Objectification and Your Child: a rant of Epic proportions

How many parents of school-aged children read this blog? How many siblings of school-aged children? How many have teenagers? How many are teenagers? (Tsk, tsk – this blog has foul language. What would your mother say?)

So, now that we’ve gotten that covered (and I’d wager a fair number of you do have children, whether you’ll admit it in public or not). I want you to consider the media that your children, step-children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, kids you babysit, etc.  are exposed to on a daily basis  and the message that is delivered to them through advertising.  TV shows.  Movies.  Music (if we old farts can even call it that any more).  Hell, even video games.  All things that I virtually guarantee our kids are exposed to on a daily basis (unless you’re the parent I want to be, and don’t let your kids experience any of that crap).  Most of it is aimed at the over-10 set – y’know, things like Hannah Montana, iCarly, even stupid cartoons as seemingly innocuous as Teen Titans. It’s all pop drivel, and all seems fairly harmless and innocent, until you start examining it more closely.

First of all, let’s consider how these children are presented. And yes, children they are, no matter how much glitter and lights you wrap them up in.

Oh look. It's Dr. Jekyll and Mr..... fuck it. You get the point.

So – exhibit A. Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana, aka just now 18 and acting like a stripper. Look, I’m sorry to keep harping on about the kid, but she’s such a good example. Her audience is primarily pre-teen girls, which was more or less okay when she was doing that stupid TV show, but still – she’s pretty, she’s trendy, she’s wearing more eye makeup in that picture on the left than I put on when I’m going out to a goth night. And on the left? Jesus Christ. Do I really need to say anything? That’s from last year. Last year. This year, she’s 18. Do the math.

Does anyone else remember the Olson twins, or am I totally dating myself now? Same deal. Wholesome, sweet, and innocent (well, relatively), but turned into sexual objects by the time they hit high school. I remember the disgust I felt every time I heard someone mention or saw something relating to the countdown to when they turned 18. The same thing happened with Britney Spears, and I know (unfortunately – I really wish I didn’t) that the same god damned thing happened with Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and Hilary Duff.  Who’s next?

You, too, can go from teen starlet to alcoholic crack-whore in three easy steps.

And don’t even get me started on that Twilight crap. I could go on for days about the terrible messages aimed at women in general, and the horrific relationship model it sets out for adolescents who are still developing their worldviews. Seriously. I’ll stop now.

"Hi. I'm Edward. I'm a manipulative, emotionally abusive yet distant Madonna type, as an allegory for the chaste relationships that women are supposed to aspire to." "Hi. I'm Bella. I'm a spineless, sullen victim with suicidal tendencies and severe co-dependency issues." Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.

Okay. Enough of that. I promise I’ll do a thorough deconstruction of everything that’s wrong with Twilight in the near future, but that’s not what I want to talk about right now.
Where was I? Sorry, got blinded by the the glitter. (Okay, okay. Seriously, I’ll stop now. I promise. Maybe.)

Original point – children are being sexualized in the media earlier and earlier. Girls as young as 14 or 15 years old are being stuffed into couture fashion shows, wearing fancier (and more expensive) versions of stripper shoes and outfits cut down to their navel and up to their hips while sullenly displaying a sultry stare you expect to see on a hooker. Heroin chic makeup. Freshly fucked hair.

What the fuck? Does anyone else see a problem with this picture? Anyone? ANYONE?!

Five stars for you if you see the hypocrisy in turning teenagers into sexual objects while prosecuting for statutory rape. I almost see it as a system that’s designed to fail.

TLC runs a show – much to my horror when I discovered it – called “Toddlers & Tiaras.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: a reality show based around beauty queens who are still in diapers.  Let me know when you’re done vomiting and your blood pressure returns to normal.


Better now? Good. Choke on this:


This is one of the winners from Toddlers & Tiaras.

Here’s another one for you:

*twitch* .... *twitch twitch*

Why the fuck does this exist? I sometimes feel that I am the only person that feels nothing but abject horror when I come face to face with a six year old that looks like a glitzier version of a Stepford Wife and is forced to compete by their equally terrifying parents. I can only assume that half of the attraction of the show – which I utterly refuse to watch – is the stupidity and bullshit between the parents of these poor kids.

Bathing suit contests. This show has fucking bathing suit contests for kids. I’m not making this up:


Oh dear sweet mother of God...

I feel dirty just writing this. This seems like glorified child pornography to me, and from the looks of the images I’ve seen on the web regarding this atrocity, it really is glorified child pornography. Whorish makeup, stripper hair, and fucking bathing suit competitions for small children!!!!!! What I cannot understand is why so few people are utterly outraged about this. I saw more of an uproar about a tattoo reality show that TLC proposed. I get that one – I really do. It’s an insult to the art of tattooing. But why is no one decrying this abhorrent sexualization of children?

Jon Benet-Ramsey. A perfect case of what can go wrong in this nightmarish world of childhood beauty. Or did I just date myself? I was roughly her age when she hit the news, and it affected me pretty deeply, though my parents did a pretty good job of shielding me from it. The world of toddler beauty pageants. Who thought that one up? Sure, let’s start reinforcing the ideas of physical attractiveness and the pressure to maintain those as early as fucking possible. Better yet, let’s start from birth. Oh yes – there are beauty pageants for babies.

However, let’s not just blame the cable stations for their massively idiotic programming choices. It goes further than that.

Remember what I said before about 14 and 15 year olds in couture shows? Try this one on for size.

A friend of mine (and blog reader) sent me an article bout a 10 year old haute couture model. Here’s the original article: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_MindBodyResource/10-year-models-grown-high-fashion-high-risk/story?id=14221160.

For those of you who won’t bother to go read the original ABC article about her, this is about 10 year old fashion model Thylane Loubry Blondeau. She started her career at age 5 walking the runway for Jean-Paul Gaultier, and reached a good deal of attention when she posed for French Vogue.  The video at the top of the article shows more of the shots, including one from a runway show. At the photo shoots in question, she had been styled in a very adult manner, including stilettos, deep red lipstick, slinky dresses, even appearing topless in one with necklaces covering her “would-be breasts,” as the article put it. The photos themselves are horrifying to me. This is a child. This is a child with a very adult expression on her face and posing in very suggestive positions. If you come across any fashionable advertisement or fashion spread, you see this look echoed (or perhaps Blondeau herself is echoing) across pages featuring models twice her age.

Here’s the simple translation: She is 10 years old and being posed as an adult.

Remember that picture of Miley Cyrus I posted previously?

Yeah. This one.

Am I being clear enough about the problem? Please tell me if I’m not.

The presentation of femininity and sexuality to young girls can be devastating. Numerous studies on the topic have been done, including one done by the American Psychological Association. Findings show that such a heavy emphasis on attractiveness, physical attributes, and desirability can have extremely detrimental effects on young girls, and can contribute to depression and low self-esteem, which in turn can lead to eating disorders.

Again – the emphasis placed on making oneself desirable leads to a high degree of confusion. Women are supposed to look like prostitutes, imply that they are, in fact, prostitutes, but be totally chaste and asexual. These mixed messages lead to all kinds of complications, especially when sex education in America is as deplorable as it is. The media present this ideal image of woman as sexual in every way, but when it comes right down to sexual intercourse itself, women who engage in it are “dirty,” are “sluts,” and are to be despised. I do not understand how any society can condone this kind of treatment.

So, I’ve said all I’m going to say for now on the topic of objectification of girls. “Everyone” knows it’s a bad thing (but no one does fuck-all about it, I might add). Lots of people already cover the topic, and I’ve given it a good once-over in this article. However, not very many people are talking about the presentation of masculinity and male attractiveness on young boys.

I have a nine year old son. Step-son. Whatever. He’s pretty typical – guns, swords, helicopters, dragons, video games, KCHKCHSPLODEYKERBOOOOMMMMMMMMM!!!!! Boy. Right? That’s the gender norm – boys play with trucks and action figures. Girls play with fancy toy convertables and dolls. Boys must be manly and tough. Showing fear – or any emotion, really – is tantamount to being  (say it softly) a girl.  Ask any average boy, and he’ll tell you that’s a fate worse than death. This includes my kid. I jokingly bought him a tiara for his 6th birthday and he threw a tantrum that melted the walls. Girls = bad. Boys = good.

There’s another thing to consider – girls = bad, boys = good. I could go on even further about the patriarchal society and it’s revulsion by all things female. And that does play a lot into the issues I want to talk about. But I really do want to focus on what the media does to little boys.

If you’ve got male children, consider for a moment all of the toys and TV shows and movies that are geared towards them. Transformers, GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ben 10, Bakugan & Beyblade (I fucking hate those imported franchised – spinning tops everywhere, battle arenas, toys with tiny pieces that break and get lost and don’t work if you don’t have them, lots of plastic crap to spend my thin cash supply on as the advertisements for them flash in bright neon lights on the television sending subliminal messages to the children to BUY BUY BUY!!!).  Crass consumerism aside, let’s take a look at the heros in all of these.

1) GI Joe.

A bunch of Manly men and one scantily clad girl. /facepalm

They’re rugged. They’re tough. They’re All-American. They started out as representations of the four branches of the U.S. armed forces, and are part of the cause of the term “action” figure. They evolved into the TV show and now a live action major motion picture. In any case, the Joes are rough and tumble, defenders of the planet. They fight, they pop off one-liners. They are super cool.

Now. Before we go too much further, let us question why it is that the horrors of war are glorified to young boys to make it seem like such a fantastic career. You get to kick the bad guy’s ass. FUCK YEAH!!!!! Well, it’s the same kind of thing that goes into military recruiting. It’s a kind of brainwashing. The accounts of soldiers returning from the Iraq war who have been utterly traumatized by what they experienced and had no idea what they were walking into. No one in the entire recruiting process will ever tell you that killing another human being, no matter what, is an experience that tears you apart on the inside. In fact the ones that are not traumatized by the experience of combat are the fucking weirdos you want to cross the street to avoid.

2.  Bakugan & Beyblade

I curse you, Japan, for sending this schlock to the US, with all the attached toys and stupid crap that go with the damned TV show. THIS IS WORSE THAN POKEMON!!!!!!!!!

Okay. Well, those pictures are a little small. Let’s bring up a bigger picture of what the characters look like.

Meet Dan. Dan is one of the heroes from Bakugan. Let’s deconstruct this drawing of Dan.

Point 1: Dan is plainly poised for action. He’s a tough guy, ready to fight and do battle.

Point 2: See how Dan’s pelvis is in mid-thrust? How far do I really need to deconstruct this? Dan is manly. Dan is virile. Dan is… 12 years old??

Wait. That can’t be right. Let’s take a look at another one.

Does everyone in Japan pose like this??

This is Shun Kazami, one of the other heroes from Bakugan, and Dan’s best friend.  He’s – you guessed it – 13 years old.  Still – poised to kick some ass, pelvic thrust and all.

What the fuck??

Okay, maybe Beyblade won’t be that bad.

Y'know what? I give up.

Are we noticing a trend here? Jesus fucking Christ. This is almost as bad as Toddlers & Tiaras, except these are animations!!!

3. Zack and Cody (aka The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Zack and Cody on Deck)

I'm really amazed that I've gotten this far through the article without having an aneurysm. This, however, might put me over the top.

So cool. So cavalier. They’re also spoiled little brats. But that’s beside the point – they’re the attractive little rascals that get away with murder. They have two attractive girls that hang around them all the time.

Oh look. They have all the tokens covered.

Jesus. I could go on and on and on and on. Basically, what this boils down to is that if you aren’t tough and manly, you better be adorable and endearing.

Advertising – here’s another fun one.

Here’s a link to JCrew’s online catalog: http://www.jcrew.com/kids/boys.jsp?srcCode=GGCrewcutsNonBrand_235016747&noPopUp=true

Take a look at the poses. They look like mini-adults. They’re KIDS, people! KIDS!

Show them at play, show them behaving like children. Don’t show me these human dress up dolls posed like adult models. I want to know that your clothing brand will hold up to MY child, who definitely doesn’t stand around looking handsome and endearing. Hell no – he runs around in the yard, gets muddy, gets sweaty, falls off his bike, gets clobbered by the dog, wrestles with his cousins. There is a reason I refuse to spend over $15 on any piece of children’s clothing for him. He doesn’t stand around a photo studio all day. He plays.

Land’s End – http://www.landsend.com/kids/ – JUST AS GUILTY!!!!!!

Y’know, I can’t stand the styles at GAP, but one thing I will say in their favor is at least they don’t use child models. Nor does Old Navy. At least not on their online catalogs.

The ones that use child models do not use average child models. They use pretty child models. They’re all slender and bright eyed, with trendy haircuts just accentuated by the high-end clothes they’re selling.

Y’know what? Not all kids are slender. Not all kids have trendy haircuts. Does that mean these not-so-spectacularly-amazingly-good-looking kids are bad? NO. It just means they’re different, just as I am no worse for being a bit curvier than some of my friends who are built like twigs. But here’s the shitty part – the boys with the high-and-tight instead of the shaggy hair, the boys that are built a little bit huskier than that kid in the JCrew catalog – they’re made to feel ashamed of how they look.

My husband has an 11 year old cousin who recently came up to visit us before our son went back with him and their aunt to spend a couple of weeks. Hunter is one of the sweetest kids I’ve ever met. He’s funny, he’s polite, he’s quiet. His eyes have a mischievous glint in them about 80% of the time. I walked in on a conversation he was having with my husband about how kids at school called him fat and how that made him feel. We all know how ubiquitous and universal teasing someone for being “fat” is in grade school. But here’s the thing – he’s not fat. Sure, he’s a big kid. He’s built like a linebacker. But he’s also almost as tall as I am.

What killed me about that conversation is that here he is, 11 years old, and people are trying to make him feel ashamed for being himself. How wrong is that? You can’t be someone else – you can only be yourself, so how can that be wrong?

I can only assume that the prevalence of teasing like that is a result of the same society that gave us such wonderful slurs as “faggot” and “that’s so gay.”  Let’s remember that the same society also turned female sexual organs into insults, a female dog into a slur, as well as being a member of a different race. The four letter synonym for making love is one of the most abhorred swear words. I think it’s high time we re-examined the society that we live in and decide whether or not the presentation of gender and sexuality, the demonizing of anything female, the negativity surrounding a boy that likes the color pink and wants to play with dolls, and all the terrible side effects are really something we want to propogate.

This has been your semi-regular ranting from yours truly. Until next time.

  1. Thanks for your response, Jena! It’s really great to hear from more people in the industry who are not photographers or models. Even I sometimes forget that there is so much more to the industry, such as talent agencies and model scouts.

    On the topic of Miley Cyrus, though – I really have no issue with exploring sexuality. In fact, it’s something I’m highly in favor of. However, I question how much prancing around in a bra and underwear for a music video is exploring her sexuality in a healthy way. That’s the key – what’s healthy? I personally believe such a representation of her as a sexual being is more a product of the environment she is in. All around her other adult musicians – Ke$ha, Rihanna, Britney Spears, just to name a few – are behaving in such a manner, so yes, she is exposed to it constantly. I don’t know of many non-celebrity teenage girls who express themselves by gyrating around a stage in very little clothing.

    Now I want to clarify something before I get lynched: I have absolutely nothing against strippers/exotic dancers. I know many women in that line of work. There is a long-standing debate regarding exploitation and objectification, but I have always wondered who is being exploited more – the dancers or the patrons. My only complaint regarding Miley Cyrus is that at the time of this video, she was 17. There is a reason for legislation disallowing people under the age of 18 engaging in a profession such as dancing – they are still minors. So we won’t allow a “regular” girl to make money off her body until she’s 18, but it’s perfectly acceptable for 17 year old celebrity to do the EXACT same thing because she’s a celebrity musician? Hello, hypocrisy.

    Hilary Duff and Amanda Bynes have sort of disappeared. It does appear that they are taking a much healthier route than some of their agemates, a la Lohan, the Olsons, etc. I would hope that instead of disappearing into a bottle and lines of coke, they are working on their education and becoming functional, relatively well-adjusted human beings.

    • Jena
    • August 18th, 2011

    Oh, one thing I can say in deference of Mily Cirus: I do believe in exploring your sexuality and expressing yourself. I don’t know all the details, but last I heard the whole sudden sexual overload was her choice, which I think is all fine and dandy. I just wish her marketing people would stop marketing her towards pre-teens.

    The little rays of hope are Hilliary Duff and Amanda Bynes. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard about them going off the deep end, but they are still role models to teenage girls (maybe). I dunno lost my train of thought.

    PS. I want to do body painting sometime 😛

    • Jena
    • August 18th, 2011

    In my interview for model scouting, I lied and said I didn’t have a problem with the way the industry portrays women and makes younger girls anorexic and such. I mean, the way the owner phrased it made me feel a bit more comfortable, he said something like “Sometimes a teenage girls genetics don’t work that way. I’ll sign plus size models, but I can’t guarantee them work.”

    I was doing all fine and dandy telling girls and women they were pretty, until one day I scouted a 13 year old girl (the youngest I was allowed to scout). She was wearing a mini skirt, high heels, tube top, big hair, heavy makeup, and she told me she always wanted to model for Victoria’s Secret. I wanted to vomit on her right there in the mall.

    Also at the Rose Festival, Jovah was scouting with me, and both of us could only find teenage girls that looked like hookers. By the end of the day Jovah started saying “Jena, gaggle of sluts at 4 o’clock, go scout them.”

    I know Jovah wants his boys to be manly, hes super excited about exploring the outdoors with them and teaching them about bugs and mud and rocks. Then the other day he was talking about how he wanted a girl, and that he wanted to teach her about bug and mud and rocks. That made me feel a lot better about his ideals, and helped me decide a few things for my kids. Yeah sure, I’ll buy my girl dolls (not Barbies) and I’ll buy my boy legos. But for the most part, I want gender neutral toys and educational toys. If the boy wants to play with a baby doll, go for it. If the girl wants to make a giant bridge out of legos, thats freaking awesome.

    My two cents.

    • David
    • August 18th, 2011

    ok back for a few more.

    #1 training the next gen of harem girls for the football players

    #2 Being straight is crammed down throats to be the ONLY way…unless your are attractive jail bait with nice perky mosquito bites for tits then it’s ok

    #3 FAT is bad in America… pay no attention to the reality behind the curtain

    #4 if you are fat it’s your fault!!!! look at the footballer/model/cartoon!!! but be funny so people will be tolerant of you since you’re ‘tons of fun’

    #5 lets be honest if all the girls are going to look like whores then lets pay them and then statutory rape will only be for theft of service.

    #6 when did being a slut be a bad thing? really i mean that’s kinda god send at times

    #7 lets get more advertising to go with it : scene one a little girl watches her dad leave the home with mom yelling at him.
    Scene two: Girl in back ground as dad picks up his aftershave and walks out of the child’s life forever
    Scene:3 later in the girls life she’s a hard case turning down every guy. except the one who wears the same aftershave as her long lost daddy.

    old spice could make a fortune on this one

    #8 comming from a fat dude that was once a fat kid. Life sucks no one takes you sirieusly and you are fat and it’s your fault. “hey you see that kid i saw him eat today, not like he needed it lets go beat his ass. he’s asking for it” yes i just tried to compare rape to being a tubby kid ether way “you shouldn’t have done what you did”

    #9 twilight…….MOVING ON

    #10 we live int the United Hypocrisy of America

    i will stop now

    • David
    • August 18th, 2011

    i still think people that make up there kids to look like midget hookers have no right to complain about child molestation… THE ARE ENABLING!!!!! and this from a professional pervert.

    rant over and i will be nice from here on out

    marketing is killing the next generation and brainwashing them and giving the lil girls with daddy issues an icon.

  2. The pre-teen male super hero crotch thrust was something I’d never noticed before and is horribly disturbing. Thank you for calling this fucked up part of our culture to my attention… On the down side I think I’m going to have nightmares about it for a few weeks. :-S

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