High-heels for 8-year-olds?

This is a translation of an article in a German online news magazine by the title of ‘Das Ende der Befreiung – The End of Liberation’ by Ruth Rach

British women’s rights activists are increasingly warning of a new sexism which is sold to us in the name of sexual liberation. Pornography has become mainstream; pole dancing is promoted as a life-style hobby for overworked business women. Department stores are selling Lolita-like fashion for children. Young girls are increasingly struggling to comply with the beauty ideals that are propagated in magazines and music videos, and are trying to save money for cosmetic surgery (esp. breast implants). A recent report commissioned by the British government and published just now warns of the connection between the flood of sexualised images in the public realm and violence against women and demands that images and statements in advertisements, video games and music videos be subjected to much stricter regulations.

High heels for 8-year-olds, children’s bras despayling a Playboy logo, a baby’s tee displaying the message “When I’m grown up I want to be a hooker”. – That’s as if sexual liberation had never happened, declares Linda Papadopoulos who is a psychologist, indignantly. She is the author of the report on women’s rights that has just been published by the British government. British adolescents are flooded by sexist images and messages in fashion, advertisement, video games and music, she says. This has devastating effects on how young people’s self-perception, their body image and their relationships.

I love Lady Gaga, says one 10-year-old girl. The girl’s mobile phone shows her pop idol in a video clip: half-naked, in an explicit pose.

Not that long ago this kind of image would have been censored due to its pornographic content, complains psychotherapist and feminist Susie Orbach, but today they are mainstream and ‘decorate’ the cover pages of established magazines. The new beauty idols convey to young girls the feeling that they first have to learn how to dance like strippers before they can hope to attract a boy. She who doesn’t got along with this is a prude.

Once again women are degraded as sex objects, says Orbach. They are deeply unhappy because they feel ugly in comparison to their idols. Some girls start starving themselves. Others become bulimic. And increasingly adolescents seek out cosmetic surgeons to have their noses fixed and their breasts enlarged.
Aspiring to be a researcher? A career women? A doctor? As if. According to recent polls, fifty percent of British teenagers would rather be a glamour model like the very chesticular Jordan aka Katie Price who hides nothing and shows all in her very own TV show: “Synthetic breasts, hair extensions, pumped-up lips – just so that she looks like a Barbie doll. But if you can earn millions doing that, why not? I would do it, too.”

Jessie, who is 20 years old and studies medicine, looks at glamour models like Katie Price with a mixture of disgust and fascination: “If you’re looking at successful women in the media you’ll find that their success rests on two things: either they’re footballers wives or girldfriends, or they get naked a lot.”

Opposing voices insist that glamour models are a sing of new-found female self-confidence, and that porn stars are an expression of women’s power of men. And very cheeky macho guys quip that they were the ones who invented second wave feminism – so as to have an easier time pulling the fair sex.

Feminists are now reflecting where they went wrong. Natsha Walter who recently published a book on the new sexism says that the feminists who were so active during the Sixties have become complacent and have therefore not noticed the hypersexualisation of society by stealth: “We watched how a new type of sexism crept into our society under the disguise of sexual emancipation.”

But the battle is not lost yet.

An opposition movement is forming on the internet. The website mums.net for example massively agitates against department stores that are selling Lolita-like fashion and thongs in children’s sizes. And another campaign, founded by two British girls who don’t want to be viewed as Barbie dolls, uncovers the cosmetic as well digital tricks that turns normal teenagers into super models. The name of their website is ‘pinkstinks’.

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