Historically, whenever technology and media have changed, society has consequently changed as well. When society changes and there are shifts in the mindsets of men and women and the expectations placed on women change, all aspects of a woman’s life being to change as well, including her sexual expression. It is clear that ever since the start of the media’s sexualization of women, women and girls of all ages have been affected. But to what extent? The 2012 documentary, “Sexy Baby,” addresses this phenomenon by following three girls of all different ages and circumstances, showing the different ways in which they are all affected by the media today. There is one circumstance that stood out to me the most regarding a young girl, however, because i have a 10-year-old sister who has recently entered the world of instagram
Winnifred, a 12 year old girl growing up in New York City, started out as a young and empowered feminist before the effects of social media started to weigh down on her. As she was exposed to more by the media and pop culture, she began to succumb to the effects of the sexualization of women. In society today, it is completely normal for young girls to have profiles on social media, and Winnifred was no acception. To have a presence on social media and to impress her friends, both boys and girls, Winnifred started to post pictures, statuses, and comment on her friends photos. As time went on and she realized the amount of freedom she has on social media, she began to get more bold with the types of pictures she would post. They got progressively more inappropriate and sexualized, to the point where her parents had to intervene and were shocked at the strength of their daughter’s sexual expression through these images at the age of 12.
The portrayal of Winnifred’s transformation in “Sexy Baby” is a common phenomenon that is happening more and more often as children get cell phones with internet at progressively earlier ages. This film identifies that this is, in fact, a real problem that will have to be confronted eventually because it carries so many adverse effects on multiple levels. These sexual images that young girls are posting on the internet, although they may be deleted eventually, will never go away and can easily come back to haunt them. Not only is this a possible adverse effect, but also the level to which these girls are sexualizing themselves contributes to the objectification of women and possibly implants patriarchal or misogynistic ideals in the heads of boys at a much earlier age as well.
Young girls post these pictures to make themselves desirable. They want to be wanted, and want to get attention from boys. They want to experiment. The fact that boys and girls outlook on sex is so casual at this ages proves that school, religion, and families are beginning to have less of an impact on the socialization of kids these days, and that media and friends are the driving forces behind this. This could also be the reason behind why kids are having sex at earlier ages; the media has made it seem as if it is a commodity. Virginity then becomes a commodity.
Winnifred’s process in which she is a sense, lost her “innocence” as a little girl occurred at the age of 12, but even now, it is happening at younger ages. My little sister is 10 and is in the fifth grade. She got an iPhone for Christmas last year, and upon getting an iPhone, immediately asked to get an instagram, just like all of her friends. Oblivious to the adverse effects that were soon to come, they agreed to letting her get an instagram as long as her account is private and she follows friends and family only. As soon as I got a follow request, I demanded that my parents make her delete her instagram immediately. No 10-year-old should have an instagram or any form of social media, especially not my little sister; I was aware of the possible effects having witnessed girls I know go through the same phase Winnifred did. Thank goodness, they listened and made my little sister delete her instagram, but her friends accounts still remained out there.
In the short time that my little sister had her instagram and I looked through her friends profiles with her, I was shocked at the provocative images that they were already posting as fourth graders. It is really hard to see young girls exposing and sexualizing themselves. What is even harder for me, however, is seeing how strongly affected and influenced they are by the media, the music they hear on the radio, and what they see on TV and in movies. The media plays up the sexualization of women so much making it seem as if a woman is sexy, then she is automatically desirable to all men, that these young girls try to imitate this and in turn are objectified or slut-shamed.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there is a quick-fix solution to solve this problem and process from happening to young girls, but if there were, what could be some ways to implement better ideals, images, and modes of sexual expression?