Lies a Girl Shouldn’t Learn

The world is aggressively sexualizing your daughter. Fight back.

Why is Victoria’s Secret marketing thong panties and bras to 7-to-12-year-olds?

Why is nearly a third of major retailers’ clothing sexy—for example, drawing attention to a sexualized body part—for little girls’ sizes 6 to 14?

Why are companies manufacturing onesies for infants emblazoned with sexually obscene messages?

Because people are buying them. These grotesque products make money, and these companies don’t care one bit about what happens to our girls after the sale.

Some parents—a lot of parents—think sexy children’s clothes are fun, or even liberating for their daughters. What about you?

Is This Women’s Liberation?

Mainstream Western culture has been so blatantly sexualized for so long that adults, young adults and teens are saturated with it. For “new markets,” perverted minds and perverted companies have nowhere to go but down, aggressively targeting younger and younger children.

The beat of the pop song echoing in your daughter’s earbuds; the trendy music video, marketed right for her demographic; the entire magazine rack she passes every week at the store; the billboards on the way home; almost everything she sees on television; just about every last female actress, singer or celebrity; and now the very garments that are supposed to adorn her—all hit her over the head with the same abominable lie: A female’s worth is her sex appeal.

And tragically, this is what a growing majority of girls are coming to believe: that the only worthy woman is a sexy woman. That a woman is “powerful” when she is aggressively sexual.

Our malls, our streets and our secondary schools are becoming a parade of tight-fitting T-shirts with messages like, “Who needs brains when you have these?” and “Future porn star.”

This is supposed to be liberation for women? It is precisely the opposite.

The blatant sexualization of children is increasingly conventional. Walmart sells dozens of cosmetic products for girls as young as 6. Vogue magazine covers feature small girls made up and posed like grown women; inside you’ll see pictures of 6-year-olds wearing thongs and padded push-up bras. On television, the most popular shows aimed at 12-to-17-year-olds sexualize underage girls more often than adult women. And in the highest-grossing movies, teen girls are more likely than older women to wear provocative clothing, and they are just as likely to appear partially nude.

The more that girls consume these messages, the more they absorb their warped sexual stereotypes. At younger and younger ages, they “place appearance and physical attractiveness at the center of women’s value,” says the American Psychological Association’s study on “Sexualization of Girls” (emphasis added).

Is that what you want your daughter thinking?

Is This Happening to Your Daughter?

Who’s to protect these girls from predatory merchants aiming to profit from turning them into sex objects? Where are the parents?

Well, we are now three generations deep into Western society’s sexual revolution. We’re way beyond the problem of teenagers sneaking out of bedroom windows and getting into trouble. Today, those kids are parents—or even grandparents—and they are actually pushing their children to be more sexual!

Far too often, they are the ones actually buying those tight T-shirts, those short shorts and those skimpy tops.

That American Psychological Association (apa) report cited several other studies that each came to the same conclusion: Parents are now conveying to their daughters that their most important goal should be to look physically attractive.

Have you ever seen the show Toddlers & Tiaras? It shines a spotlight on the world of child beauty pageants. And who is at the center of it, besides a bunch of bossy, bratty, spoiled divas just out of diapers? Parents. More specifically, moms. Moms who have bought the sexualized stereotypes wholesale, and are now dressing up their little daughters in adult-style clothes, hair, make-up, fake tans, fake teeth, fake nails—and having them strut around with sassy walks, do suggestive hip-hop dance moves, strike flirtatious poses and make pouty kissy faces.

Why? To give their daughters higher self-esteem and more confidence, they say. Far likelier is that these girls will end up perpetually dissatisfied with their own bodies—and have insufferable egos to boot.

Our Daughters Are Suffering

The notion that looks are everything and that promiscuity is the path to happiness is poison. And that injection is most potent when your daughter is young, while her self-image is based so heavily on her perceptions of how others view her.

Making matters worse, the beauty standard our daughters are measuring themselves by is itself a demonstrable lie. The “normal” woman portrayed in the media is the wafer-thin, ultra-tall supermodel with big breasts. Not only do very few women fit that description, but those who do don’t actually look like what your daughter sees on screen. She is seeing a representation of a woman after make-up artists have caked on the cosmetics, photographers have applied filtered lenses and complex lights to even out skin tones, and graphic designers have used photo-editing software to remove wrinkles and stretch-marks, smooth dimply thighs, erase hints of flab, and create an image that has never actually existed in reality. This measure of “perfection” that our girls absorb in movies and magazine covers is fictitious and unattainable.

So, guess what? Real-life girls lack confidence in and comfort with their own bodies. Studies show they are feeling anxiety and even self-disgust on a broad scale. The number of girls 18 and younger who have gone under the knife for breast enlargements has risen nearly 500 percent over the past decade. Teenage girls are subjecting their still-growing bodies to medical procedures to get fuller lips, better noses, larger breasts, flatter stomachs, smaller thighs and so on—and their parents are encouraging this, even paying for it.

Unhealthy sexualized thinking causes eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression (along with negative moods and depressive symptoms)—which happen to be three of the most common mental health problems found in girls and women. Social scientists have been tracking these effects for some time in women who are college age and older. But they’re finding that the same problems are starting to emerge in teenage girls and younger. Even girls as young as 12 and 13 are ashamed of their bodies. The British Journal of Developmental Psychology revealed that half of British girls between ages 3 and 6 say they worry about being fat!

Your daughter deserves far, far better.

Parents Stand Up!

In the words of the apa, our girls are learning to “think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desires … and to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.” This is a tragedy that your daughter should never have to fall victim to.

If you don’t want your daughter to believe those lies and fall prey to those predatory influences, then shield her, and educate her—and love her for who she is.

Here are four steps you can take to fight against this trend.

1. Know your daughter.

Take pains to get involved in her life. Know what she’s thinking. Understand how she’s feeling. She is worth it.

2. Be her teacher.

Teach her that society’s portrayal of “sexy” is wrong and damaging. Teach your daughter that she was not created to be an object for others to look at and evaluate. Teach her the truth about appearance: Yes, she should take care of her body, practice good hygiene, keep fit and capable of working hard—but she needs to avoid the trap of obsessing over her looks. She should know that the most attractive enhancements to her appearance are a sincere, genuine, ready smile, a warm demeanor and an outgoing personality.

3. Be her wardrobe manager.

Be actively involved in her wardrobe choices. She should dress nicely and modestly, showing respect for others and for herself. Tell her what is acceptable and what is not. Keep the standard high. It can be difficult to find appropriate clothing, but it must be done. Retain veto powers over her choices. Fight if you have to—do not back down.

4. Love her

Most importantly, give her the unconditional love that helps her to be positive, outgoing, confident and happy—a truly beautiful person inside and out.