Advertising and media images that encourage girls to focus on looks and sexuality are harmful to their emotional and physical health, a new report by the American Psychological Association says.Competition is inherent in human nature. The competitive drive helps people to secure the best mates and provide enough security and resources for their offspring. Naturally, people measure themselves relative to the performance of others. Excepting physical health, relative wealth is the second strongest indicator of self-described personal happiness.
The report, released Monday, analyzed some 300 studies over the past 18 months. It included a variety of media, from television and movies to song lyrics, and looked at advertising showing body-baring doll clothes for pre-schoolers, tweens posing in suggestive ways in magazines and the sexual antics of young celebrity role models.
The researchers found such images may make girls think of and treat their own bodies as sexual objects.
It's likely that the physical attractiveness girls are going for combines elements of both of these. It's not surprising, then, that desirable attributes that are nearly impossible to attain are bumming girls out. The media explosion that has taken place over the fifteen years or so accentuates this, because the imagery is now ubiquitous--the internet, cable and satellite TV, the proliferation of popular magazines, better target-marketing, even media content from cell phones.
The decline of grunge music in the mid-nineties, with lyrics and videos that had focused on somber topics like fear, addiction, and ennui, meant the decline of a genre that is mostly free of female objectification. The corresponding ascension of hip-hop in popular culture and its misogynistic and objectifying overtones has certainly played a part.
The article excerpted above reports that task forces trying to counter the objectification by putting out images of more dignified women, admired for non-sexual traits. Fine, but that's been the fluffy answer for as long as I can remember.
It seems inevitable to me that a less intelligent society is going to be more focused on instant sexual gratification than a more intelligent one is. Not only are the less endowed more inclined to engage in acts of instant gratification at the expense of longer-term planning, sexual promiscuity is most widespread among members of the underclass. Both men and women embrace it. As we move up the social ladder, that becomes less and less the case, especially among women. Continued underclass immigration from Mexico and the rest of Latin America (characterized by 'machismo' cultures) will help perpetuate the trend toward greater objectification.
I wish the trend would reverse, of course. More empty-headed, slovenly women attempting to show more of what often shouldn't be shown (the obestiy rate isn't headed down anytime soon) isn't appealing. Just as American children are becoming dumber while being told they're becoming smarter, women are becoming less lovely while under the impression that they must dress and act in a certain way to become more lovely.
What a sad decline. A beautiful woman in pajama bottoms and a loose-fitting tee-shirt is infinitely more attractive than a corpulent slop who thinks dressing like Jessica Simpson will make her look like Jessica Simpson [warning: nauseating image]. Unfortunately, we're going to see more of the latter and less of the former.