food instead of eating fast food for their own good, you are free to decide to listen to some more inspiring music. There is a lot of music out there besides what you hear on the radio. Who could tell how all of this happened ? Did the media forced us into this ? Didn’t women accepted it and dive into it ? The chicken or the egg ? That simply doesn’t matter. What matters is that individuals decide to change their own habits. “I’m starting with the man in the mirror / I’m asking him to change his ways / And no message could have been clearer / If you wanna make the world a better place” – Michael Jackson.
Some of you try to reassure themselves saying that none of this affects you.
All I can say is that when my friend’s 10yo daughter asked her mom to buy her a thong, my friend almost fainted. When another friend’s 4yo daughter started slapping her own butt in front of everyone at a family reunion, she too almost lost it.
You may think it’s nothing or funny, because you see the world from behind your own eyes and that this is the only version of the world you know and that you see it through your young age, but still being so close to childhood you don’t understand that there is a time for everything and that there is a time for childhood, that childhood is sacred, short and that when it’s gone it never comes back. You’re just too much in a hurry to grow up to understand this yet and it’s perfectly normal.
Childhood needs protection, it’s a time for freedom, frivolity, a time when young minds are shaped to become tomorrow’s great minds. You have to let children be children.
Today’s little girls have not yet finished to construct their own identities that they are already looking for a boyfriend, to then feel depreciated when they don’t find one. Then they feel dumb if they don’t speak about sex or don’t dress in a sexy way and they feel retarded if they don’t have sex in mind by the age of 13. Meanwhile, in stores, they sell child size thongs, child size padded bras, child size high heels, Playboy-branded stationery for teenage girls and toy stripper poles. Yeah. Your read me right.
On one hand, women have always been taught that what people think of them defines them. They must be beautiful, thin, dressed in a certain way. They need to know how to be sexy and how to seduce. On the other hand, little girls have always been looking for female role models to imitate, to relate to. With sex taking over movies, music videos, magazines, commercials and songs lyrics,what today’s little girls are learning is that their worth is determined by their sex appeal, nothing else.
The thing is, nature knows best, so young girls are not naturally interested in sex before a certain age. What does this lead to ? A huge gap between young girls’ actual minds and what they think they should be doing or being because of what they see or are being told. This is one of the sources of girls and women’s biggest issue of all times : low self-esteem.
A Canadian study shows that the more a girl lacks of self-confidence, the more she is likely to accept or suffer sexual advances. Whether to please, to feel accepted, to be part of the gang or to not be left out, she accepts. And the vicious circle never ends : boys receive sex signals from girls everywhere on TV and are looking for the same in real life, inspired by their models, girls send sex signals to boys who see girls as sex objects who behave as sex objects to please the boys and so on. And there is the end of childhood.
That’s what happens when looks matter more than personality. Girls have always been caring and will always care about what other people think, especially what men think. But we’re all born different so we can’t all look like what we see on TV (thank God). This leads to having complexes. This leads to unhappy little girls who will become unhappy women.
But while every girl is not born a supermodel or a knockout, every girl is born with a brain, and every brain can be fed with good things, leaving no empty space to be filled with crap. If the singers we see everywhere everyday made more lyrics and videos encouraging girls and women to be proud and strong, to love themselves, to educate themselves, to respect themselves, to have ambition and to demand respect from others, to love and respect life, to be optimistic, instead of talking about sex or suicide, or instead of calling other women bitches and hoes, things would be different.
Some singers are trying to send positive and strong messages, you’ve heard them. Maybe. They don’t have half the budget and the means singers like Rihanna or Lady Gaga have. That’s not the messages the music industry and the industries connected to it want you to hear. They want to sell a lot, and they know what sells today. And as whoever shouts the loudest wins, you’re more likely to hear Rihanna talking about S&M sex and suicide like in Russian Roulette everywhere than anything else.
In the end, everything is connected. The music industry is connected to the media industry which is connected to the fashion industry which is connected to the cosmetic industry and so on. They know very well that having sexualized girls shown on TV, they will sell more albums to men and to teenagers. They know very well that having girls and women look up to role models who are obsessed with their looks and sex appeal, they will sell more clothes, more shoes, more cosmetics, more cosmetic surgery, more botox, more more more… starting with always younger girls all around the world.
These are some of the reasons why today, international mainstream music female superstars are the ones we see jiggling and slapping their naked or almost naked asses in the music videos and I’m sorry young ladies but no, this is not normal.