Girls Want Respect — Even Cheerleaders
Faylene Frampton, the 11 year old who refused to act out at a “Shake Your Booty” cheer with her squad of junior cheerleaders at an October 10 football game, inspires me. She drew the line because, “I just didn’t feel it was a cheer that was appropriate for kids of my age or younger.”
She gave voice to a growing feeling of girls and parents that’s supported by the Report of the American Psychological Association on the Sexualization of Girls. The 2007 report says research shows, “The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development.”
It’s far from easy for girls like Faylene to swim against the tide of hypersexualization that threatens to drown our kids’ self-esteem and developmentally appropriate sexuality. And many adults are no help.
Ignoring the research, they characterize girls’ resistance as disrespect (like Faylene’s coach) or as lack of a sense of humor. And the web adds a powerful mocking voice to belittle girls fighting back against the hypersexualization our culture treats as normal.
Soon after she appeared on the Today Show October 20th, doctored video of the interview was on YouTube with voiceover “commentary” and graphic video cuts inserted. Many adults would shy away from speaking out with this kind of reaction. Faylene is fortunate that her mother, Sabrina Bobzien, is proud of her daughter and is backing her up.
And other girls show their courage and creativity in resistance. One example is the SPARK Summit at Hunter College in New York City, which brought girls and young women (ages 14-22) together to inspire and strategize. The goal is to “…launch an intergenerational movement to engage girls to be part of the solution rather than to protect them from the problem, to give them the tools they need to become activists, organizers, researchers, policy influencers, and media makers, pushing back against the increasingly sexualized images of girlhood in the media and creating room for whole girls.”
For younger girls, New Moon Girls has a space where they can learn about and react to hypersexualization in toys, clothes, media and daily life. Its goal is to help girls fight back before they are submerged in harmful media images and expectations that take a terrible toll. Adults need to help girls fight back by supporting them when they speak up in resistance and by holding the media’s feet to the fire to stop normalizing hypersexualization and exploitation. Nothing less will honor the risks these brave girls take.