A grandfather asks: Are we overindulging our daughters?
There is an increasing trend in advertising and marketing to focus on the sexualization of children. The Australian Association of National Advertisers has recently released a new code of conduct on this topic and as a father of six children and a grandfather to nine it seems the code is not before time.
Planned soon for Melbourne is a beauty pageant for children inspired by controversial US TV shows. Tiny tots will model swimwear and be judged on their smile and posture.
Psychologists are saying the concept wrongly judges young children by their looks and could lead to insecurity, eating disorders, anxiety and embarrassment.
Advertisers and marketing firms refute such claims and argue that any unfortunate outcomes are largely the fault of parents. Certain groups of parents can become susceptible to their child’s pressure and are categorised in the advertising industry as indulgers, children’s friends or guilty parents.
A former executive director of The Australia Institute, Clive Hamilton, was unsuccessfully sued by David Jones over a 2006 paper called “Corporate paedophilia - sexualising children by advertising and marketing”. The retailer had not taken kindly to being named in a report accusing retailers, marketers and magazines of eroticising children to sell products.
A number of female celebrities have launched lingerie aimed at eight to twelve year-olds. They claim such lingerie acknowledges an awareness that young girls are leaning more and more toward adult styles, attitudes and behaviour.
Marketing strategies purposely flatter young girls and represent them as being hip and aware and independent, sophisticated consumers with their own language, music and fashion.
A recent Senate inquiry into “the Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media Environment” heard evidence from child protection advocates who claimed highly sexualised dolls are at the forefront of a trend that promotes stereotyped and sexualised images. Dolls with fishnet stockings, tight-fitting clothes, high heels and heavily made-up faces and large pouty lips exposed young girls to dangerous stereotypes.
The birthday party scene for girls across Australia is a new target market and its growth to this point is largely un-noticed. Parents with young daughters are faced with challenging choices if they plan a birthday party. An Australian website “Smart –Mums” reports on young female parties with adult themes. The site claims that nearly 50 per cent of such parties now have some part of the event outsourced to a professional party planner.
Such party planners are organising lavish themed parties as occasions to remember. The most popular theme is a Supermodel party. One Gold Coast model agency hosts at least one of these parties each week. Supermodel parties include hair straightening, mascara and lessons on modeling as well as facials, spray-on tan or even hand painted tattoos.
Little girls do like dressing up. Maybe the advertising and marketing industry is pandering to overindulgent parents who bow to every demand from their daughter and who are creating a culture and a generation seeking instant gratification.
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