Gradually, there is a growing consciousness in many of the western countries about the exposure of young children to sexualised imagery, apparel and accessories. Look around to what the young ones get exposed to. Barbie dolls, Bratz dolls, sexualised imagery in freely available magazines or on television (not late night hours), padded bras and what not.
According to research studies, the proportion of a Barbie doll are impractically absurd and had she been in real life, she would not have been able to even stand. Bratz are worse, and the issue perhaps is more with their risque clothing. Barbie at least has options for non-risque apparel and she is at least educated and has multiple types of respected professions.
The type of apparel available has changed in terms of shape, and very often in terms style and lettering. Companies manufacture thongs, and padded bras for teenagers and betweeners. From an economic imperative perspective, this his very clear. Catch your customer young! Get them to start using your products early on, and in case of apparel it works out. Younger ones will see their older friends or sisters wearing things and want to wear similar. In an abstract way, very similar to what even McDonald's does. If you manage to attact a customer early on, there are chances that she /he will remain (as a customer) even when she has her own spending power.
The question however is how far will just pure economics drive culture of our society and how far can the boundaries of ethics can get pushed. There are some extreme cases too - e.g. way back in 2007, Wal-Mart pulled a pair of girls’ underwear with the words “Who needs credit cards … ” on the front and “when you have Santa” on the back from the shelves after parental outcry.
Research has found that that girls who buy into sexualizing media messages are more likely to experience low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders over time with lasting impressions throughout their lives.
Daily newspapers have taken a leaf out of tabloids. Oh, for heaven's sake - the spread is rampant. Have you not noticed the magazine section (Mumbai times, Delhi time, Bangalore times or whatever it is called) of your local newspaper? The pictures that you see along with this post are from magazine sections of the Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore editions of the Time of India (issue 6th July, 2011).
Its not very different on Indian television currently. The censor board has taken exception to some of the deodorant commercials but there still are the Axe commercials which air (yes, the same one with the horny airport security person rubbing herself against an Axe smelling passenger).
Celebrity and entertainment arguably could exhibit more responsibility than retailers for de-sensitizing parents to the sexualisation of music, magazines, television and merchandise, and perhaps our own benchmarks have shifted as a consequence.
Check out about any large toy store in your city, and perhaps the role-playing toys section. In the girl's section you will find Barbies and the like pointing more towards a Lindsay Lohan or a Paris Hilton type of lifestyle. If the expectations set are so low, should we be disturbed when the children just follow the lead?
This really is about sensitivity (or the lack of it) and restoring some level of dignity, and not about prudishness or censorship. There is an understandable tendency (as there should be) to thwart any attempt to restrict or impede our access to content, or even our experience of access to that content.This completely has to do with rationality and a space where the images of women that children get exposed to are not semi-naked.
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