Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by Drs. Diane E. Levin & Jean Kilbourne

The prior post noted my concern about the sexualization of children. Indeed, in the summer of 2009, I read a book on the subject and wrote an article reviewing it. The book was So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by Drs. Diane E. Levin & Jean Kilbourne. The book was published in 2008 by Ballantine Books.

My book review was published this past summer in the American Journal of Family Law. That review is available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1673611.

The journal trimmed some of the article for publication. The original, full-length article is available at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1653630.

My article essentially praises Drs. Levin and Kilbourne for bringing attention to this serious problem facing children and families today. However, I note that due to the ubiquitous nature of the problem, structural changes are needed. The one-off strategies the book’s authors suggest to parents are well-intentioned, but woefully inadequate. The authors’ discussion of the problem in their book, as well as my own experience as a mom and grade school teacher, leads me to the conclusion that parents dealing with this issue alone within their own family is analogous to the passengers on the Titanic trying to bail water with tea cups.

The full-length version of my article also takes issue with certain tactics of the book's authors. For example, I assert that they hurt their credibility at times by taking on small (and admittedly rather benign) fish when they railed against the horrors of the Disney Princess marketing behemoth. The Disney Princesses are much beloved by many and are relatively harmless. Citing them as examples of the problem of sexualization, the authors appear to be overly sensitive and alarmist. Such examples also potentially alienate readers who might otherwise be sympathetic to the authors’ general concerns about the impact on children of sexualized media and marketing.

Moreover, in their book Drs. Levin and Kilbourne needlessly alienate natural allies in the Christian community with dismissive and derogatory statements about the religious right. It is apparent in various references throughout the book that the authors have taken a firm stand on culture war issues, and they are not on the same side as Evangelicals and political conservatives. That is fine. Everyone is entitled to their own views. However, when the problem of sexualizing childhood is so ubiquitous and entrenched, it makes no sense to refuse to reach across the aisle and seek allies to make progress on this critical issue. It saddens me that in our current climate, people accept the political polarization and don’t even try to find common ground with people who have a different overarching philosophy or worldview.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the Lord is faithful,
and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

1 comment:

  1. I am only sorry I came upon this blog almost 2 years after this article was written. I have been a youth worker through churches for 22 years. Trying to teach young women who have not grown up with the church's values that covering up is akin to loving themselves has been one of the hardest tasks I have ever undertaken. I have seen the entire spectrum of this, from girls grown up in loving Christian homes who's parents would never let them wear sexually exploitative clothing, to girls who grew up in dysfunctional, fatherless families who would walk around naked for attention. (Not that they did, but that they would be willing to do so.)

    While our media pushes an unhealthy message about child sex exploitation, the real issue is at home. I have found girls who feel loved and valued have no desire to use their bodies for attention. However, girls lacking this, will do just about anything to find it. And they are the ones who get exploited, not only by television media convincing them to wear inappropriate clothing, but by gang members who find young girls and force them into prostitution.

    This is a very serious issue, and needs to be addressed at all levels of society, and like you say, across the isles. This should be an issue that Christians and Atheists alike should be able to get behind.