The Pressure for Young Girls to Be 'Sexy' Is Only Getting Worse

We are constantly bombarded with messages in society that suggest, either directly or indirectly, that 'young' and 'sexy' go hand in hand. The new Kingsmill advert is a good example and it's already stirred up some controversy.

Schoolgirls are under pressure to put 'sexy' photos on Facebook and digitally alter pictures to make themselves look more attractive, an academic warned yesterday.

The claims were put forward by Carrie Paechter, a Professor of Education at Goldsmiths, University of London. Speaking at the Girls' Schools Association conference in Liverpool, Professor Paechter said: "While we should be pleased that many girls are proud of their bodies, we should have some concerns about what aspects of their bodies they are taking pride in."

In a world where some young girls maintain a careful consideration of the closest source of light for that 'golden glow' before taking a photo and rely on Instagram's subtle editing tools for their version of 'post-production', I can't help but agree with the Professor's arguments.

Focusing on Instagram in more depth, it is more so a truth than a rumour that many teenage boys use the site to view model-like photographs of the opposite sex. These girls often use the photo-sharing programme as something more, far beyond an editing tool, it is also a tool to say "I can be pretty too, just look..." In many cases the photos speak for themselves. This is one social network of many that is simply encouraging vanity among young people - the use of 'young' seems to be getting younger.

It's an age-old issue that's dominated discussion for years among concerned mothers who have "innocent" and "impressionable" young daughters. However I personally feel it's getting worse. Name a reality show today that doesn't consist of at least one girl sporting her latest cosmetic procedures or at least her latest lashes, extensions or 'falsies' of some kind - yes, it's a hard task. The irony is that these reality TV programmes are far from realistic.

We are constantly bombarded with messages in society that suggest, either directly or indirectly, that 'young' and 'sexy' go hand in hand. The new Kingsmill advert is a good example and it's already stirred up some controversy. The 30-second commercial has prompted a barrage of complaints from furious parents who have accused the company of "sexualising" children, in particular, young schoolgirls.

The advert consists of a teenage girl wearing her school uniform, or lack of it. Viewers see the girl's younger brother sharing a message from her father regarding his concerns about the length of her skirt - a fair point from any caring father. To rub salt into the wounds, the advert ends in the girl pulling her skirt up higher, sporting a provocative pose. Initially when I heard about this controversy I thought it had all got a little out of hand and that some were simply exaggerating. However, thinking about it in more depth, the glamorisation of a young girl appearing as a 'sexy schoolgirl' is clear for all to see. Surely such presentations are what we do not need or appreciate, especially considering the ongoing Jimmy Savile controversy. Was this really necessary to advertise bread?

This example links in to another aspect of Professor Paechter's argument in how it has become the norm for children to upload photographs of themselves posing provocatively on social media sites. For an easily influenced young girl who sees such representations of her generation and gender on television, it is no surprise that some feel image over education is the priority when at school.

We've heard the size zero argument all too many times before but it appears the issue has now shifted slightly, despite it still unfortunately falling into the same category: young girls and body image pressures. However, is the argument now that girls are emphasising certain areas that they may not have even developed yet? With programmes such as The Only Way Is Essex, it's hardly surprising that there are many girls wanting to edit their image, just like how the women they see are permanently editing themselves on a regular basis with their latest cosmetic treatment or procedure.

Rather than use the programme as a scapegoat, it doesn't take a genius to work out that any material of this kind, presenting such dumbed down females, poses a great danger. The short-term impact may be hilarious yet thinking about it in the long run, I simply feel it's a tragedy for society and particularly young girls who will be hit hardest.

I appreciate Professor Paechter's argument and I firmly agree that social networks are not helping the situation. It seems the media's presentation of female role models is simply 'Retweeting' the problems that social networks create in regards to body and image pressures upon young girls today.


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