Image is huge in our society, with a constant bombardment of what you should look like from all sides in media. Thankfully, as a society we are starting to become more aware of how the images we see everyday affect us and especially influence our younger generation.
Recent studies show that the impact of early exposure of sexuality to a girl’s development is indeed very harmful. A report by the American Psychological Association task force (APA, 2007), found that girls who are exposed to sexual messages from popular culture are more likely to have depression, low self esteem and to suffer from eating disorders.
Unfortunately, we are only currently seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the devastating effects of over sexualizing our young girls, especially with the advent of social media.
Where I used to work I set up a Facebook account to attract young people into working in apprenticeships – the idea being that by using social media we would communicate with our chosen audience. I started to make ‘friends’ with local young people to promote our advertising.
Within a few days our company had connected with hundreds of young people. As I clicked daily and added and accepted friends I started to notice a theme running that many of the young women/ girls were being overly sexual, pouting and posing for shoots.
I am all for a woman showing her body and being naturally sexy and confident in herself and in her physique, but many of these photos did not show a natural confidence or a feeling of being comfortable with themselves. As I scrolled through it was clear that many of these young women did not know their own inner beauty.
“While social media is not the cause of low self-esteem, it has all the right elements to contribute to it. Social media creates an environment where disordered thoughts and behaviours really thrive.”
Claire Mysko - author and expert on body image, leadership and media literacy,
When under pressure and not sure of ourselves we can sell out to an image of what 'we think' we should look like and can often get lost in trying to please and to look a certain way.
We can sometimes feel in order to fit in we need to sell out to the lie we are sold on, which is someone else idea of marketed beauty.
1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder.
11% of the 1.6 million are male.
14-25 year olds are most affected by an eating disorder.
There are up to 18 new cases of bulimia per 100,000 population per year.
1 in 100 women aged between 15 and 30, are affected by anorexia
We are starting to see the consequences of our girls being constantly fed the 'what is sexy' and how you should look lie. This lie has been hanging around for far too long, in magazines, music videos and film, all to often promote a demoralizing way of thinking that has become the norm.
From a young age, girls in many different ways are taught that they are valued for what they look like rather than what they say and who they are as a person.
What is going on for us to buy into this facade? Why is there a constant need to look better? And why in our history as women has this actually gotten worse with time, not better?
Will we change or will we see another generation drip-fed with the same deluded ideas?
The images we see every day are more hypersexual then ever. We are constantly being bombarded with images that say we are not enough, that we need to be more sexy, more beautiful; these unreal expectations once swallowed are totally exhausting so no wonder suicide rates and depression rates have escalated in young women.
What can we do? We can start with small steps like saying no to buying and reading damaging material. I myself noticed that I would feel yucky and low after reading certain magazines, where I would be left with the imposed message that said I was not good enough or as beautiful as them. Let’s not be under any illusion, much of this material promotes and encourages bitchiness, gossip, competition and comparison (these traits can sure make us ugly).
The constant disempowering of us as women has implications far and wide. Lets look beyond physical looks and look at the deeper issues of lack of self worth and how this can be addressed. Ultimately when we deal with our own lack of self worth we are able to inspire others and show them that the current ways have not worked and will not work.
True beauty is found in all women in all sizes, in all ages and in all physical attributes. Truly there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is content with who she is.
To the girls I see on the social media sites I want to tell them that they are beautiful, that they are all unique, no matter what shape, size, weight or race. I want to tell them they are strong, amazing, divine, sexy and sassy just being them; that there is no need to be anyone other than who they truly are.
We are all, young and old, male and female so much more than someone’s marketed idea of what beauty is.
American Psychological Association (APA) (2007), Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls