Excerpt from the book: Getting Real
We Haven’t Come a Long Way Baby by Melinda Tankard Reist
you can purchase Melindas Brilliant book on: http://melindatankardreist.com/products-page/
In the past it was often adult women who understood that their bodies were being pulled apart bit by bit and analysed for imperfections and flaws. Women understood the imperative to be sexy, a message shored up by advertising propaganda, which works ‘to deny women’s humanity, to present them not as whole people but as fetishised, dismembered “bits,” as objects’ (Gill, 2009).
Now this understanding has come to younger girls, who learn to see that they too are always at risk of failing. Courtney Martin (2007, p. 1) has noted that many girls say they would rather be hit by a truck than be fat. I know of a fit and healthy five-year-old who won’t go swimming because, she says, people would laugh at her and say she’s too fat. Eight-year-old girls are admitted to hospital with eating disorders. Schoolgirls develop ranking systems on the basis of ‘hotness,’ resulting in guaranteed misery for the girl with the lowest ranking. Cyberspace has become a central arena for bullying where girls are universally judged. Many feel they are dying a social death and disintegrate emotionally. For some, emotional disintegration leads to physical disintegration with the ultimate tragic outcome.
Girls internalise the body critiquing messages of shows like Extreme Makeover and America’s Next Top Model and its Australian version. The program Ten Years Younger in Ten Days puts couples in glass boxes at Sydney’s Circular Quay so that 100 passers-by can tell us what they think of their looks. ‘She looks like she just gave up,’ commented one viewer (Channel 7, May 12, 2009) before the transformation begins, and the women have their faces pumped full of botox and fillers until they look like chipmunks with cheeks so plump they can hardly talk, their feet stuffed into heels so high they can barely walk.
The main character of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer’s book series (2005-2008) and blockbuster film consumed by girls around the world, yearns to be a vampire like her romantic hero Edward. He and his vampire family are impossibly beautiful, ‘Greek god’ like, with perfect teeth, lips and skin and bodies. They are rich, have the best clothes and drive fast cars. While there are one or two salutary messages in this series—for example, Edward is sexually restrained (OMG!)—the emphasis on physical perfection and it potential impact on millions of young readers cannot be ignored.
English girl Sasha Bennington absorbed today’s messages about what constitutes female beauty early:
Sasha…has a spray tan once a week and a new set of acrylic nails once a month. Her hair is bleached white blonde and regularly boosted with a set of extensions. She plucks her eyebrows and carefully applies makeup every morning. Her favourite outfit is a white satin boob-tube dress and Stetson hat. But Sasha isn’t a Vegas showgirl—she goes to primary school and only turned 11 last week [italics in original]. While most children her age have been desperately waiting for the arrival of the new Harry Potter, little Sasha has been hanging on for her heroine Jordan’s latest book. She says, ‘I’m obsessed with her’ (in Ley, 2007). Sasha’s bedroom, the UK Sun article tells us, is ‘a pink shrine to Playboy, with a Playboy door curtain, satin duvet set, Playboy pillows and pyjamas.’ Her mother orders Playboy clothing for her daughter from the USA. For Sasha, the thought of not being pretty is just too awful to contemplate: ‘My mum would just call me ugly. Everyone would call me ugly. I wouldn’t like that at all.’
Playboy make-up, including ‘Tie me to the bedpost blush’ and ‘Hef’s favorite lip gloss’ (in colours ‘Centerfold Red,’ ‘Sex Kitten’ and ‘Playmate Pink’) is marketed to girls, along with Playboy doona covers and pencil cases. Girls are wearing the brand of the global sex industry directed by a sleazy 80-year-old man in silk pyjamas and they think it’s about cute rabbits. When Hugh Hefner was asked by the Washington Post about a growing trend among young girls to wear Playboy-logo clothing and accessories, he replied, ‘I don’t care if a baby holds up a Playboy bunny rattle’ (Sessions Stepp, 2008).
More generally, children’s underwear is described as reflecting moods which are ‘frisky, seductive or mysteriously alluring’ (http://www.jellydeal.co.uk/girls-underwear.html), and padded decorative bras and g-strings are sold in the children’s wear sections of department stores. T-shirts for babies include slogans such as ‘Breast Fed Baby: Stick around for the show,’ ‘All daddy wanted was a blow job,’ ‘Hung like a five year old,’ ‘F!# the milk, where’s the whiskey tits,’ ‘I tore mummy a new one,’ ‘I enjoy a good spanking,’ and ‘I’m too sexy for my diaper.’
What was once considered unthinkable is now ordinary. Children are no longer out of bounds for anything. Pornographic material became pervasive in the public space of adult culture; now it has worked its way into childhood, even into the crib.
And here we are: We have as a society come to a new low: Backlash over PeeWee Pumps high heels for babies
How can children and babies develop normally while wearing high heels? How can they learn to walk, run and play freely? Even more so, how can they develop a healthy self-image when they learn from infancy that looking pretty is more important than the ability to move through the world?
Twitter users came out strongly against the store’s high heels for babies as well as their ‘sexually objectifying’ advertising featuring baby girls.