When I was in University I did a research paper for a class called Qualitative Methods and it changed my life completely.
In that class we were required to do research around a social topic that we were interested in, and I chose to do mine about the impact that hypersexualized dolls have in girls’ construction of femininity ideals.
I used two brands of dolls as main examples in my research, Bratz and My Scene.
I was really interested in knowing girls’ opinions around this, I wanted to know if they noticed this issue at all. I made three focus groups for my research:
A)7-8 year old girls, B) 9-11 year old girls, C) 13-14 year old girls
Surprisingly, all the groups had very similar ideas, but the one that I found most representing was the B group (9-11 year old girls) - It surprised me a lot to see that these girls actually noticed really important issues.
They told me that dolls like Bratz and MyScene were spoiled, superficial and mean. They perceived them as only interested in boys and gossip, and that everything was about their looks. They compared them a lot with Barbie, and referred to this doll as a better example, because Barbie is sometimes a professional woman, like a teacher or a veterinarian. And Barbie was already a highly sexualized doll!
Many things came up in my conversations with them, things around maternity, working women, plastic surgery, make-up, boys, relationships, etc. With so much material it was really hard for me to scope down my research.
Children are incredibly aware of their surroundings and what they are learning. I was surprised that they were more aware of sexualization in their dolls than most of their parents - Which is why some clueless parents might have gotten them these dolls in the first place.
After that experience, I became even more interested in sexualization issues. I think it’s something that stayed with me forever because it made me aware that sexuality and sexualization are not the same thing. I also understood that these behaviours are learned, and that they are not a given fixed thing that we cannot choose to follow.
If you want to learn a little more around these topics, I highly recommend you to watch a documentary called "Sext Up Kids" - You can find it online.
You can also check out this forum by the YWCA Vancouver - I helped them with some imagery, including the header of this post.
You can take sexy back: sexuality is healthy, sexualization is not.