If you take a moment to walk through the toy aisle during your next shopping trip and analyze the latest subjects of play and pretend for young girls, it may not come as a surprise to learn that most girls as young as 6 are beginning to perceive themselves as sex objects.
Searching for answers past the numerous dolls dressed in sexualized clothing and portraying an unrealistic body, one may wonder how times have evolved to this point where girls are being sexualized at such a young age.
A new study, published in the Journal Sex Roles, investigated self-sexualization in young girls from the Midwestern United States and aimed to identify factors that could potential shield girls from erroneously portraying themselves as sexual objects. In this study, researchers used paper dolls to evaluate self-sexualization in 6 to 9 year old girls. A total of sixty girls were presented with two dolls: One dressed in “sexy” clothes that were revealing and tight-fitting, and a second dressed in a fashionable but modest outfit. Using these dolls to ask a series of questions, researches requested the girls choose a doll that 1) looked like herself, 2) looked how she desired to look, 3) was the popular girl in school, and 4) she would like to play with.
Surprisingly, these groups of young girls preferred the “sexy” doll more often over the “modest” doll, with results substantial in two of the categories. 68% of the girls chose the “sexy” doll when asked how she desired to look, and 72% all chose the “sexy” doll when questioned which the popular girl in school was. Researchers analyzed this data further in attempt to understand the factors that compelled the girls’ responses. Several factors emerged which were suggested to be connected to the way in which young girls objectify themselves, including media consumption, maternal television mediation, maternal religiosity, and maternal self-objectification. Authors of this particular research study were also able to unveil that media consumption did not have as great as impact on the girls’ self-sexualization as maternal influence.
Undoubtedly, it is becoming a growing concern that girls are being sexualized at a young age, and this study reveals proof that supports this alarming trend. However, researchers conducting this study also unearthed promising evidence that demonstrates the powerful role mothers can have in their daughters’ lives, as they attempt to navigate and find their way in a sexualized world. As shown in this study, mothers have the ability to be a positive role model for their children, instilling concrete values and offering guidance and instruction about a world that is shallowly illustrated with an unrealistic beauty and body image.
With a trend that is seemingly uncontrollable, there reigns a promise of hope. We have the ability to change our future, to beautify who we are from the inside and illuminate a message for generations to come: that loveliness goes beyond clothes, pant size or make-up and is the harmony of self-love, respect, and passion to thrive in life. The choice to follow trends or truth is yours!
Starr, Christine R., Ferguson, Gail M. Sexy Dolls, Sexy Grade-Schoolers? Media & Maternal Influences on Young Girls’ Self-Sexualization. Sex Roles. July 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s11199-012-0183-x