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Lecture on consumerism and sexualization of children on May 2

Posted by Laura Gomez  April 16, 2013 08:07 AM

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Internationally recognized scholar and activist Jean Kilbourne and social scientist-activist Kate Price will present Buying Power: How Consumerism and the Sexualization of Children Puts All Kids at Risk.

This free, public lecture organized by the Wellesley Centers for Women on Thursday, May 2 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Wellesley College Club, according to a press release.

"Children are receiving very powerful and damaging messages from the popular culture that shape their gender identity, sexual attitudes, behavior, and their own capacity for healthy relationships well into adulthood," notes Kilbourne. "As long as adults also buy into these stereotypes, corporate marketers and media producers will continue to sexualize children. This puts girls and boys at risk of mental health problems and creates a climate in which they are more likely to be victimized."

Media messages about sex and sexuality often exploit women’s bodies and glamorize sexual violence. Girls are encouraged to objectify themselves and to obsess about their sex appeal and appearance at absurdly young ages, while boys get the message that they should seek sex but avoid intimacy.

Widespread sexualized images of children normalize sexual abuse and exploitation, leaving victims at risk of being viewed as seductive and in control rather than dominated and controlled. Using illustrations of these sexual images and personal experiences of their consequences, the presenters examine the real-life repercussions of mainstreaming and marketing "pornified" ideals of children and suggest strategies for change.

“If we are to end child sexual abuse and the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in the United States, we need to provide care and supports for all children,” says Price. “A history of sexual abuse and poverty are the two leading risk factors for CSEC, yet UNICEF ranks the U.S. first in child death from abuse and neglect among all industrialized nations, and second in child poverty. Without addressing these crucial issues, children will remain at risk of being lured into exploitation.”

Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her pioneering work on the image of women in advertising. She is the creator of several films, including "Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women" and the author of two books, most recently So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. She is a senior scholar at WCW.

Price is a project associate at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at WCW as well as a social scientist specializing in U.S. commercial sexual exploitation of children and children's advocacy. She authored the chapter, "Collapsing This Hushed House: Deconstructing Cultural Images of Child Prostitution in the U.S.," in Global Perspectives on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking, and she has lectured at Georgetown University, Suffolk University, University of Toledo, and many advocacy organizations.

The Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College is one of the largest gender-focused research-and-action organizations in the world. Scholars at the Centers conduct social science research and evaluation, develop theory and publications, and implement training programs on issues that put women’s lives and women’s concerns at the center. Since 1974, our work has generated changes in attitudes, practices, and public policy. Work at WCW addresses three major areas: the social and economic status of women and girls and the advancement of their human rights both in the United States and around the globe; the education, care, and development of children and youth; and the emotional well-being of families and individuals.

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