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?
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,