After reading the article by Levin and Kilbourne (2009) I was stunned. As a new parent to a newborn I was baffled by the ideas shared in the article. Some of the things shared I was aware of and others I was not. For example, I am familiar with the Bratz dolls and must say have never liked them. Yet, I was not aware that Victoria Secret was marketing thongs for tweens!!! This made me sick to my stomach. As a mom to a baby boy I have already begun to notice how provocatively teenage girls dress now a days. It saddens me that not only do the parents allow their daughters to dress in such a manner, but that these young girls feel as though they must to be worthy of any attention from the opposite sex! It saddens me that there are so many aspects of sexualization in early childhood. Even in forms of media that should be innocent for children the industry is adding aspects of sexualization. It is awful that children are under the impression that they have to look a certain way to be worthy of attention at very young ages.
The following are examples from both my personal and professional experience that further illustrate the exposure of young children to a highly sexualized environment. It saddens me how easily these examples have popped into my head.
– This past school year I had a situation where one of my kindergarten boys told a girl in my class that they should be boyfriend and girlfriend. The conversation went on and the little boy suggested that the little girl and him have alone time so where they could take off their clothing and lay together.
– Also this past year I had another little boy in the room begin to dance provocatively in front of the class. He grabbed himself and began to act like he was grinding on something. There was no music being played. When I asked him where he had learned to dance like that he replied that his older brothers had taught him. He informed me this was how to get the girls attention.
– There was a student at our school in the past he would wait until he got in the car at car line to yell to a teacher ” bye sexy mama!” Sadly the mother did not address this behavior so after a pattern of this began the administration had to take action.
– On a more personal experience my cousin was telling me just the other day about how her three year old asked her when her boobies would grow. She said she asked her why she wanted to know and her daughter replied so I can get married.
All of these examples among numerous others have implications on a child’s healthy development. From a young age children begin receiving messages about how their bodies need to be in order for them to be seen as beautiful, masculine, or sexy. They begin to think if their body does not look a certain way they are worthless. Children are loosing their innocence due to the world telling them their bodies must perform in mature ways. They are becoming more concerned about their physical appearance leading to issues of depression and eating disorders. We as early childhood professionals must first remember to remain calm when dealing with these situations. We do not want to draw unwanted attention to these types of things. We also must intervene and not ignore what has been said or done. One of the best things we can do is discuss these types of things with young children and families and work to help young children develop a positive sense of self worth and self identity. By teaching children how to form a positive self identity we can help them to see they do not have to meet a standard that the world is displaying for them. We can do this by teaching children about differences through an anti-bias education. They will learn that our differences make us unique and special. Differences are what we should celebrate. Another way I would foster this is through encouraging self expression whether through dancing, painting, drawing, singing, and etc.
My awareness of the sexualization of early childhood has been greatly increased though studying this topic. I was very unaware of many of the aspects discussed. I am not much more knowledgable about the ways children are being influenced and impacted by sexualization at such young ages. I am more aware of the signs to look out for. We as adults are aware of the impact events children experience at a young age impact them later in life. Yet, it seems we do not act on the issue of sexualization with the same urgency. We look for signs of aggression and abuse. Yet, all of the little messages society sends about sexualization we allow to creep past us little by little.
Levin, D. E., & Kilbourne, J. (2009). [Introduction]. So sexy so soon: The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids (pp. 1–8). New York: Ballantine Books. Retrieved from: http://dianeelevin.com/sosexysosoon/introduction.pdf