It all started in 2009. After I viewed Lil Wayne and Young Money’s performance of “Every Girl” at the BET Awards that year, I was very disturbed. Saddened even. For it was this performance that confirmed something I had been observing over the years–the loss of Black girlhood.
As Mr. Please Say the Baby himself and his crew rapped about their ambitions and desires to sleep with women all over the world, there on stage with her fellow pre-teen OMG Girlz was his daughter Reginae dancing along to lyrics such as: “I’ll f–k the whole group/Baby I’m a groupie/My sex game is stupid/My head is the dumbest/I promise, I should be hooked on phonics”. It was at this moment that I knew we had degenerated socially and culturally to a place where we openly accept this scenario. Trust and believe I may have listened to inappropriate songs as a youngin’ but you would never catch my parents rocking with me. Or better yet, a live audience (I would hope)..
Many young girls today are growing up way too fast. Whether it’s the way they dress, carry themselves, or the sexual behaviors they’re engaged in at very early ages. To make matters worse is what they’re associating being “grown” with, which is often times heavily influenced by entertainment and media. It seems there is no concept of age-appropriateness anymore.
For example, I recently saw a picture from the Nicki Minaj themed party Kandi Burrus threw for her daughter’s 10th birthday, complete with multi-colored wigs, tu-tus, and a Nicki Minaj impersonator. While over the top birthday parties celebs throw their children have become common, the imagery of it all was somewhat troubling to me. I couldn’t help but think the party was at least mildly inappropriate for her age. I’m not in a position to judge Kandy’s parenting skills because I don’t know her personally, however I think overall we need to be more careful of the messages we send young women. Not to say that Nicki Minaj has no positive aspects to her music, but if her image relies heavily on sexualization, don’t think that message is not being interpreted by a young girl as well.
And who could forget the video of a dance team made up of seven year old girls dressed in Burlesque attire dancing to Single Ladies? Unfortunately, it’s just one of a number of disturbing videos online of girls who’ve barely reached puberty aiming for “sexy”. From companies like Abercrombie & Fitch marketing thongs to 8-10 year olds to the risque images of many of their favorite entertainers, the assault on girlhood is at an all time high.
I never want to sound like one of those preachy adults who always reminisce and condescend us with the “back in my day…” lectures. However, my thoughts come from a place of love and genuine concern. Some may argue these issues are nothing new, but I honestly believe growing up in the 90s, the status quo was much different. For one, we had more balanced and diverse images of women–Black women in particular–in entertainment to look up to. Tween and teenage girls could see women like Brandy, Monica, Whitney Houston and Erykah Badu, in addition to the likes of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown. There were no flamboyant reality shows constantly glorifying cattiness amongst adult women. Child stars did not have stripper-esque poles as stage props at the Kids Choice Awards. And playing with dolls and jumping rope were still normal pastimes.
This apparent change even caused the American Psychological Association to create a task force to research and report on the “Sexualization of Girls.” According to the 2007 report, sexualization occurs when
- a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
- a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
- a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
- sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
It goes on to say “virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the Internet and advertising.”
We see the results of this everyday. Whether it’s our daughters, younger sisters, cousins, nieces, or girls in our neighborhood. Too often I overhear conversations or see a status, picture, or video pop up in my newsfeed that causes me to shake my head. We all have a responsibility to provide them with healthier images and perceptions of womanhood. Something that is inspiring and not distorted. We must strive harder to be the examples that balance out the onslaught of hypersexual messages they are fed on a daily basis. My message to young girls today is to be mindful that sex and sexinessis not a marker of maturity, but responsibility is. If your sense of self-worth is rooted in the attention your body brings, it will likely lead to insecurity. Find a worthy goal and get in tune with who you are. Live your life, and don’t be in a rush to “be grown” but better yet, enjoy the beautiful journey of growing up.