Feminists against sexualization want women to be able to explore their sexuality without having to live up to impossible standards that lead to low self-esteem, eating disorders, and unhealthy sexual choices. And so they oppose the imposition of a male-oriented sexuality on women. Therefore their issue isn’t just that teen girls on TV have sex or engage in sexual behavior like suggestive dancing or making out. Instead, their concern is that teen girls on TV are often reduced to sex objects or miniature versions of sexual stereotypes: temptresses, vixens, sluts.
As the mother of a small girl, (and as an ex-teenage girl myself) these kinds of issues concern me greatly. I remember how hard I found it to define my own sexuality as something personal and separate from the onslaught of sexual images from popular culture and from the pressure and judgements of the adolescent lads around me. I was lucky enough to have an understanding, adventurous boyfriend to practice with. But I was on my own when it came to the larger issues of how girls and women are defined in our culture.
And, I don’t get the impression that things have improved since I were a lass. In fact they may have gotten worse – feminism and its aims seem to have vanished from the mainstream, women are re-arguing the work vs. motherhood dilemma off in a corner, and images of women and girls presented in the media and arts are more sexualized than ever.
I wonder what the world will look like when it comes time for Petra to make her way into adulthood. I can only hope that it’s better.