Thursday, September 3, 2009

A hypersexualised world

Yesterday we had a couple of tradesman come over to fix the gasline on the stove - they went outside to check the gas bottles. Miss S was fascinated by their work , and followed their progress. Then she shocked me with this question:
Miss S:  (peering out the window to the two plumbers) : 'So Mum, which one do you think is hot?'
Me: Well, ummmmm, what do you mean by 'hot' ?
Miss S: well, you know, sexy and cool
Me: So, if someone is 'hot' means that they are 'cool'? (steering away from discussing the nature of sexiness with her 5 year old daughter). Thats a bit strange, dont you think?
Miss S: Well I like the one thats not fat. He's hot.
Oh GAWD. Two things get me concerned here. One, she has learnt that to be 'fat' makes you somehow unattractive. (Just for the record, he was only a little overweight). And second, where the hell did she get the words 'sexy' and in this context 'hot' in her vocabulary?
So, we talked about how a kind and loving person is the kind of person that you want to have around you. That what I see and like in a person is not just about how they look. I asked a few more questions to find out where she got this idea of 'hotness' from? But she didnt really know.

Yes, sexualised images of women pervade the media, and the pornification of young girls toys, clothes, videos etc is as insidious as it is well documented. . But i try and steer my girls away from commercial TV, and limit some of the toys they have. ( Barbies, yes but Brats, no) Hmmm....its not enough, methinks.
So this is the thing: I feel I havent done enough to protect my 5 year old from this kind of sexual language, plus she has already been sucked into the idea of objectifying the (in this case, male) body. And so I worry. What can we do as parents to keep children's play and language and way of looking at the world, childlike?

Id also like to add that it makes me bloody furious that this should be an issue at all!


  1. where did she get it? two words. BIG SISTER!

  2. that may have sounded a bit flippant. Its a shock when it first happens. the younge one seems to reach levels of maturity a lot quicker than the older one and its just out there, everywhere. songs, print media, kids chats, everything is just hot; people, things,songs,stuff. they dont understand its sexualised context, its just a word to explain a like but i reckon her growing up big sister has been educating her...

  3. Kel.... you're right, of course, youre right. And Ive talked to big sister bout it a bit...and found out they are having barbie doll games with 'sexing'. For CRYING OUT LOUD!!!! I think I just need to take a deep breath and just accept this is our society, and the best I can do is just temper (tempre?) this stuff with some mild feminist analysis!!

  4. Ana_ I know... it just seems to hard to believe that Miss S is THIS grown up now.

  5. Lol 'sexing'. But I guess Barbie and Kenn are a hot couple- they cannot just stay holding hands for ever!

  6. oh, oh, oh!!!!!
    I just realised I forgot to ask what dad thinks about this!!

  7. ohh boy, been meaning to re-comment for a few days. LOL on the 'sexing' too. memories of my own depths of childhood with the neighbours barbie n ken ( coz i didnt have any!!! pc mother). we are sexual creastures but of concern is the language, the discourse and the context. hang in there..keep talking with them and draw on your own memories!

  8. haha! Yes, i do remember 'sexing' with barbies when I was young, but surely not as young as M? I agree, its not actually the practicing/acting out of games like this that is so much a problem. (Hey, we were v risque it was barbie-on-barbie action: woo-hoo!) Its the objectifiction of bodies, which is I think getting worse. I read a bit of the book that the link above refers to, and I have to agree with the author, that there is an insidious qualtiy to the marketing of toys/games/clothes to v young girls that is worrying, and so much worse than when we were young. The idea of hating your body if it dosnt measure up to the ideal seems to be hitting kids so much younger.