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The American Psychological Association has published a report on the “sexualization” of young girls giving a name to what many of us have been shuddering at for quite a while. Music lyrics, advertising, the clothing industry, video games all conspire to turn little girls into “eye candy” or “hot tots.”

Harmless? No way! Sexualization is a giant step backwards turning girls into OBJECTS, not persons. And the APA has found this is linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression in both girls and women.

A New York Times column by Judith Warner (March 17, 2007) called attention to the role mothers play in this sexualization-of-little-girls game. She points out that mothers are giving, and little girls are getting, the message that APPEARANCE is everything. Warner notes that today’s mothers show up at school meetings in spaghetti straps and spandex. We’ve all seen such mothers trying to look young. And “locked in hateful battles of control, mastery, and self-improvement.” They preach righteous eating, go to the gym every day, and “walk around the house sucking in our stomachs in front of mirrors.” These moms fail to show their daughters the image of a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and with her own appearance.

Mothers today who worry about either anorexia or obesity in their daughters seem blissfully unaware of their own “orthorexia” (fixation on righteous eating) and “ortho-exercising” (fixation on getting to the gym every day) and the message this gives their children. It seems women of all ages are fixated today on how they look. How come? How did we get this way when we have so recently broken down barriers and today have access to education and careers women could only dream about until the 70s.

Duh! We are all victims of a gargantuan advertising, cosmetics, and entertainment industrial complex that sexualizes little girls and drives their grandmothers to plastic surgeons.

Suggestion: Reject the corporate message that all women should be eye candy. Both mothers and daughters should concentrate on “ortho-cognia”–what goes into your brain, what you can do for yourself, your community and the world, not your appearance. Eat and exercise for health and well-being not your appearance. The brain is a much prettier organ than the gut and it gets better with use.

Mothers: Teach your daughters this important message before we drift back to the dark ages when women were second-class citizens.