During the UN Women’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Together for Girls had the opportunity to collaborate on a CSW panel with the International Council of Jewish Women, U.S. Fund For UNICEF titled “Protect Our Girls: Sexualization, Exploitation, and the Media.” This article is an extension of the panel and centers on the ways in which people can participate in ending the sexual exploitation of women and girls. It also focuses on TfG’s Every Hour Matters campaign, which aims to increase awareness about the critical importance of quickly accessing post-rape care and calls on national and community leaders to ensure comprehensive services are available in all communities.
It is in movies, music and books. It is promoted in advertisements, magazines and on television. It is consumed daily by millions and its imagery is being viewed and applied to women and girls all over the world; mass producing stereotypical narratives and sexist social norms that attempt to shape the “value” and “worth” of girls’ and women’s bodies. What is this “it”? “It” is the sexual objectification and exploitation of women and girls in the media.
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, sexual objectification can be “roughly defined as the seeing and/or treating a person, usually women [and girls] as objects.” From this perspective, women and girls are viewed solely as objects of desire and for their bodies, instead of whole individuals who have emotions, personalities, and behaviors beyond the scope of the act of sex.
In 2010, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a report on the sexualization of girls in the media and found that massive exposure to media among youth creates the potential for massive exposure to portrayals that sexualize women and girls and teach girls that women are sexual objects. Examining various media, the findings proved girls are portrayed in a sexual manner more often than boys; dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness. Women and girls are also more likely to be indicated portrayed in a sexual manner (dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person).
With these sexist, stereotypical models of femininity constantly being perpetuated in the media, the negative implications affecting the mental, emotional and physical wellness of girls are many.
Consequences for girls and women at-large include anxiety about appearance and feelings of shame, eating disorders, lower self-esteem and depression. The study also found that sexualization of women and girls can also have a negative impact on boys and men. According to the APA, objectifying girls/women and sex itself is integral to masculinity and these beliefs may jeopardize men’s ability to form and maintain intimate relationships with women.
While the sexual exploitation of women and girls is rampant, there are many ways that you can help combat the media objectification of girls. Whether it is through writing, petitioning or joining organizations that promote gender equality and balanced gender representation in the media, here are ways in which you can help stop sexual exploitation of girls.