Grade School Lingerie
Posted by BroadBlogs
When I was ten years old plenty of my friends would wear “big girl lingerie” that they got from Abercrombie and the like. I felt pressured to constantly push to be sexier, or more desirable. At ten years old, who exactly am I trying to attract?
This comment (paraphrased) came in reaction to a piece I recently wrote called, “Cartoonish vs Authentic Sexuality.”
I found the remark a bit starling. At age ten I did not feel any pressure to be sexy. I was a kid! None of my little-girl friends seemed to have such notions, either.
Wondering who she was trying to attract, the young woman added, “I don’t think any of us really knew the answer to that, but it felt necessary all the same.” And then she asked what lay behind the focus on sexualizing young girls.
My first thoughts are that companies like Abercrombie are trying to get young kids to like their brand by appealing to the desire to feel “grown up.” Not to mention all the free
publicity they get from controversies surrounding their products.
But I’ve also noticed a broad trend toward sexualizing both girls and women that goes beyond what I had experienced at the age of ten, or even twenty.
In fact, not long ago I was flipping through TV channels looking for movies when I saw the 1988 film Crossing Delancy with Amy Irving (Steven Speilberg’s ex) and the 1986 film About Last Night with Demi Moore and Rob Lowe. And then I noticed that in these films – and several other romantic comedies of that period – the women were not dressed sexually. No body-hugging clothing. No revealing décolletage.
Why the change?
Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth might help us out. Wolf points out that as women
have gained power they have also become more sexualized. She says it’s no accident.
Think about it. As women take on sex object status, they become objects. Objects aren’t quite human, leaving them at a lower rung on the ladder than men. Meanwhile, the ideal of huge breasts and skinny waists is near impossible to achieve, leading to poor self-esteem and an awful lot of time spent trying to fulfill this “requirement.” And if you’re busy focused on your looks, you’ll take your attention off more substantive things.
In sum: As women become more sexualized, even as they gain power they lose status by becoming objects. Even as women gain power, narrow notions of beauty leave them feeling worse about themselves as body image suffers. As women put tremendous time and energy into their looks, they have little time or energy left to become more empowered.
I personally feel that sexy is fine (and beyond the cartoonish narrow notions, please!), but that “sex object” isn’t. Sexy can be one part of a well-rounded woman’s life, while “sex object” sees women as being only about sex.
Women should not be seen as only sexy. Sexy should not be the primary source of self-worth. Sexy should not be the most important thing in the world.
And children should not be trained to see themselves as objects.
About BroadBlogsI have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.
Posted on June 8, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged body image, culture, feminism, gender, objectification, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, sexual objectification, sexuality, social psychology, women. Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.