James Corden's most recent carpool karaoke celebrity guest is Britney Spears. She appeared with him on America's The Late Late Show and together they sang their way through many of her popular hits.
Towards the end of the 10 minute segment James and Britney belted out her 1998 single Baby One More Time. Critics have been quick to comment on Britney's performance, suggesting she lip synched throughout, but this song hit the wrong note with me for an entirely different reason. Both dressed in schoolgirl uniform, an ode to the iconic video that accompanied the song at the time, it triggered a memory of revulsion in me then which still holds true today.
In 1998 the Britney Spears chart-topping video promoting Baby One More Time took the sexualisation of schoolgirls to another level. Britney, along with the other dancers in the video, gyrated and danced their way to the song's lyrics which included the suggestion 'There's nothing I wouldn't do' whilst dressed as schoolgirls.
If I was worried about sexualising schoolgirls in 1998 it's nothing compared to how I feel about this in 2016. Historical child abuse claims are firmly in the spotlight and high profile cases involving celebrities, politicians and others have resulted in a heightened awareness and understanding of the extent of the problem. With countless numbers of victims and survivors or child abuse coming to light our tolerance for blatant sexualisation of underage girls must be vigorously challenged.
Chris Tuck founder of registered charity Survivors of Abuse, who works to support victims and survivors of childhood abuse is equally concerned 'The sexualisation of schoolgirls is morally wrong. We need to step up as a society to protect children, and refuse to sanction anything that supports the objectification and sexualisation of underage girls.'
Schoolgirls already have enough harassment to contend with on a daily basis, my own daughters have been inappropriately propositioned whilst in school uniform, without society seeing this as harmless entertainment. We may not be able to control what goes on in people heads but we must stop fuelling this fantasy for underage girls, and normalising or making light of it.
Chris Tuck explains further 'Through our work S.O.B is trying to change the culture of how society perceives child abuse. We want to break the silence around this epidemic and raise awareness about the impact of child abuse on victims and survivors mental and physical health.'
Many women at one time or another have dressed up as a schoolgirl; as part of a hen party, a fancy dress theme, or even as role play. Back in 1998 Britney's video spawned a huge uplift in sales of adult schoolgirl uniforms. How many women have ever stopped to consider if dressing as a schoolgirl suggests a dangerous endorsement, however unwittingly?
Search 'Schoolgirl Fancy Dress' on Google and 2 million results are revealed. Add 'Sexy' into the title and the figure rises to 26 million. 'Sexy' and 'Schoolgirl' are words that should never even appear in the same sentence let alone in the mind of right thinking people. The implicit suggestion being that it's okay for us to consider underage girls sexually alluring. Objectifying schoolgirls is something we should all be questioning.
My eldest daughter was four years old, and starting school in 1998, the same year that Britney's single hit the charts. Drinking in the delight of my excited little girl, standing proudly before me in her new school uniform for the first time, I experienced an epiphany. Suddenly grown women dressing up as schoolgirls became highly inappropriate and utterly distasteful.
If I felt uncomfortable when a barely legal 16 year old Britney made Baby One More Time dressed as a schoolgirl in 1998, I feel positively nauseous that 18 years later, with everything we have learned about child abuse and abusers, we still find it acceptable to sexualise schoolgirls.
James Corden is a king of comedy. Along with his various guests in Carpool Karaoke he has entertained thousands of us. However, I really hope this is one last time we see adults dressed as schoolgirls. The only people who should ever wear a school uniform are children of school age, the ones heading back to the start of a new term this autumn.
Whether it's for entertainment, amusement or the selling of hit records, countless victims and survivors of child abuse will simply never find women dressed as schoolgirls acceptable or remotely funny.
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