This article is actually a brilliant conversation between Monica Ali, Annie Lenox, Beverley Knight, VV Brown, Jane Shepherdson, and Katharine Whitehorn. The part that I love best is that these incredibly successful women openly challenge the post-feminist idea that the best way for women to gain power is through their sexuality.
Monica Ali tells a story about walking past a billboard with her ten-year old daughter. It was an ad for a TV show and had a row of men in suits and a woman in a thong. Her daughter said she didn’t like it, but that it was the young woman’s choice. Ali questions this idea, she says, “If the culture (of female empowerment through sexualization) is so all pervasive that you can’t think outside of it, how are you making genuine choices?”
This is a salient point. Do the young women who choose to exploit themselves really understand what they are doing? When they say, “It’s my choice,” is that because they don’t understand that there are other, better ways for women to gain power and be seen as valuable? I would argue that when young girls are growing up with message after message that tells them that the thing that makes a woman valuable is her appearance and sex appeal, that many young women are stuck in a mindset that this is the only, best, or easiest way to gain power.
I say that it is time for adults to work our hardest to show girls that their power does not have to come from their sexuality. They need us to shine the light on the truth of sexualization, to point out that it is about diminishing rather than gaining power. They need us to offer them powerful, authentic role models of women who are using strength of mind and spirit to achieve power rather than their bodies. They need all adults, both males and females, to mentor their natural talents and show them that we believe that they have much more to offer to the world than their bodies. In the end, these women’s definition of feminism is beautiful: “Feminism is about women caring about other women, giving voice to those who have no other voice.” This is what all of us adults, both men and women need to be for the children in our lives. The sexualization of children impacts both boys and girls, and they don’t have the voices to speak against it. But we do, so speak up!