7 Things Girls Must Do to Fit In Today

Body Image. Sexy Clothes. Today’s Music Scene. Two of our passionate teen readers want to share their view on growing up as a girl in America and dealing with messages about how to dress, how to look, and how to be. I’d like to introduce; Andrea Wilczynski, age 19 and Caitlyn McKiernan, age 20, from Randolph, Massachusetts. Thank you for your well written and interesting views…

Seven Things a Girl Must Do To Fit In Today

By: Andrea Wilczynski, age 19 and Caitlyn McKiernan, age 20,

Edited by: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Visual Perfection. US society holds the youngest of females to an impossible standard of beauty, an unattainable one. Media fills young minds crippled views of what the world wants – a smaller waist, a bigger chest and a big, fake smile. But how does the average girl next door type fit into the puzzle that is everyday life in 2008?

She must:

Reform herself: Lest she want to constantly see doubt in the faces of parents, friends, and her own reflection. A female would rather coincide to the plastic shine the media creates – be an oversexed version of a Disney princess with a size zero waist and the hope that a famous prince will escort her to happily ever after – big money and fast cars just beyond suburbia. Girls are pushed to be sex symbols, encouraged to binge and purge away their calories in hopes of squeezing into low ride jeans and revealing tops. Females are forced to alter their definition of beautiful body image and conform to the gender identity of media.

Embrace the Bratz, Barbie, Princess Façade: Many girls play with dolls: learning role play, understanding social relationships, and working toward gender identity. Barbie was always a valuable commodity – she aspired to be a doctor, a chef, a teacher or a mother on an ever-changing basis. However, Barbie’s outfits have changed in the past few years. Now, the doll is a princess, a model, a vixen dressed in black for the world to marvel at. She also has a younger look, designed to lure in the average five – seven year old consumer. (Barbie,2008). This doll, along with the newly remodeled Strawberry Shortcake, Polly Pocket and slew of Disney characters have been dressed for success – a cell phone, flamboyant pink colors and completely refashioned looks. Bratz dolls teaching girls that cutting edge fashion includes exposed bellies and full lips start the process of transforming children young.

Dress Provocatively Too Soon: Kids want to dress up, feel pretty, and emulate the actions of TV stars in an attempt to feel some sort of glamorous connection to adulthood. The tragedy in this, is that children are being exposed to sex in it’s most subtle and ugliest form; not knowing that the ads on TV can be ignored – that the hundreds of commercials girls are exposed to can be blocked out. Body Image and Child Development Expert, Dr. Robyn Silverman, posts a blog responding to the concerns of parents, and posted the fact that “about 7 of 10 girls say that they want to look like a character on TV” (Silverman, 2008). Available in stores now are thongs for girls age seven to ten with apparent clever sayings like

“wink wink” along with Beyonce’s pimp and ho wear unacceptable for youngsters. mesmerized/fooled by the controlling lights of the advertising industry as their offspring. Little girls long to dress like mommy, in a small black dress or fashionable shoes. And Disney encourages it, as does Barbie with her very fashionable accessories – which Hannah Montana and Ashley Tisdale promote. Most girls’ pants cannot be purchased with a normal waist line – it’s all “low rise” or “hip hugging” pants, which requires purchase of smaller and tighter undergarments. It’s an endless cycle of high priced merchandise – with female self esteem taking a hard toll.

Sing, Hum, Dance, and Videos of Songs with Over-sexualized Lyrics: At a local elementary school dance two weeks prior to today, songs like “Crank that (Soulja boy)” and “Low” were played – both including explicit lyrics and inappropriate messages to the excited ears of ten and eleven years olds. The music industry has always had a way of presenting girls in a revealing manner; attractive women in bathing suits kissing the rich performer, winning his love and fortune by the end of the averaged three minute clip. Women are degraded in such videos – put down and referred to as “bitches”, “hoes”, or “bimbos” in many of today’s “top 40” hits. These same songs are rewritten by the Kids Bop group – slipping the idea of adult themes into the soft sounds of kids’ voices performing regular hit songs. These same ideas are plastered in high school aged girls – who wear short, revealing dresses to proms instead of the tradition long, fluffed-out ones and grind against their dates, creating an uncomfortable friction for any mythical spirit attempting to stop them.

Stare Wide-eyed at Unattainable Images: Similar to music, the female heroines in movies and TV are always gorgeous, talented, but unnoticed and witty – a perfect package to land the ideal man (who also happens to be moderately to highly attractive). MTV capitalizes on young, beautiful women. Shows like “America’s Next Top Model ” and “American Idol” reach high rating as they berate the physical traits of people who anticipate more of themselves. On “ANTM”, girls who wore a size 8-10 were considered “plus size”. Movies only cast the elite: the flawlessly tanned, perfectly made up woman with legs that go on and on, and piercing eyes. Girls of all ages attempt to impersonate that fake look in reality, forgetting that Hollywood money can buy computers that alter and specialists to dress, and paint and remake any face. And while boys face this social plight as well, one study showed “50% of the commercials aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness, while none of the commercials aimed at boys referenced appearance” (National Institute on Media and the Family, 2002).

Give in to Peer Pressure Just to Feel “Normal”: The average girl is trying to be everything to everyone; loving, and smart and pretty and real. Who is wearing what? How do I fit in? What is right? When asked, a ninth grade girl stated “You never feel like you’re thin enough, pretty enough, or just good enough” (Girls Incorporated, 2006). Life for teens today is who has a great looking Facebook picture – it can be a far bigger deal than what college applications to fill out. Girls spend weeks tanning, ripping hair out, spending hundreds on name brand clothing (this is sported in stores by perfect models) buying make up and cleanser and straighteners – just hoping the someone will notice how great they look walking to English (and with all that primping, who has time for homework?). Thinking that men hope for some personal connection to Hollywood, women tear themselves apart trying to change themselves and others in the images set out by the media and their peers. Many girls will even submit to the pressure and participate in less appealing acts such as sex, drinking or drugs – hoping that they appear more “normal”.

Diet Because She’s Convinced She’s Too Fat: Some young children even attempt at dieting, forgetting that children need strength and energy of a well balanced food plan… not the selected interests of confused children’s stomachs. The blame can be passed to parents, who are usually just as influenced. Girls seem to mirror the cultural obsession with chemically altered foods, following in that same stride by modifying themselves with the hope of being chosen by someone. Fat has been targeted as an enemy, normal has a suspicious eye and all who fail to comply are outcast.

Women will risk health and bank account, will dye and curl and cover, will starve and stuff and change to win the affections of society – to be told that they have achieved the same appearances as the Hollywood starlets and commercialized ladies that live on the screen. Girls have a hard enough time trying to find themselves without competing with the pictures of pin-up models. There’s something within, hidden under all that products and… little else: a heart, a soul, a mind – a girl.

Thank you for sharing, Andrea and Caitie,

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Boys and Body Image: The Adonis Complex and Steroid Use in Teens

Steroid Use in Teen Boys: Continuing the discussion…

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Powerful Parents are certainly a passionate bunch. I guess my article on steroid abuse among teens stirred up some good discussion yesterday in light of the cultural response to body image problems among our youth. Perhaps you were surprised that boys were affected just as girls have been affected. What else can we expect?

With so much concentrated focus on the war against obesity, it shapes up the insecurities in children who say to themselves, “I don’t want to be fat, I don’t want to be cast aside, put down, or put out, so I will do whatever it takes, even if it means putting my health as risk, to be thin, muscular, and admired. Is this the message we want to send to our youth—spooned to mouth by Hollywood starlets, He-man Gladiators, and appearance-driven magazines? To be thin, muscular and unhealthy rather than risk being called “overweight” or worse yet…“average?”

Research has shown that dieting and attending to one’s physique in negative ways has become so prevalent that the behavior of in a way, has become normalized. That means that those people who are NOT dieting, participating in some abnormal or disordered eating patterns, or trying to alter their body through surgery, drugs, or laxative abuse, are in affect, abnormal. One preteen in one of my Sassy Sisterhood Girls Groups said it clearly a few summers ago, “if you’re not dieting or something like it, you’re considered weird, snobby, kind of stuck on yourself, or like, NOT normal.” Great. What youth, whether we’re talking about a boy or a girl, wants to be abnormal?

So they reach out for assistance. They restrict food, they purge, they take laxatives, or they dope up with steroids. Well, what did we expect? Do you ever hear societal reverb recalibrated to say, “lose weight but don’t go too far?” Of “eat healthily, exercise wisely, and then accept yourself at the size your at? No. We hear…be better, faster, bigger! Be More! More! More!

I did an interview a few month’s back for a teen website in which I was asked about boys and body image. Here is a part of my answer:

Boys are dealing with something that is now informally being called “The Adonis Complex”—named after the Greek mythology figure Adonis who was half man and half god—he was considered the ultimate in masculine good looks and ideal physique for men. And, if you are familiar with Greek mythology, Adonis had a body that was so perfectly beautiful that Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, fell in love with the site of him.

So what parents need to know is that while it’s not as common as it is for girls, (in fact, girls are 3 times as likely to feel bad about their bodies than boys) boys are also at risk of developing unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders. In fact, according to a study done in Australia, about 45 per cent of men were unhappy with their bodies to some degree, compared with only 15 per cent of men only 25 years ago. Remember, Boys are changing too—they also want to look good and desirable to others—they value the opinions of others, and they recognize that there is a connection between positive attention and how they look.

Research into boy’s body image has shown males are concerned with having that lean muscular look and of course, this makes them want to lose weight and increase their muscle mass- often in unhealthy ways. And the bottom line here is that again, messages that come from parents and the media have a strong influence on body image for teen boys as well as teen girls—but while it may be a large concern—and it deserves a lot of attention, we can do something about it—we can help our kids feel confident, healthy, happy and worthwhile-and that is what I am trying to do with my work with children, teens, parents, and educators.

So we must expect teens to come up with ways that make them “the best.” Because we tend to pay attention to the best. Who pays attention to mediocre? In our society we want it all—even if it means that we chisel away at ourselves, our health, and our self worth to get there. Yes, I’m talking abut the teens…but you know as well as I do, we’re also talking about adults. And somehow, we’re supposed to serve as examples.

In a world in need of role models that don’t come in retouched slinky dresses or couched in pumped up doped-filled muscles, we ask those who are truly trying to make a difference to scream the loudest. So go ahead…scream!

One of our resident role models, Amy Jussel, Executive Director of Shaping Youth (an Organization for which I am an Advisory Board member and Body Image expert, piggybacked my article on Steroid use in boys, which I wanted to share, at least in part, with all of you:

Take it away…Amy!

Awhile back I wrote about body image issues offering “equal opportunity toxicity” as young boys have increased body dysmorphia, emulating buffed boy, ripped six-pack icons of video games and ‘hunks’ modeled and merchandised ad nauseum.

Not getting alarmist, as we’re still in single digit growth percentages, but it’s worth the focus on BOYS who have been gaining on girls in eating disorders and tanked self-esteem as media and marketing serve up a quest for the almighty ‘hotness’ and adolescents end up with The Adonis Complex reverb.

This Sunday on our own Shaping Youth Advisory Board member Rona Renner’s radio show, you can hear the doctors tackle “adolescent body image” (podcasts archived too) as Rona and her guests help teens develop a healthier image of themselves beyond the media machine.

Gee, let’s start with Lightyear XSTREAM Energy. (and no, not the Buzz Lightyear kind) This energy drink contains Yohimbe, claiming to be an aphrodisiac and “natural sexual enhancer used for impotent males.” Or perhaps this new summer ’08 flavor of citrus “Crunk” which you may recall originated in ’04 with rapper/producer Lil John and the late Sidney Frank, of Jagermeister and Grey Goose libation fame.

Now, um, tell me, doctors…”Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?”

The media/marketing blitz selling kids ways to last longer, get stronger, “be hot with a shot” is complicit in the escalation of body image problems wreaking havoc on this appearance-obsessed generation of kids.

Girls may receive more press about disordered eating and such, but ‘Bigorexia’ (photo credit at left from Ditch Diets Live Light by blogger Cari Corbet-Owen) is on the rise. (See Cari’s primer called ‘Who Gets the Adonis Complex?” for a helpful snapshot of milestones in media moments for male context)

These media corollaries are backed up by researchers like Alison Field, Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics and lead researcher on the GUTS study [Growing Up Today]…

A synopsis of her outcomes with males?

“Although fewer males than females are preoccupied with a desire to be thinner, a non-trivial number of males are preoccupied with a desire to have more or better defined muscles. The latter concern is rarely assessed in studies that include males.”

And it’s more common than once thought, with a direct correlation of risk factors between boys unhealthy means used to gain weight, (e.g. steroids) and girls unhealthy means lose weight, (e.g. bulimia, diet pills, etc.) tied to “wanting to look like same-sex figures in the media.”

Ahem. Causal link, anyone? When I have 5th graders in our counter-marketing sessions worried about dieting and muscle mass, (boys AND girls) I’d say Houston, we have a problem.

How would Shaping Youth “counter-market” the buffed boy/steroid bit? (and intake of supplements of all kinds promising the lean, mean teen machine?)

Point to articles like this from Parenting Teens.com for starters:

“Teens abusing steroids may suffer reduced sperm count, shrinking testicles, impotence and difficulty urinating. All of this intimately associated with the equipment most men value very highly.

Teens on steroids also risk losing their hair and inappropriate breast development. One has to wonder how many takers there would be for steroids if these side effects were listed alongside the much-vaunted ‘desirable’ effects. This is why education on the (in excess of 70) side effects of steroids is almost a sure way to deal with steroid abuse among teens. The fact is these young people are simply unaware of this.

Imagine a pack of steroids bearing this equation: “Enormous increases in brute strength” soon followed by the shrinking of testicles, impotence, lowered sperm count and hair loss. With the writing on the wall few teens can dispute the ill effects of steroid abuse. It is still true that the underlying problem of low self esteem and poor body image must be addressed. Rest assured that if it is allowed to lie there unattended it will not go away. Instead it will find another destructive outlet.”

Info on Rona Renner’s Radio Show for this Sunday: (1-877-372-KIDS) or listen when posted on the website Details: The doctors will be talking about media and peer pressure to be thin or look sexy, as well as some of the ‘acting out’ that transpires with body insecurities in the form of cutting, eating disorders, depression or anxiety. Hey, maybe Dr. Robyn would call-in to Rona’s radio show and write us a guest editorial recap? Hmn…

Related Resources/Body Image/Boys

NIDA for Teens (Fact Sheets)

Adolescents Bulk Up Their Bodies, USA Today

The X/Y Factor by Rachel Abramowitz, L.A.Times

Tween Boys/Putting on the Spritz by Lori Aratani, L.A. Times

Shaping Youth Packaging Boyhood: Corporate Pirates Raid Boys’ Souls

Bigorexia & Muscle Building: Ditch Diets & Live Light.com

The Adonis Complex: How to Identify, Treat, & Prevent Body Obession in Men & Boys (book)

I’m, Like, SO Fat!: Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Eating & Exercise (book)

Looking Good: Male Body Image in North America (book)

About-Face: Body Image Books/Tips on Body Acceptance

NIDA: Anabolic Steroid Use in Teens, 2005

Kids Health: Steroids/Human Growth Hormone

Steroid Use by Teens Soaring (CBS News, 2003)

Packaging Boyhood.com (upcoming book/survey here!)

Amy Jussel is the Founder & Executive Director of Shaping Youth, a nonprofit, nonpartisan consortium concerned with harmful media and marketing messages to children.Prior to founding Shaping Youth, Amy spent over 20 years as a writer/producer in print, broadcast and film in commercial advertising as well as journalism. Her media background makes her uniquely qualified to assess the impact of multi-channel marketing in children’s lives.

Thanks, Amy! Let’s hear what all of you have to say…comment below!

Copyright: Dr. Robyn J.A.Silverman; http://wwwDrRobynsBlog.com and http://wwwBodyImageBlog.com

Are your children taking steroids…or Viagra? Body Image and Athletic Performance

Steroid Use in Preteens and Teens

Perhaps you’ve noticed a few of them walking in the halls of your children’s schools. Or perhaps you’ve noticed something strange among your own teens. Are their chiseled bodies really of this world? With their six pack abs, bulging biceps and firm quads, these teens make others wonder if they’re really working hard enough at the gym.

But they have a secret that they’re hiding from their parents. Steroids.

Given that many of our sports heroes, including baseball players, track stars , and cyclists, have been accused of (or have admitted to) using steroids to bulk up, slim down, and get that godly look and strength, is it really surprising that teens are interested in doing the same things? Our heroes help us all to see what’s possible and the tools they use to seize the day. It’s only natural for kids to have a desire to follow in their footsteps.

In addition, the cultural pressures to be “the best” can drive teens towards steroid use. How can they get better? Bigger? Faster? Steroids can look like an easy answer.

What are steroids?

Steroids are very helpful in curing a lot of conditions. Anabolic steroids, in particular, help build muscle and bone mass. That’s where the danger starts.

  • Over 5% of boys and around 2.7% of girls in high school admit to taking some form of steroids without a prescription, according to the CDC in 2007.
  • Long term effects of unprescribed intake of anabolic steroids include urinary problems, abrupt and extreme mood swings, trembling, damage to the heart and blood vessels due to blood pressure and even death.
  • In men, steroids can cause symptoms such as breast development, testicular shrinkage and erectile dysfunction. Women taking steroids can experience facial hair growth, clitoris enlargement, menstrual cycle changes and even the development of many masculine characteristics. Most of these symptoms are due to hormonal imbalances caused by the steroid intake.

Some of the danger signs:

  • Mood swings (can be very extreme
  • Urinary problems
  • Severe acne
  • Abrupt increase in muscle mass
  • Yellowish skin
  • Needle marks in muscle groups
  • Syringes in child’s belongings
  • Sudden deepening of voice (females)
  • Facial hair growth (females)

There are 10 major classes of anabolic steroids . Each class is dependent upon the route of administration and the type of carrier solvent used to introduce the steroid into the body.

The ten classes are:
1. Oral
2. Injectable oil-based
3. Injectable water-based
4. Patch or gel
5. Aerosol, propellant based preparation
6. Sublingual
7. Homemade transdermal preparation
8. Androgen-estrogen combination
9. Counterfeit anabolic steroid
10 Over the counter (OTC)

Girls

Girls have recently been known to use steroids as a way to get an edge on the playing field, slim down and tone up. Some girls, as young as 9 years old, have found that steroids can help them to look more like the Hollywood stars and models they admire.

“There’s been a substantial increase for girls during the 1990s, and it’s at an all-time high right now,” said Charles Yesalis, professor of health and human development at Pennsylvania State University.

  • Overall, up to about 5 percent of high school girls and 7 percent of middle-school girls admit trying anabolic steroids at least once, with use of rising steadily since 1991, various government and university studies have shown.
  • “With young women, you see them using it more as a weight control and body fat reduction” method, said Jeff Hoerger, Rutgers University, New Jersey counseling program.
  • These girls are more likely to have eating disorders and use other risky methods to get thin.

Boys

As the men on Gladiators, Wrestlemania, and Ultimate Fighter get bigger, boys may also have a desire to bulk up. But you might be surprised to know that it’s not only about getting stronger. It’s also about body image—and looking more attractive—even in elementary and middle school!

Boys as young as 10, and high school students who do not play team sports, are also bulking up with steroids because they want to look good.

Some high schools are working to combat steroid use by banning the substance and offering a consequence: If a student is caught using performance-enhancing drugs, they can be banned from competing for a whole year. The problem is, no drug testing is required. Parents still need to keep their eyes open.

How should parents address the issue?

Direct Approach: Especially if the person you suspect is your son/daughter, this can be the most effective approach. You can always take the time to just sit down and talk about steroids. Many teens either simply don’t know about the real risks of steroids or are uncertain about their effects. Talk about all the general risks and the long term effects and how it simply isn’t worth it. Let them know that ultimately, they’ll just end up jeopardizing their own goals and maybe their entire lives.

If your child is thinking about taking steroids, your heart-to-heart talk could bring up facts and illuminate issues that s/he didn’t know about before.

Use the Media: When steroid use is brought up in the media, don’t stay silent! Let your children and teens know how you feel about steroid use, what it means for the sport, the athletes, personal health and the integrity of the sport. When children and teens are clear about how you feel about steroids and other illegal substances, they’re more likely to refrain from using.

Child Monitoring

  • Look for any obvious weight gains in your children, particularly, gains in muscle mass over a short period of time.
  • Is there any sign of depression? Hormonal imbalance can cause mood swings and erratic behavior.
  • Is there any apparent hair loss with your child? Premature balding and breast development in boys and facial hair development in females are possible side effects of steroid use.

Intervention: Let the experts work

If you’re sure that the problem exists, let your children know that you only want what’s best for them– and then, introduce an expert. Trained doctors are the best people to address the problem.

Steroids Hotline: 1-800-STEROIDS

This hotline provides information on drugs, how to know if someone you know is using steroids and where to get help.

Anything else but steroids?

In addition, believe it or not, Viagra is now becoming another drug used by athletes. It’s being used to help with athletic performance, increase blood flow, and increase the effectiveness of other drugs. Watch your medicine cabinets.

Looking forward to hearing your reactions- please comment below.

Kate Beckinsale doesn’t like her body: Body Image Issues in Hollywood…Again

According to HollyScoop, the very thin Kate Beckinsale has reportedly demanded that she have a body double for a shower scene in her latest movie, Whiteout, because she doesn’t like her butt.

A source tells The Mail, “The script called for her character to be filmed nude in a shower, focusing in on her bottom and thighs. “Kate insisted on a double being hired. She was quite open on the set about not liking her body and said she particularly loathed her bottom and was not comfortable baring it.”

If this girl has a problem with her body…what message does that send to our girls?

Parents Confused About Healthy and Thin Dilemma

“Parents face a complicated situation,” Brownell says. “They have to promote healthy weight, but they also don’t want to change children into diet-crazed fanatics.”

There was a great article in Time Magazine regarding the much discussed “thin and happy” vs. “fat and unhealthy” medical/media beef. A must read.

The dilemma is born due to the connection, albeit societal, between fat=unhealthy=unhappy and thin=healthy=happy. Many are reluctant to admit that people who don’t fit the thin ideal can actually be healthy and happy. Of course, this creates havoc on our children and their sense of body confidence.

The dilemma is further fueled by research determined to prove that thin does indeed equal happy and healthy. Although some has provided other perspectives:

Reports on adults in similar situations have conflicted. Since the 1970s, doctors at the nonprofit Cooper Institute in Dallas have gathered data from more than 100,000 patients who have been weighed, measured and made to run on treadmills while their vital signs are monitored. “We’ve long concluded that people who are overweight and active can be healthier than those who are thin but sedentary,” says Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the institute’s director. “There’s no reason to believe that conclusion doesn’t apply to our children too.”

Much of the overweight and obesity research reiterates that medically overweight and obese children are doomed to medical and social problems. Some celebs, such as Nikki Blonsky and Queen Latifah provide visual confirmation otherwise. But most people are quick to point out the Chris Farleys and Kirstie Alleys of the world– those who were overweight and unhealthy.  And of course, they’re also quick to highlight the buff bods of the music and movie world in magazines and media all over.

In this article, Nikki Blonsky is quick to point out that she is into fitness– something Latifah has also expressed. They are also happy and successful, something research continually tells us is more and more improbable as children and adults deviate more and more from the thin ideal.

So what do you think? Does thin=healthy=happy? Does fat=unhealthy=unhealthy? Or are other configurations alive and well? Let’s start a discussion. Tell us what you think.

Photo creds: PussyCat Dolls, Matt Sayles / AP

Nip-Tuck for Strawberry Shortcake and Friends: Less Belly Fat, More Muscles, and a CellPhone

It appears that our yesterday’s favorite cartoon characters are getting extreme makeovers to cater to the modern tastes of today’s kids. According to the New York Times, these classic characters are being “freshened up” in order to add upward momentum to the rough sloping economy.

Apparently, the YouTube generation is interested in less belly fat and more muscles. Less “cutesy” and more streamline. Fewer calories and more cell phones. Seriously. What ever happened to nostalgia for days when we didn’t need to think about all that stuff?

Impossibly thin waists and the buff bods have been popular among fairy princesses and hulky princes, respectively, but how about the Care-bears and Little Miss Shortcake?

Strawberry Shortcake went under the figurative knife and was revealed this past Tuesday. Labeled a “fruit-forward” makeover, she was stripped of her bloomers, went on a diet (no more sweets, more fruit!), put down her cat, and picked up a cell phone. No more freckles and of course, more pink—now her signature color in place of her customary red. She looks a lot more “little mermaid” than “strawberry sweetie” from yesteryear.

Toys and toons aimed at boys are also getting a little nip-tuck. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are loosing a bit of their ‘tude and gaining more muscles. Think—turtles on steroids.

Other nostalgic characters getting a face—and body-lift? Bugs bunny, Scoobie Doo, and the Care bears, the latter getting a little lipo to loose the belly fat and eyelash extensions to enhance the eyes.

The companies are trying to appeal to the kids without going too far—attempting to stay away from the hypersexualized and increasingly violent media landscape ever-present today. Even Mickey Mouse will be getting into the action.

Companies like Disney are giving nostalgic characters an update in an attempt to appeal to both modern kids and today’s parents–parents who are trying to protect their youngsters from seeing too much, considering the recent Miley Cyrus exposure and other young stars who are becoming less predictable and more out of control. Not to mention other brands that have gone way to far towards sexualizing the most mundane toys to appeal to Paris-Hilton-like children such as the Disney HorsesStrutz (for girls who are on the cutting edge of what’s hot in fashion)

They’re also wary of changing their brand too much or sending out items that parents don’t like as Mattel did in 1993 when they spruced up the classic Ken doll with a poorly chosen purple mesh T-shirt, leather vest, earring, and high-lighted coif. Warner Brothers made a similar marketing mistake when they revamped Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in 2005, full with mohawks and crazy eyes in the series “Lunatics.”

Are cartoon portrayals such a big deal?

According to numerous studies, it may be.

“the depictions about gender roles seen by children could impact and interact with both the expectations they develop about relationships and appropriate behavior, and their future life decisions. It is important to keep in mind, too, that the concern about stereotyping is not less severe because these are cartoons and not “real life.” Although this issue has not been definitely settled by research, several studies have indicated that young children accept fantasy as reality and cannot always distinguish well between the two. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research by Thompson et al.

WEIGH IN

What do you think? Is it a good thing for these toy and cartoon companies to reflect a more streamline, beauty-oriented, techno-culture in our children’s cartoons or should they be leaving things the way they are? Are cartoons getting too sexed up for the kids or are people making too much of a big deal about the whole thing?

Please comment below!

Looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Photo credits: New York Times, Google, Strutz Site, TOFC, themanbehindtheearring.com, wikipedia

Are Disney Princesses Sexualizing Your Daughter? Dr. Robyn Responds

It can be difficult to cope when it seems that our children are growing up too soon. Parents often have a love-hate relationship with much of the media when it comes to their children. Especially their daughters. On the one hand you have the hypersexualization of women and girls in music videos, magazines, internet games and advertisements, and on the other hand you have the classics we all used to love—like Sesame Street and Disney. But as adults, even are old favorites sometimes get on our nerves. Yes, as parents, we have a new perspective.

The following article is a guest post from Vicki, a parent, just like you, who just wants what’s best for her child. As Powerful Parents who know the importance of character education and values discussions in families, we’d love to hear your perspective. You can read her article as well as my response to her regarding at least some ways that she can deal with her frustrations with the Disney Princesses and Barbie, who have clearly gotten on her last nerve.

The Princesses Are Sexualizing My Daughter

Reagan has been “into” the Disney Princesses for years now. INTO them. She’s got reading books, coloring books, sticker books, puzzles, dress-up clothes, regular clothes, CDs, movies, toys, dolls, you name it she’s had one with a princess somewhere on it. We even went to Disney World in conjunction with her sixth birthday so she could enjoy meeting the princesses while she was still in that phase.

There was a time when we tried to ban the princesses. It was a couple years ago and we were idealistic thinking that if we told everyone that we weren’t “doing” the princesses that they would stop giving her things with princesses on them. That did not work. And the ban seemed to deepen her interest. Funny how that works. We couldn’t really express why we were banning them. That would lead to more questions.

“Why can’t I have that Princess coloring book?”
“Because we don’t do Princesses?”
“Why don’t we do Princesses?”
“Because they promote the wrong image?”
“What’s an image?” “What’s promote?” “Why don’t we do Princesses?”
“Here’s the coloring book.”

That’s not how it would end. She wouldn’t get the coloring book. But eventually we gave in and she did start acquiring that stuff again. At some time we thought we could counteract the Princesses. We introduced her to Veggie Tales, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, Hello Kitty (I will never understand why someone finds princesses better than Hello Kitty. She is the best. The. End.), and many other characters. Her desire was always for the Princesses.

Now she knows practically everything about them. What is starting to bother me is that she’s starting to emulate them. Wanting to be more like them. For a while when she would put on a nightgown with a stretchy neck, she’d pull it off one shoulder and walk around with her head tilted towards that shoulder. And look at us with batting eyes. I would promptly ask her to

“Cover your shoulder, girls don’t dress like that.”
“So and so Princess does.”
“You’re not So and so Princess.”

We could live with that because there ain’t no way she’s exiting the house while under my supervision with a shoulder bare like that (visualize me doing the three snap). Unless she’s got a part in some 80s theater production and has on a super baggy sweatshirt and some type of covering underneath.

BUT NOW!!! THE REASON I’M BABBLING ON!!! Just the other night, after her dance recital, she had a friend spend the night. They were getting ready for bed in the bathroom and this is what I heard:

Reagan: “Do you know who my boyfriend is?”
Friend: “Who?”
R: “E****. It used to be S****, and then P****, but now it’s E****.”
F: Crickets
R: “I’d so kiss him. I really would. I really would kiss him.”

WHAT!!??!!??!!?? Where is she getting this stuff from?!?!? It took a couple of days to process. It’s from the freaking Princess characters. And Barbie, she’s not off the hook either. They all are lost in some way. They all need to be saved. They all find their knight in shining armor (or however he may be dressed). And they all kiss in the end with that stupid look of love between them. And what I’m just beginning to realize is this:

You can’t really tell how old the princesses are can you!?!? Or Barbie…

NO, you can’t. The only one, I believe, who mentions her age is Ariel. Disobeying her father at a ripe old age of 16. All of these Princesses look young and girls can totally see themselves playing the part. In fact, mentally picturing all of them, I couldn’t place an age on any of them. Heck, I could see myself playing the part. Girls are learning, ever so subtly, that at their young age they should be finding their one true love and kissing them and getting married.

I don’t think Reagan knows what she means when she says that she really would kiss this boy. She sees Mommy and Daddy kiss and hug, mind you not enough, but I doubt she actually has the moxie to go up and kiss a boy that she doesn’t even have the guts to tell that he’s her boyfriend. How do I know that? Sunday School. You know, the place they’re supposed to go and learn about Jesus? Reagan told a friend that E**** was her boyfriend. So this girl marches right up to him and tells him. His reaction. Nothing. I’m so glad.

So, what’s a Mom and Dad to do? We’re so deep into Princesses and Barbie. Will nightly conversations about this remedy the situation? Will banning the stuff with zero tolerance starting now work? Where is Dr. Dobson when you want to have a heart to heart with him right on the living room sofa? Pray for us please. And seriously, give suggestions.

Dear Vicki,

It’s frustrating to raise girls when media keeps telling them that they need to look a certain way in order to get attention. The Disney princess enterprise keeps growing, it’s not going anywhere, and it’s certainly something that many parents must deal with everyday.

I’ve got several ideas but let’s start here. Ask her what she loves about the princesses. You may be surprised. There are always things we like and dislike about friends and other people in our lives– but we don’t shut them out even if we don’t agree with them.

  • Go Positive: Take the Powerful Words approach and build from the positive side. Find something that you like about those princesses– do they have determination and go after something they really want? Do they have goals and dreams? Do they have nice singing voices? Do they show that they’re good friends to their friends? Are they kind? Grateful? Giving? Start focusing on the positive. Praise what you like.
  • Cite the Negative: You can also be very straightforward about what you don’t like about them so that your daughter is clear about your values. In the spirit of “honesty” month, be clear yet age appropriate. Is it their style of dress? Their choices? Their “pinkness?” We want our daughters to get out of the habit of thinking that girls can only look, act, and be one way. Let them know what bothers you and keep it simple.
  • Model What You Want to See: As you know, since I write a character curriculum and advise parents on instilling values in their children, I often talk about modeling and discussing what you would like to see in your children. Your example is stronger than any 2-dimensional character could ever be.
  • Expose Her to Fabulous 3-D Role Models: Have some great friends or local heroes that really show your daughter what a girl can become? Allow your daughter to have “tea” or lunch with them. The more we can expose our girls to powerful, positive women and teens, the more they will see that reality is much better than fantasy.
  • Get Her Into A Positive Activity: Challenge the stereotypes and ensure that your daughter is involved in activities that isn’t all pink and frills. Choose sports that make her feel powerful. Perhaps a martial arts, power tumbling or modern dance class would bring out a different side of her. Any of the Powerful Words Member Schools will also ensure that she’s learning strong character development—not just the physical—which will get her to thrive from the inside out.

If she knows what you like and what you don’t like, is challenging the stereotypes, and is exposed to powerful, positive women, you might be surprised the next time you pass by the bathroom filled with girls– she may just say something like “I like that she’s good to her friends but she doesn’t always make the best choices.”

Let me know how it goes.

Other articles or cites that deal with similar media topics:

Girls Media Maven

Corporate Babysitter:

Final Call

Packaging Girlhood

Shaping Youth