Raising girls – the tv shocker

Jane KenyonThe latest book about girls is all over the press at the moment: ‘Raising Girls’ by Aussie parenting guru Gisela Preuschoff. It is getting a ton of publicity as the foreword was written by Steve Biddulph, author of the million-copy best seller ‘Raising Boys’. It will come as no surprise to you all, as an advocate for teen girls, I have read it and although it makes some good points, the material is not new and the call for an army of Aunties to mentor our teen girls is already being done by many youth organisations in the UK. In fact the Girls Out Loud BIG SISTER programme is just that!

Early sexualisation, mainstreaming porn, the internet, the media onslaught about how to look and reality TV have all played their part in where we are. Girls are big business and making them feel bad about the way they look, as early as possible, is cash in the bank for so many organisations it is simply too tempting to resist. Skincare, cosmetic surgery, the media, make up, hair care, beauty industry, clothing industry, the toy manufacturers. They all play on exploiting girls so that the only question they feel necessary to answer is ‘How do I look and am I hot? In fact the hotness monitor is on overdrive wherever you look.

If the magazines, the internet and Bratz dolls are not destroying our teen girls egos enough then what they are watching on TV will delete what little self esteem they have left. Reality TV, the most watched programmes, supposedly about real life, but really set up scenarios where attractive girls and boys are shown having sex, getting off their face on drink, drugs and getting hurt both physically and more uncomfortable, emotionally. Girls are hooked on these programmes and for them it is more than entertainment, it is a monitor for what is normal and cool and we wonder why they are in the throes of a full on identity crisis before they hit 16.

Researchers have found that TV has six key messages for girls. Take a deep breath:

1. Your looks are the most important thing about you
2. Your physical characteristics (shape, weight, skin, hair, teeth, colour, smell) are NEVER, EVER good enough
3. Sex is primarily a currency that you exchange for love, attention and power
4. It is normal to have sex with people you don’t even know or especially like
5. The world is a scary, lonely, dangerous and competitive place. Better get going, you might lose the race
6. The answer to all life’s problems is to buy something.

How utterly depressing is that? I reckon this affects girls well past their teen years. I have met several young women displaying this life philosophy too.

The solution? Apart from banning TV and ALL the media we must keep talking to our girls/daughters. We must stay close and guide them along the way, spend time with them, confirm for them what is real and what is fake. Build their self esteem and self respect to help them make the right choices. But here is the biggy: in order to be the role model they need we have to be sending out the right messages too. It is not what we say they will believe, it is what we do. If we are obsessed with staying young, on a permanent diet, dabbling with botox, spending all our disposable income on the way we look and buying into the media messages, there is not much chance they will step up and out of it any time soon.

As Gandhi says ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ Celebrate your uniqueness and teach them to do the same!

Jane Kenyon is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.

2 Comments on Raising girls – the tv shocker

  1. Hi Jane,
    Your article resonates with me because, as a mother of two girls I feel they are confronted with so many confused and contradictory images that it is difficult to know what our society in the UK expects of them. The overt sexuality found in many tv reality shows is one thing, but then you are presented with news presenters and journalists who are fillered and botoxed up to the nines because their careers depend on it. I have sat in meetings where hardly an eyebrow was raised when presented with disappointing market data; smiles are rarely cracked these days, and crows feet are a sign of bad personal care! If most of the effort is in appearance who is caring about the personality or the intellect?

    It is a big ask to hope that we as parents can set the example when most teenage girls see their generation very differently from ours, as we did our parents’. I think that the best we can do is steer them away from crowd-based thinking, help them develop their own opinions (even if we don’t necessarily agree with them), and praise them for their uniqueness.

  2. I agree with Margot. We have to teach our children to think for themselves and to be confident with who they are. The best role models for girls is….? Who knows? I’m a middle aged woman. How can I know. My hope is that role models will be active, sporty women, but that is because that is who I am. I have always been keen on sport and would consider Paula Radcliffe to be a better bet than Rihanna. But athletics is swamped with drugs and female athletes seem happy to run 800m in their bikinis. Neither of those are good things, in my opinion. The role models I choose are based on my prejudices. We shouldn’t get fixated on role models, they will always be OUR role models. I can’t stand Oprah, other women idolise her – we should teach kids how to think for themselves.

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