If you’ve ever stumbled upon a YouTube video where little girls perform a hypersexualized dance routine set to a dancehall tune or a slow jam, then you won’t be surprised at the results of a recent study that showed 68 percent of girl participants, aged 6 to 9, want to look “sexy.” The study presented two paper doll options to the 60 girls surveyed: one fully clothed and the other scantily clad. More than two-thirds indicated they’d prefer to look like the girl who was scantily clad. Seventy-two percent also believed the “sexy” girl was more popular than the more modestly dressed one.
As always, media representations did play a part in the results. But the media wasn’t the biggest determinant in the girls’ outlooks:
… According to the study, girls who watched a lot of TV and movies and who had mothers who were very concerned about their clothing and appearance were more likely to say the sexy doll was popular…. On the other hand, mothers who used TV and movies as teaching moments about bad behavior and unrealistic scenarios were less likely to have daughters who said they looked like the sexy doll.
It seems that a mother’s influence, in one direction or the other, is the most significant factor in how girls view themselves. A Salon article on the study included further findings:
The researchers went on to say that “the quantity of TV and movies watched is not, in and of itself, a risk factor for young girls’ sexualized self-views.” Instead, it’s “the interaction between media hours and maternal self-objectification that creates vulnerability for early sexualization.”
In other words, while some moms may think it’s cute that their 5-year-old knows how to body-roll on command at the family cookout, the moves they’ve picked up from music videos, as well as Mom’s encouragement, are setting them up for a lifetime of viewing themselves as sexual objects.
What do you think? Are any of the findings surprising? Are mothers complicit in their daughters’ prematurely sexualized views of themselves?