One of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.
–Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
My 8-year-old daughter, Allie, was assigned to do a research project on a hero. She chose Martin Luther King, Jr., and we’ve spent the last month learning more about him together and reading his words. What strikes me as I read his words is his unfailing hope for humanity. He believed in the beauty and the power of the human spirit.
I fight against the sexualization of children and the promotion of narrow gendered stereotypes because it matters. It matters that we’re offering our children narrow, restricted visions for themselves. It matters that we’re telling our girls and young women that their power lies primarily in their sexuality and physical appearance. It matters that six year olds are being sold sexy.
We have had the world of gender stereotyping and sexualization pulled over our eyes for far too long. I recently read my friend Melissa Wardy’s account of talking with the creative team for Monster High, and hearing how they think their product is positive for girls and didn’t even see the “sexiness” factor until it was pointed out directly. I’ve heard people who don’t believe that sexualized media matters because they don’t think it hurts children. I’ve heard parents say, “It’s just a toy, just a doll, just a tv show.” Here’s what I have to say to all of you:
Wake up! You are sleeping through a fight for the rights of children to develop healthy identities at their own pace. This is not about healthy identity and sexual development, this is about a pattern of connecting value with physical appearance from a very early age. This is about corporate greed run amuck, and a complete lack of regard for the emotional well-being of an entire generation. This is about restricting children’s vision for themselves and the possibilities for their lives. Enough with the excuses. Enough with the apathy. Enough with the callous disregard for the dignity and humanity of our children. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to call out corporations who peddle sexiness to six year olds for profit. It’s time, as King said, “to rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.”
I have worked with children for many years, and I live with three of them. I have a deep and abiding belief in their dignity. They are not bodies on which to place sexual jokes. They are not little dolls to dress up for a laugh. They are people with beautiful spirits and individual strengths. They have gifts that can change this world. Let’s provide them with the opportunity to do that.