My friend Caron recently sent me this slide show from the New York Times. It shows pictures of young girls who were originally child stars promoted in Disney TV shows or movies. These girls all trace a predictable route from childlike star to temptresses who proclaim themselves “A slave” or “dirty” or in other ways sexually available and willing.
It’s actually pretty startling to see the number of young girls who have taken this same path. What’s especially disturbing is that these singers and actresses were originally directly targeting very young children. The early concerts and shows that these girls participated in were marketed to fans as young as five years old. For many young girls, the first music concert that they attended were Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus, the first TV or movie they loved featured Lindsey Lohan or Miley Cyrus.
What message does it send to young girls when people who’ve been heavily promoted to them as role models grow up to dance around in stripper attire singing that they want to be someone’s slave? Objectifying oneself and using ones sexuality as the primary source of power is not empowering. The message that these young women are sending is this, “Even with all the talent that I have, the only way for me to be truly powerful and fulfill my goals is to make myself an object of someone else’s desire. True power and strength can only come from exploiting myself sexually.”
Some people say that it’s not big deal, that this is how the entertainment industry works. Well, I think that it’s time for all of us who care about children to start making a big deal out of this kind of exploitation. From talking to the children we know one on one about these messages to supporting legislation that promotes healthier media for children, we can make a difference. The young girls in our lives need to see that there are better ways to become powerful, that they don’t need to become a temptress to learn to shine.