The erosion of childhood is becoming a social and cultural trend of great concern to child development experts as well as the broader community. Commercialisation, sexualisation, body image dissatisfaction and over exposure to violent imagery are some of the key factors. A growing body of scientific evidence and expert opinion has transformed the debate about this trend into an important issue with major implications for mental health, public health, education and policy. We look forward to meeting you at this unique event.
MTR on Channel 7′s Morning Show today with adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg and dance studio teacher Nikki Webster, commenting on an episode of US reality TV show ‘Dance Moms’ in which little girls are taught sexually provocative dance routines.
‘Corporate paedophilia’ is a worrying global trend on the rise.
For those who might have missed it, Witchery has just launched a new clothing range for eight- to 14-year-old girls called “8fourteen”. In a brilliant stroke of imagination, the launch occurred on Valentine’s Day – because, of course, girls from the age of eight need to understand that male romantic approval, and attracting it through your physical appearance (euphemistically termed “personal style”), is what really matters in life.
The advertising campaign presents two girls from Sydney, aged 11 and 12, as “little sisters” to Australia’s Next Top Model Montana Cox, aged 18. Leaving aside some leopard print, the clothing range itself appears to be mainly age-appropriate (although, curiously, this isn’t well indicated in the campaign). The list of “facts” presented about each girl appears unobjectionable enough (about which, more later). The accompanying films of the girls, however, artistically shot in black and white with acoustic music, made us gasp. Read more>
You’ve probably already heard about 10-year-old French model Thylane Loubry Blondeau and the controversy over the way she is being posed and styled in adult-like ways. I’d written about Vogue’s treatment of Thylane and other young models in an earlier piece titled ‘Vogue’s tarted up photo shoot of little girls is no parody.’
Interest in Thylane has reached hyper drive. I was asked to comment on Channel 7’s Morning Show.
People look at one image and say “I don’t see it. She doesn’t look sexy to me.” This is not about one image or one issue- it’s a collective picture that’s created when we use young girls to sell adult products by putting them in adult make up and adult styling and adult positions. (and we call it fashion and that’s supposed to make it all ok)…
Teaching little girls that make up rituals should start early
“Make-up is for everyone!” declares 5-year-old Madison, who has become a You Tube sensation for her video sessions on make-up application, recorded and uploaded by her mother.
A child doesn’t make this statement in a vacuum. As documented over and over on the MTR blog, little girls are imbibing a dominant, all-consuming message about physical appearance equating with worth. This has become much more than a child messing around with mum’s makeup, but is now more a reflection of cultural conditioning and the commercialisation of childhood (so perfectly captured in the book title This Little Kiddie Went to Market). What we are witnessing here is just part of continuum which includes child beauty parlours and toxic child beauty pageants. The beauty rituals which adult women are expected to engage in daily are now being transported to little girls.
Madison’s DIY make-up tutorials have been seized upon by cosmetic companies who appear to be sending her products to spruik. The product placement is now overt and there are links back to cosmetic sites. Madison appears to be becoming a tool of the global beauty industry. Her You Tube videos have titles like ‘Sibu Review’and ‘MAC Lipglosses’. It would be good to see Madison’s bubbly personality and creativity directed in other ways.
Parenting blogger Yvette Vignando and I were asked our thoughts on Channel 7’s Morning Show Friday.
More on the pornification of female artists: MTR on Channel 10
Music industry producer Mike Stock recently came out against the increasingly pornified performances of female artists, an issue I blogged on a couple of weeks ago. In a piece titled Why this pop-porn will damage a generation of children, Stock wrote in the Daily Mail:
Now, however, an entire generation of young girls, some as young as eight or nine, is growing up transfixed by the writhings and thrustings of performers such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna, singing along to lines such as ‘Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it’…
Just as worrying is the impact the same material must be having on young boys. What is happening now doesn’t just undo all the good work done by the feminists of the 70s, it drags us almost back to the Stone Age. Women, as seen through the eyes of the music industry, have become little more than sex objects again. Read full article here.
With Miley Cyrus having toured Australia, and attracting media interest for her clothing and performance in an audience dominated by very young girls, Channel 10 asked me to comment. Here’s what I said:
Universal Royal Pageant chief Annette Hill isn’t feeling the love from us here in Australia over her plans to export US-style child beauty pageant culture to our shores.
“Oprah Winfrey went, she had a great time, and that’s why I want to come too. But I’m not feeling the love like Oprah did,” she told News Limited.
Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Oprah wasn’t accompanied by six-year-olds in feathers and sequins performing Las Vegas Show girl routines? (perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that she’s not Oprah, but I’ll leave that aside for now).
Blogger and author Kerri Sackville has perfectly and comically captured the essence of kids that most of us want to protect. With her permission, I’m reprinting her post here. Enjoy. (And the little boy with the bucket on this head? I can neither confirm nor deny that this is a child of mine).
Now THIS Is A Kiddie Beauty Pageant
Kiddie beauty pageants are coming to Australia and we Aussies aren’t pleased. We do not want our kids prematurely sexualised. We do not want them wearing makeup and beehive hairdos at the age of two (actually, we do not want them wearing beehive hairdos at all, because they look utterly ridiculous). We do not want them primping and preening and flirting with the judging panel when they should be making mud pies. And we certainly don’t want them to wear those expensive sparkly dresses because they’re just going to spill their Milo on them anyway.
However, I don’t think we should dismiss kiddie beauty pageants altogether. I think there is a place for them in our country; they just need to be modified a little to better suit the Australian culture.
So I have come up with guidelines for the Australian Toddler’s Beauty Pageant. All rules must be adhered to and the judge’s decision is final. See terms and conditions* for more details.
Children are to be judged on appearance, performance and demeanor.
•All choices of clothing are to be made by the child themselves. Bonus points are awarded for creativity, colour and uniqueness of ensemble. A pink tutu worn with yellow gumboots and a bright green hoodie is excellent. Likewise a long sleeve, purple winter top worn under a white summer frock with pink leggings and Dora The Explorer novelty shoes. A designer dress worn with matching party shoes entails immediate disqualification.
•Bonus points are awarded for vegemite smears on clothing and/or food remnants on face.
•Extra bonus points are awarded for food remnants in hair.
•Triple bonus points are awarded for stains of unknown origin anywhere on the competitor.
Children are to engage in a performance of their own creation. Sponteneity is preferable and props will be provided by event organisers. Suggestions are as follows:
•Spinning around in circles until they fall over.
•Spinning around in circles with a bin on their head until they fall over.
•Lying on the floor kicking their legs.
•Doing a toddler handstand (i.e. placing hands on the floor and looking at the world from between their legs).
•Pulling up their top to show the judges their belly button.
•Kicking down a Lego tower. (Bonus points if the Lego tower was built by another child).
Children are judged on their demeanor, with points awarded for appropriateness and dramatic effect. For example:
•Throwing a tantrum for absolutely no reason.
•Running offstage to use the potty.
•Actually using the potty onstage.
•Running offstage in protest.
•Embarrassing their parents (“Daddy does smelly poos!”).
•Embarrassing the judges (“Why does that lady have a beard?”).
•Standing there looking dazed and doing absolutely nothing at all.
If you are interested in enrolling your child, contact me via this blog. But I really wouldn’t bother if I was you. My three year old is going to win for SURE.
UK Glamour Magazine has included Suri Cruise in its annual list of the world’s “Best Dressed Women”
Up there with Samantha Cameron and Alexa Chung, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter is rated number 21 – ahead of Lady Gaga and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Suri Cruise is 5 years old. This little ‘fashion icon’ still needs help dressing herself and uses a dummy. She is not a woman and Glamour UK shouldn’t have included her in the list. Doing so contributes to the unremitting adultification of celebrity children (and non-celebrity children). It invites us to see Suri Cruise as much older than she really is, which is dangerous to her.
Here’s what I had to say about it on Channel 7’s Morning Show last week. Journalist Melissa Hoyer and parenting commentator Yvette Vignando felt the same way.
Botox injections for 8 year old pageant girl
In the latest installment of ‘horrors inflicted on small girls in the name of child beauty pageants’ comes this story, about an 8 year old in the US who undergoes Botox to keep up with the other girls in the tough world of pageants.
Kerry Campbell has admitted that she regularly injects daughter Britney with Botox. Apparently Britney had complained about the wrinkles on her face – after they were pointed out by other pageant children- so her mum thought it a good idea to administer Botox. “Kids are harsh and being confident is something she has to be with them,” Campbell said.
You can watch her interview with Good Morning America here:
In my view mother and daughter are both victims of beauty culture, and especially of child beauty pageant culture, which reeks with over the top beauty and grooming practices, sexualised dance routines and expensive glitzy costumes. Five year old child beauty pageant ‘star’ Eden Wood is being touted for interviews with Australian media with a price tag of up to $20,000. Oh, and she’ll be doing her Las Vegas Showgirl routine when she gets here in July.
How many more reasons do we need to keep child beauty pageants out of Australia? Please join the campaign. Sign the petition, join the Austrailan’s Against Child Beauty Pageants facebook and attend the protests country-wide May 24.
Sexualisation, violence, commercialisation, commodification: Right to Childhood conference hears evidence of harm to children
The Right to Childhood conference last Friday at Sydney’s Wesley Centre was a wake-up call to a society hell bent on forcing children to be exposed to imagery and messages which wreak havoc on their physical and mental health. Initiated by Dr Ramesh Manocha of HealthEd and co-sponsored by Collective Shout, close to 400 people heard expert evidence on just how bad things are for children and young people: and how all the indicators on health and wellbeing are set to worsen if not addressed as a matter of urgency.
Here’s a sample of some of the media coverage, and some related media treatment this week of issues impacting children.
Channel 10 News Segment: Right 2 Childhood Seminar
Advertisers blamed for increasing sexualisation: The World Today
Advertisers using ‘same tricks as sexual predators’
…Ms Hamilton says her research indicates modern advertising is becoming increasingly exploitative, especially towards children…
“I have done a paper recently which looks at how the corporations do market products, whether it is clothing or cosmetics or whatever – toys – to kids, and interestingly they use exactly the same tools as sexual predators do to groom children,” she said…
Another speaker at the conference, writer and social researcher Melinda Tankard Reist, says she is sickened by deliberate marketing – often with sexual undertones – to children as young as six months.
“They are very callous. I mean this is one of the reasons we use the term corporate paedophilia, because corporations are in a sense abusing children,” she said.
“They are driving childhood out of children and we see this as a systemic assault on childhood…” Read full story here
Advertisers should own up to harmful images says Australian Childhood Foundation
ADVERTISERS would have to publish “impact statements” detailing how their ads could harm youngsters, under a plan being pushed by a children’s lobby group.
Australian Childhood Foundation chief Joe Tucci said children as young as six were showing inappropriate sexual behaviour, which he blamed on saturation levels of violent and sexually explicit images in advertising, music videos, and computer games…
His call for companies using sexual or violent images to produce the impact statements comes amid growing concerns over the sexualisation of children.
Dr Tucci told a Sydney conference yesterday that 200 children showing inappropriate sexual behaviour were referred to his group a year, compared with 10 children a year a decade ago.
“There are children displaying aberrant sexual behaviour who can’t even tie their shoelaces yet,” he said.
“We ask children in counselling where they get these kind of ideas,” he said. “They pick out magazines, they pick out pictures and videos…” Read full story here
We disagree and believe the industry has had its way too long. See Collective Shout’s submissions here and here which argue that self-regulation has failed.
Kids too afraid to eat
CHILDREN as young as four are being hospitalised for eating disorders after refusing to eat and going on dangerous diets in their quest to be thin.
The largest eating disorders clinic in NSW, based at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, has reported a 270 per cent spike in the number of children being admitted to hospital over the past decade.
Even more alarming is the rise in the number of children being treated as outpatients at the hospital – it has increased more than 10-fold, up from 298 in 2003 to 3157 in 2009.
Clinic co-director Dr Michael Kohn said patients are getting younger.
“The average age for presentation is decreasing and the reason is the stress on young people has increased, so that those people vulnerable to develop eating disorders are doing so at a younger age,” Dr Kohn said.
…Melinda Tankard Reist, of lobby group Collective Shout, which is organising the petition to ban child beauty pageants, said presenting children in such a way was tantamount to child abuse. ”I think any Australian who cares about the welfare of little girls doesn’t want to see them dressing up like Tammy Faye Bakker or Joan Collins,” she said.
Collective Shout’s petition, which has more than 1200 signatures, will be sent to federal Minister for Early Childhood Peter Garrett and Victorian Minister for Children Wendy Lovell…Read full story here. And great to see 95% of voters in an SMH poll are also opposed to child beauty pageants in Australia.
Child Beauty Pageants: the misconceptions
“Being a little Barbie doll says your body has to be a certain way and your hair has to be a certain way. In girls particularly, this can unleash a whole complex of destructive self-experiences that can lead to eating disorders and all kinds of body distortions in terms of body image.” Read full blog article by Collett Smart here.
No longer just about the men’s magazine, the Playboy logo has become mainstream. Playboy has introduced porno chic to a younger audience, with its insignia now adorning doona and pillow covers, pencil cases, key rings, wallets, purses, stationary, make-up and youth clothing ranges.
Not too long ago, Girlfriend magazine promoted Playboy clothing as “the must have brand for cool girls.” To adorn yourself in some way with the rabbit logo was to demonstrate an uninhibited, free range sexiness: essential for every girl.
Now Playboy Enterprises has been given the opportunity to socialise an even younger audience to the bunny ears. Perhaps it won’t be long before the bunny becomes as ubiqitous as the golden arches. Afterall, Hugh Hefner once said he wouldn’t mind if a baby held up a Playboy bunny rattle.
The porn empire’s latest marketing tool is a character much loved by children for the chocolaty delights he delivers. The Easter Bunny.
Universal has just released an animated film called Hop, billed as “Candy, chicks and rock ‘n’ roll”. The film features E.B, teenage son of the Easter Bunny. Easter Bunny senior wants his child to take over the family Easter egg business. But E.B has other plans. He wants to “see the world” so runs away to Hollywood, determined to become a drummer in a rock band.
But not every bunny wants to stay in a burrow. So when E.B looks for a bed where does he go to first?
The Playboy mansion of course. When E.B is told by “celebrity narrator” Hugh Heffner that the mansion only accommodates “sexy” bunnies, E.B replies enthusiastically: “I can be sexy!”
In this coming of age story which appeals to children’s natural attraction to the Easter Bunny, E.B “learns what it takes to grow up”. The animated teen rebel, resisting his father’s wishes for him, on a journey of discovery, ends up at the Playboy mansion.
Cartoon bunny meet Playboy bunny in one seamless hop.
Embedding the Playboy Mansion in an Easter holiday film for kids is just another example of the mainstreaming of sex industry codes to children, contributing to their internalizing a message that the best known brand of the global porn industry is cool.
Alison Pollet in her 2004 article, Strip till You Drop, writes, “The bunny’s getting an extreme makeover; the company’s amping up its playful, mildly risqué qualities and de-emphasizing its pornographic ones.”
Hop helps it do that. The man responsible for the trivialization of female sexuality on a global scale becomes a celebrity narrator providing cartoon bunnies a bed for the night.
You only have to go back to Hefner’s original description of the meaning of the Bunny, to get a good idea of his sexist and harmful views of women. In an interview cited here Hefner said:
The rabbit, the bunny, in America has a sexual meaning, and I chose it because it’s a fresh animal, shy, vivacious, jumping – sexy. First it smells you, them it escapes, then it comes back, and you feel like caressing it, playing with it. A girl resembles a bunny. Joyful, joking. Consider the kind of girl that we made popular: the Playmate of the Month. She is never sophisticated, a girl you cannot really have. She is a young, healthy, simple girl — the girl next door … we are not interested in the mysterious, difficult woman, the femme fatale, who wears elegant underwear, with lace, and she is sad, and somehow mentally filthy. The Playboy girl has no lace, no underwear, she is naked, well-washed with soap and water, and she is happy.
First person accounts about life at the Playboy Mansion reveal how the women are seen as property to be treated however Hefner wants. Jill Ann Spaulding describes porn and Viagra assisted unsafe sex sessions with the elderly Hefner.
Also this recent account in a piece titled “Pay to Play” by Daniel Flynn and published in The Spectator:
Nobody told Izabella St. James that sexual liberation came with curfews, monitors, and allowances. A former live-in girlfriend of Hugh Hefner, St. James has come clean on the dirty life inside the Playboy mansion. The Hefner girlfriends log-out upon departing the mansion and log-in upon returning. Security personnel monitor their movements, with a strict 9 p.m. curfew imposed. Weekly allowances of $1,000, and gratis plastic surgery, keep the ladies in line. The busty blonde reflected in the Daily Mail earlier this year, “Little did I realize that by moving into the mansion I was losing all the freedom I associated with the Playboy lifestyle.”
The picture painted of the Playboy mansion by St. James and other playmates is one of joyless, obligatory orgies, dog-mess littered carpets, hall-monitor snitches, and a control-freak master of the house. Reality-television star Kendra Wilkinson, a five-year resident of the mansion, recalls: “It was way more strict than my parents had ever been.”
Flynn concludes: “One man’s emancipation can be another’s enslavement. In Hugh Hefner’s case, one old man’s sexual liberation is a whole harem’s subjugation”.
But it’s all candy, chicks and rock ‘n’ roll for E.B.
If you prefer your children have a non commercialised, commodified, women-as-bunnies Playboy mediated vision of sexuality, don’t take them to see Hop.
Calling on Federal Minister Peter Garrett and Victoria counterpart Wendy Lovell to intervene
Collective Shout has initiated a petition in response to the news that a US pageant company plans to import its child beauty competitions to Australia. You can find the petition on the Care2 petition site . Please sign and circulate it through all your networks. The petition reads:
Child beauty pageant company Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant is planning to hold a ‘Child Beauty Pageant’ in Melbourne, Australia, in July.
Many psychologists and child development authorities agree that child beauty pageants are not in the best interest of healthy child development.
A study conducted by Anna Wonderlich et.al (2005) in the Journal of Treatment and Prevention reported ‘A significant association between childhood beauty pageant participation and increased body dissatisfaction, difficulty trusting interpersonal relationships, and greater impulsive behaviors and indicates a trend toward increased feelings of ineffectiveness.’
Television shows like Toddlers and Tiaras reveal the child exploitation endemic in these pageants. Child advocates around the world have spoken out about the sexualised clothing, suggestive dance moves, hours of grooming and preening required. They have expressed concern about the way pageants provide external validation to girls that their physical appearance is what is most important in being female. They have criticised the way child beauty pageants re-inforce stereotypical norms about female beauty. They have also pointed out that adultifying children in pageants and elsewhere invites us to see them as older than they are, which puts them (and other children) at risk of inappropriate treatment.
Pitting young girls against each other in a competition based on physical appearance and performance is harmful to their wellbeing.Research on the sexualisation of children shows that reinforcing an emphasis on looks and attractiveness leads to negative body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
We call on the Federal Minister for Early Childhood and Youth, the Hon. Peter Garrett and the Victoria Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, Wendy Lovell, to take action to prevent these style of pageants in Australia and (with State colleagues) to consider legislative measures to ban all future pageants for children.
Mtr on sexualisation of girls and pageants this week on SBS
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
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Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.