I recently watched a CBC documentary for my ECMP 355 class entitled Sext Up Kids. The video describes a phenomenon known as KAGOY or “kids are getting older younger.” Young boys and girls are wanting to look (and behave) older; this is partially due to advertisements, magazines, commercials, movies, and forums that all have the same message: being a grown up is better. Our entire economy is based on the simple idea of supply and demand. Marketing companies realize there is a demand for older-looking clothes in the younger clothing section and create a supply for it. Young girls want to look like their 13 year old sister. This seems relatively harmless, right? “Who cares if they want to look like their older sibling! That does no harm to them!” The problem is that 13 year old sister is trying to look like her 18 year old idol (which, lets face it, could be Miley Cyrus at this point). As a result, young girls are dressing like a twenty-one year old mini-Mileys. Scaring you yet?
A redditor shared how his 8-year-old daughter wanted to join dance classes. The company posted this performance for advertising their company:
There.are.no.words. How is this okay? How is this not being talked about in schools?
So how did this end up happening? There are no quick answers to this question but it is clear young girls are being sexualized at a really young age and are quickly learning how to sexualize themselves. If you look at a Maxim cover (boy audience) or a Cosmopolitan cover (girl audience) the messages are virtually the same: be good at sex, how to make your man happy, and they usually have a half naked chick in a suggestive pose on the cover. As a result, girls are learning how to sexualize themselves at a very young age and the idea of them being sexual and objectified by society is normalized.
The documentary describes a catch-22 with the sexualization of girls because people have two options: either buy into what the media is saying or choose to be invisible. The documentary shows how popular sexting or “sexy texting” has become extremely common for kids in high schools. A few girls in the documentary even said they need to get “bustier at an earlier age.” Oh, great. So now girls are going to change biology in order to fit the media’s standards? What the …. ? So my next question is, are we teaching students that these are images and messages are completely distorted? That these images will be there forever once you send that text message or post on an internet source? Private is now public and it scares the crap out of me.
The documentary describes pornography as becoming the “super educator” for sexual acts. Worried yet? I can see how this is becoming a reality because having “the talk” is one small conversation compared to many years where kids have access to the internet where pornography is available at the click of a button. Girls in the documentary express how they feel they must “put on a show” for guys because of these types of images. Pornography is described as the “biggest elephant in the [class]room that is not being talked about.” I think it is about time we started talking about it.
I want to get my students to think critically about something that is very much a part of their world: online identity, sexualization, and why things are the way they are. I don’t want to just say “online identity is a big deal; sexualization is happening right now! Look at this doll it proves it.” Explaining the “why” makes this material relevant for students. You can explain the terms “supply and demand” while simultaneously showing the harmful effects it has on our society (KAGOY). Talking about these issues doesn’t need to start when they are entering grade 11 and can watch “more mature” material. Disney movies can be analyzed for their gender stereotyping (both women and men) in younger grades. Barbie dolls, Bratz, G.I. Joe, magazines, commercials, propaganda… the list goes on and on. Students will actually get real life skills by doing this as opposed memorizing some material for an exam.
I know this blog post emphasized what is expected of women and there are certainly expectations put on men so I will be doing another blog post later on discussing those issues.