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Recently I spent some time with a group of girls in Year 11 who are just bursting with life and hope for a brilliant future. I am amazed at the vision of teens. These girls are thinking about how they can be involved in humanitarian pursuits by helping orphans and women in the sex trades or by enlightening their peers about the culture they are immersed. This culture which 'sexploits' women and children and normalises raunchy or pornographic sexual themes, hence impacting on their mental well being and those of their friends. This type of teen worldview is confirmed by ‘The National Survey of Young Australians 2010’ (in which 50,240 young people aged 11 to 24 participated). This survey found that the top issue of personal concern was body image!
A gorgeous girl in the group alerted me to the Diesel website with adverts for their ‘Intimates’ lingerie collection. She said she had been looking at clothing sites and was highly offended by this website and the messages it portrayed. Her words to me were, "This is just soft porn!" The girls were appalled and said they would now 'feel uncomfortable' even wearing that label, knowing that this was how Diesel (a brand that teens love) used women and sex to sell their clothes. I was so proud of these young girls who just GOT how wrong this was, on so many levels! The underwear says things like, 'Today I am your school teacher', 'Tonight I am your student' or 'Tonight I am your nurse' and 'Today I am your police woman’ complete with handcuff logo. These adverts normalise sex with minors by using teacher-student sex themes, exhibitionism, porn style sex themes and also portray women as being completely objectified and nothing more than being ‘there’ for men’s pleasure as sex objects.
Talking with these girls, who had not previously heard about Collective Shout, some mentioned how they had already gone on their own rampages in their communities and voiced their frustration at the images they were being exposed to, that had sexualised themes.
The girls spoke about their frustration that even if they looked away, the images were seared into their minds or those of their boyfriends and questioned how that was meant to be free choice? They also related how their boyfriends felt frustrated about the manner in which women were portrayed in the media and said that they had to fight the war in their own minds, not to look at the their girlfriends in the same way.
One of the girls had previously taken on an ad company at her bus shelter about inappropriate images, which she saw young children standing looking at. She told them in her letter of complaint that she was a student and felt offended by the images. They removed it! - Go Girl Power! This same teenage girl also mentioned that when she and her sister were purchasing something at a newsagent, they told the seller that they would not make their purchase until he moved the Ralph and Zoo magazines away from the Dora the Explorer colouring books. She told me that he just laughed at them and so they did not make their purchase there.
Another enraged student said how much she hated the 'tits' t-shirts she saw on guys she walked past in malls and felt insulted every time she saw these. This girl is planning on creating her art work to represent the way that the media exploits women and uses sex to sell products. Talking with these girls I can see why this issue contributes to depression, eating disorders and self-image issues, as mentioned in the post ‘Self-image vs Sexualised-image’.
Those of us that fight against the sexploitation of our culture are often accused of being engaged in ‘moral panic’. I attended a workshop recently called ‘Figuring the Child’, where speakers such as Steven Angiledes and Barbara Baird rolled their eyes at Child Development Theory and psychologists such as Michael-Carr Gregg or Steve Biddulph. This group believe that children are not innocent and do not need our protection or guidance against the onslaught of sexual media or premature sexual behaviour. They questioned whether we had ever stopped to ask the youth what THEY thought! The answer is, yes we have, on a regular basis! And this article highlights some of the things they are saying.
I am so proud to work with this incredible generation! They are the champions of tomorrow. These teens, like many other youth around Australia, (such as the very active group in Toowoomba) inspired me so much that we have started a group called ‘Youth Shout Out'. This is in order that they are able to add their own voices to this growing movement of young people standing up for their futures.
This post originally appeared on The Family Factor.