Young girls are increasingly portrayed as sexually available and interested mini-adults, an Australian feminist says.
Melinda Tankard Reist, editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, said Western culture had developed a highly sexualised and homogonised view of females in the past decade.
"A scary view about what women and girls are good for has developed; they are merely here to service the sexual satisfaction of men and if they don't succeed they're worthless," she said.
"And we're now applying adult concepts to children: our culture is repackaging young girls as sexually interested and available."
Tankard Reist is in New Zealand to address a Family First-hosted conference, The Forum on the Family, in Auckland on Friday.
She said many girls strived to meet the myth. It was driven by sexualised music videos, magazines, billboards, toys, games, clothing and marketing.
As a result, girls developed physical and mental health problems such as eating disorders, depression and anxiety.
Girls as young as seven were "self-surveying" and being hospitalised with eating disorders.
The culture was driven by marketers targeting pre-teens with disposable incomes, the rise of pornography and the mainstreaming of pornographic messages, she said.
In the past five years it had also been especially perpetuated by the internet.
"This is really not fair. It's harmful to girls as the message they are getting about how they have to act and look is very negative," she said.
"They are made to feel they are never good enough and they're looking at images that are airbrushed, they're not real."
People needed to speak their minds to regulatory bodies and government, she said.
The development of a counter culture would encourage more young women to "become sick of the way they are made to feel they have to aspire to an airhead culture of celebrity and fashion".
Parents also needed to learn to say "no" and monitor their daughters' media viewing.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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