welcome to our world...

who are you?

do you have an attitude?

There's how you look at yourself...
 
Then, there's how your friends look at you....
 
Then your parents, who do they think you are inside?
 
Teachers, bosses, team leaders, church teachers... they're all looking at you in their own minds as who?

You know how you feel mostly. True?
 
You know what you like most of the time. True?
 
You know what makes you uncomfortable. True?
 
But when you look in the mirror, are you looking at your appearance on the outside? or are you looking at you, the girl - the angel - the princess - the reflection looking back at you.... who you are on the inside?

Do you ever take the time to think about it?
 
Think about it now....  when you take the time, right now, to think about who you are on the inside, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
 
Are you thinking about whether or not you're pretty or ugly?
 
 
hahahaha I bet you are, but I'm asking you... who are you on the inside? Are you thinking....
 
Am I good or am I a bad person?
 
Let's take it a step further on this page!

struggling with society's expectations, cultural attitudes & then...
 
what if i'm feeling depressed?
 
where did that come from?

keeping things organized
keeping things organized....

it's all about pink....

Media Portrayals of Girls & Women:
 
Introduction
 
We all know the stereotypes - the femme fatale, the supermom, the sex kitten, the nasty corporate climber. Whatever the role, television, film & popular magazines are full of images of women & girls who are typically white, desperately thin & made up to the hilt - even after slaying a gang of vampires or dressing down a Greek legion.

Many would agree that some strides have been made in how the media portray women in film, television & magazines & that the last 20 years has also seen a growth in the presence & influence of women in media behind the scenes.

Nevertheless, female stereotypes continue to thrive in the media we consume every day.

This section of the site provides a snapshot of the issues around the media’s portrayal of women & girls - from effects on body image & self-identity to ramifications in sports & politics. It looks at the economic interests behind the objectification & eroticization of females by the media as well as efforts to counter negative stereotyping.

And it provides the latest articles & studies that explore the ways in which media both limit & empower women & girls in society.

why.... why is this happening around the globe?

a "fairy" gpod piece of advice....

did anyone every talk to you about being limited? what is being limited? check it out by clicking on the word, "limit." that's what this site is about! interacting with the other sites in the emotional feelings network of sites, so you can understand not only what's on this page, but the bigger picture!

Media & Girls
 
"They have ads of how you should dress & what you should look like & this & that & then they say, 'but respect people for what they choose to be like.' Okay, so which do we do first?"

 

Kelsey, 16, quoted in Girl Talk

keeping things organized
keeping things organized....

The statistics are startling. The average North American girl will watch 5,000 hours of television, including 80,000 ads, before she starts kindergarten.
 
In the United States, Saturday morning cartoons alone come with 33 commercials per hour. Commercials aimed at kids spend 55% of their time showing boys building, fixing toys, or fighting. They show girls, on the other hand, spending 77% of their time laughing, talking, or observing others.
 
And while boys in commercials are shown out of the house 85% of the time, more than 1/2 of the commercials featuring girls place them in the home.

You've Come A Long Way, Baby?

The mass media, especially children's television, provide more positive role models for girls than ever before. Kids shows such as Timothy Goes to School, Canadian Geographic for Kids & The Magic School Bus feature strong female characters who interact with their male counterparts on an equal footing.

There are strong role models for teens as well. A Children Now study of the media favored by teenage girls discovered that a similar proportion of male & female characters on TV & in the movies rely on themselves to achieve their goals & solve their own problems. (The one discrepancy was in the movies, where 49% of male characters solve their own problems, compared to only 35% of their female counterparts.)

Television shows like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer & computer games such as Tomb Raider & Perfect Dark, star girls who are physically assertive & in control. And of course, Lisa has been acknowledged as the brains of the Simpson family since the start.

However, the messages media send to young girls are mixed. On the small screen, male characters continue to outnumber females by a ratio of 2 or 3 to 1 & 90% of the actors starring in American children's programming are male.

Magazines are the only medium where girls are over-represented. However,almost 70% of the editorial content in teen mags focuses on beauty & fashion & only 12% talks about school or careers.

Media, Self-Esteem & Girls' Identities

Research indicates that these mixed messages make it difficult for girls to negotiate the transition to adulthood. In its 1998 study Focus on Youth, the Canadian Council on Social Development reports that while the number of boys who say they "have confidence in themselves" remains relatively stable thru adolescence, the numbers for girls drop steadily from 72% in Grade 6 students to only 55% in Grade 10.

Carol Gilligan was the first to highlight this unsettling trend in her landmark 1988 study. Gilligan suggests it happens because of the widening gap between girls' self-images & society's messages about what girls should be like.

Children Now points out that girls are surrounded by images of female beauty that are unrealistic & unattainable. And yet 2 out of 3 girls who participated in their national media survey said they "wanted to look like a character on TV."

1 out of 3 said they had "changed something about their appearance to resemble that character."

In 2002, researchers at Flinders University in South Australia studied 400 teenagers regarding how they relate to advertising. They found that girls who watched TV commercials featuring underweight models lost self-confidence & became more dissatisfied with their own bodies.

Girls who spent the most time & effort on their appearance suffered the greatest loss in confidence.

keeping things organized....
why are today's young girls asked to do this?

Eroticization of Young Girls

The pressures on girls are exacerbated by the media's increasing tendency to portray very young girls in sexual ways. Over the past decade, the fashion industry has begun to use younger & younger models & now commonly presents 12 & 13 year-old girls as if they were women.

Camera angles (where the model is often looking up, presumably at a taller man), averted eyes, wounded facial expressions & vulnerable poses mimic the visual images common in pornographic media.

Anthropologist David Murray warns that, "Our culture is to a large extent experimenting with eroticizing the child." For Murray, the media frenzy around teeny-bopper pop star Britney Spears & murdered 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey are examples of how this eroticization is being turned into a highly saleable commodity.

The most cursory examination of media confirms that young girls are being bombarded with images of sexuality, often dominated by stereotypical portrayals of women & girls as powerless, passive victims.

As these girls become teenagers, many choose to tune out, but others maintain a hungry appetite for these messages. As Shawn Doherty & Nadine Joseph note, those who continue to consume media images are strongly influenced "by stereotypical images of uniformly beautiful, obsessively thin & scantily dressed objects of male desire.

And studies show that girls who are frequent viewers have the most negative opinion of their gender."

this makes me wonder what's going on in her head
keeping things organized....
lately i've been feeling sad, lonely, upset, mad..

and then sometimes i feel depressed....
 
where did that come from?

keeping things organized

Mandy Moore: I struggled with depression

NEW YORK (AP)  Mandy Moore has a lot going for her, including a starring role opposite Diane Keaton in the upcoming comedy Because I Said So. Even so, she says she's grappled with depression.

"A few months ago I felt really low, really sad. Depressed for no reason," the 22-year-old actress-singer says in an interview in the February issue of Jane magazine, on newsstands Tuesday.

"I'm a very positive person & I've always been glass-half-full," she continues. "So it was like someone flipped a switch in me."

Moore, newly single after high-profile relationships with actor Zach Braff & tennis standout Andy Roddick, says her recent split with Braff didn't help matters.

"The breakup added to what I was going thru, but it's not the complete reason," she tells the magazine. "It definitely doesn't help if you're already in that place ... ."

Moore started out as a squeaky-clean teen singer & later crossed over into movies with featured roles in such films as A Walk to Remember,Saved and American Dreamz.

"I feel bad that people wasted their money on such trite, blah pop music," says Moore about her earlier music.

Moore, who is working on a record, has been looking inward a lot of late.

"I've been going thru this really crazy time in my life - it's what I imagine people fresh out of college go thru," she says. "I'm asking life-altering questions, like 'Who am I? Where do I fit in this world? What am I doing, what do I want to do? Am I living to my full potential?'"

keeping things organized
keeping things organized....

On Beauty

And a poet said, "Speak to us of Beauty."

Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?

And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?

The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.

Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."

And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.

Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."

The tired and the weary say, "beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.

Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow."

But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,

And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions."

At night the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east."

And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, "we have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."

In winter say the snow-bound, "She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills."

And in the summer heat the reapers say, "We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair."

All these things have you said of beauty.

Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,

And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.

It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,

But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.

It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,

But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.

It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,

But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.

But you are life and you are the veil.

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.

But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

from the book: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

keeping things organized
keeping things organized....

Overcoming Perfectionism

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is:

  • the irrational belief that you &/or your environment must be perfect

  • the striving to be the best, to reach the ideal & to never make a mistake

  • an all pervasive attitude that whatever you attempt in life must be done letter perfect with no deviation, mistakes, slip ups, or inconsistencies

  • a habit developed from youth that keeps you constantly alert to the imperfections, failings & weakness in yourself & others

  • a level of consciousness that keeps you ever vigilant to any deviations from the norm, the guidelines, or the way things are "supposed to be"

  • the underlying motive present in the fear of failure & fear of rejection, i.e., if I'm not perfect I'll fail &/or I'll be rejected by others

  • a reason why you may be fearful of success, i.e., if I achieve my goal, will I be able to continue, maintain that level of achievement

  • a rigid, moralistic outlook that doesn't allow for humanism or imperfection

  • an inhibiting factor that keeps you from making a commitment to change habitual, unproductive behavior out of fear of not making the change "good enough"

i think teens fear failure just like anyone else. maybe the worst part of fear is the "uncertainty" of what could happen. it's the anxious "what ifs" that begin to wear you down. then there's rejection & fear of disapproval... it's all terribly mind bending. you can get lost for hours in worry, anxiety & fear because you just don't know what's going to happen - but you're almost always sure whatever happens will be something negative & once you establish such fears as a teen, it's going to get worse when you're an adult! - kathleen

         the belief that no matter what you attempt it's never "good enough" to meet your own or others' expectations

first bullet above: the irrational belief that you &/or your environment must be perfect

Handling Irrational Beliefs

 

What are irrational beliefs?

Irrational beliefs are:

               Messages about life we send to ourselves that keep us from growing emotionally.

               Scripts we have in our head about how we believe life "should'' be for us & for others.

               Unfounded attitudes, opinions & values we hold to that are out of synchrony with the way the world really is.

               Negative sets of habitual responses we hold to when faced with stressful events or situations.

               Stereotypic ways of problem solving we fall into in order to deal with life's pressures.

               Ideas, feelings, beliefs, ways of thinking, attitudes, opinions, biases, prejudices, or values with which we were raised. We have become accustomed to using them when faced with problems in our current life, even when they aren't productive in helping us reach a positive, growth-enhancing solution.

               Self-defeating ways of acting. On the surface they may look appropriate for the occasion, but actually they result in a neutral or negative consequence for us.

               Habitual ways of thinking, feeling, or acting that we think are effective; however, in the long run they are ineffectual.

               Counterproductive ways of thinking, which give comfort & security in the short run, but either don't resolve or actually exacerbate the problem in the long run.

               Negative or pessimistic ways of looking at necessary life experiences such as loss, conflict, risk taking, rejection, or accepting change.

               Overly optimistic or idealistic ways of looking at necessary life experiences such as loss, conflict, risk taking, rejection, or accepting change.

               Emotional arguments for taking or not taking action in the face of a challenge. When followed they result in no personal gain, but rather in greater personal hardship or loss.

               Patterns of thinking that make us appear to others as stubborn, bullheaded, intemperate, argumentative, or aloof.

               Ways of thinking about ourselves that are out of context with the real facts, resulting in our either under-valuing or over-valuing ourselves.

               Means by which we become confused about the intentions of others when we are enmeshed in interpersonal problems with them.

               Lifelong messages sent to us either formally or informally by: society, culture, community, race, ethnic reference group, neighborhood, church, social networks, family, relatives, peer group, school, work, or parents. They're unproductive in solving our current problem or crisis, but we're either unwilling or unable to let go of them. These messages can be very clear to us or they can be hidden in our subconscious.

               Conclusions about life that we have developed over time, living in an irrational environment not identified as being irrational (e.g., beliefs developed as a member of a high-stress family).

               Standards by which we were reared & from which we learned how to act, what to believe & how to express or experience feelings. When followed, however, these standards don't result in a satisfactory resolution of our current problems.

               Ritualistic ways by which we pursue our relationships with others, resulting in nonproductive relationships & increased emotional stress.

               Outmoded, unproductive, unrealistic expectations exacted on ourselves &/or others, guaranteed to be unattainable & to result in continuing negative self-concepts.

 

What are some examples of irrational beliefs?

Irrational beliefs (negative) about self:

               I don't deserve positive attention from others.

               I should never burden others with my problems or fears.

               I am junk.

               I am uncreative, nonproductive, ineffective & untalented.

               I am worthless.

               I am the worst example on earth of a person.

               I am powerless to solve my problems.

               I have so many problems, I might as well give up right now.

               I am so dumb about things, I can never solve anything as complex as this.

               I am the ugliest, most unattractive, unappealing, fat slob in the world.

more information concerning handling irrational beliefs is found on the emotions & feelings page!

What irrational beliefs contribute to Perfectionism?

               Everything in life must be done to your level of perfection, which is often higher than anyone else's.

               It's unacceptable to make a mistake.

last time i looked at the world, god was the only perfect being in the universe. be real... no one is perfect. your parents aren't perfect either although you may be blessed with the kind of parents who think they're perfect... well that's a different story on a different page.... but be yourself - a unique being... believe me - no one is perfect. - kathleen

               You must always reach the ideal no matter what.

               If those in authority say this is the way it's supposed to be, then that's the way it's supposed to be.

               You're a loser if you can't be perfect.

               It's what you achieve rather than who you are that's important.

               I have no value in life unless I'm successful.

think about how horrible that sounds.... lots of people are unsuccessful at things... that's why we all have our special talents, abilities & the earth is an interesting & diverse place... if everyone was successful, what would we ever have to learn? kathleen

               There's no sense in trying to do something unless I can do it perfectly, e.g., "I don't attempt things I can't do well.''

               If I have a failure or experience a set back in my efforts to change then I should give up.

               The ideal is what's real; unless I reach the ideal I'm a failure.

               There are so many roadblocks & pitfalls to keep me from succeeding. It's better just to give up & forget my goal.

               Unless I am "Number One'' there's no sense in trying. Everyone knows what "Number Two" is. To win is the only acceptable goal.

               If you screw up in your efforts to achieve a goal, just give up. It must be too hard to achieve.

               You must always strive to reach the ideal in everything you do because it's in the achievement of the ideal that you give meaning to your life.

               Don't ever let anyone know what goal you're working on. That way they won't consider you a failure if you don't reach it.

               If you can't do it right the first time, why try to do it at all?

               There's only one way to reach a goal: the right way.

               It takes too much effort & energy to reach a goal. I save myself the aggravation & discouragement by not setting goals for myself.

               I'll never be able to change & grow the way I want to, so why try.

               I'm a human being prone to error, frailty & imperfections; therefore, I won't be able to accomplish things in a perfect or ideal way. I'll just give up on achieving any of my goals or desires.

What are some negative consequences of perfectionism?

Examples of the negative consequences of perfectionism include:

  • Low self-esteem: Because a perfectionist never feels "good enough'' about personal performance, feelings of being a "failure'' or a "loser'' with a lessening of self-confidence & self-esteem may result.

  • Guilt: Because a perfectionist never feels good about the way responsibility has been handled in life (by himself or others) a sense of shame, self recrimination & guilt may result.

  • Pessimism: Since a perfectionist is convinced that it'll be extremely difficult to achieve an "ideal goal,'' he can easily become discouraged, fatalistic, disheartened & pessimistic about future efforts to reach a goal.

  • Depression: Needing always to be "perfect,'' yet recognizing that it's impossible to achieve such a goal, a perfectionist runs the risk of feeling down, blue & depressed.

  • Rigidity: Needing to have everything in one's life perfect or "just so'' can lead a perfectionistic to an extreme case of being inflexible, non-spontaneous & rigid.

  • Obsessiveness: Being in need of an excessive amount of order, pattern, or structure in life can lead a perfectionistic person to become nit-picky, finicky, or obsessive in an effort to maintain a certain order.

  • Compulsive behavior: Over-indulgence or the compulsive use of alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, sex, smoking, risk-taking, or novelty, is often used to medicate a perfectionist who feels like a failure or loser for never being able to be "good enough" in life.

  • Lack of motivation: Believing that the goal of "change'' will never be able to be ideally or perfectly achieved can often give a perfectionist a lack of motivation to attempt change in the first place, or to persevere if change has already begun.

  • Immobilization: Because a perfectionist is often burdened with an extreme fear of failure, the person can become immobilized. With no energy, effort or creative juices applied to rectify, improve, or change the problem behavior in the person's life, he becomes stagnant.

  • Lack of belief in self: Knowing that one will never be able to achieve an idyllic goal can lead a perfectionist to lose the belief that he will ever be able to improve his life significantly.

What rational behaviors are needed to overcome perfectionistic tendencies?

To overcome perfectionism one needs to:

  • accept self as a human being

  • forgive self for mistakes or failings

  • put self back on the wagon immediately after falling off

  • accept that the "ideal" is only a guideline or goal to be worked toward, not to be achieved 100%

  • set realistic and flexible time frames for the achievement of a goal

  • develop a sense of patience and to reduce the need to "get it done yesterday"

  • be easier on oneself; setting unrealistic or unreasonable goals or deadlines sets you up for failure

  • recognize that the human condition is one of failings, weakness, deviations, imperfections and mistakes; it's acceptable to be human

  • recognize that one's backsliding doesn't mean the end of the world; it's OK to pick oneself up and start all over again

  • develop an ability to use "thought stopping'' techniques whenever you find yourself mentally scolding yourself for not being "good enough"

  • visualize reality as it will be for a "human'' rather than for a "super human"

  • learn to accept yourself the way you are; let go of the ideas of how you "should be"

  • enjoy success and achievement with a healthy self-pride and eliminate the need for self deprecation or false humility

  • learn to enjoy success without the need to second guess your ability to sustain the achievement

  • reward yourself for your progress, to reinforce your efforts to change even when progress is slight or doesn't meet up to your idealistic expectations 

  •  love yourself; to believe that you deserve good things 

  •  to eliminate unrealistic expectations and the idea that you are infallible 

  •  visualize yourself as "winning'' even when it takes more energy and more perseverance, than what you had planned

  • let go of rigid, moralistic judgments of your performance and to develop an open, compassionate understanding for the hard times, obstacles & temptations

  • be flexible in setting goals and be willing to reassess your plan from time to time to keep things realistic 

  •  be open to the idea that you'll be successful in your efforts to change, even if you aren't "first,'' "the best,'' "the model,'' "the star pupil,'' "the exemplar,'' " the finest''

  • realize that the important thing is to be going in a positive direction

How can a social support system help in overcoming perfectionism?

Social support systems can help you overcome perfectionism if you:

               select realistic people who aren't perfectionistic in their own life

               encourage your support system members to not be rigid or moralistic in their attempts to keep you on an honest course

               have support people who role model forgiving & forgetting when mistakes, failures, offenses, or backsliding occur

               have given them permission to call you on being "too hard,'' "too brutal,'' "too rigid,'' "too unrealistic,'' or "too idealistic'' in your expectations

               have people who'll give positive reinforcement for any positive change, no matter how small or slight it is

               select trustworthy people who are open, honest & have a sincere interest in your personal growth

keeping things organized
keeping things organized....

Steps to overcome perfectionism

Step 1: In your journal, answer the following questions:

a. What characteristics of perfectionism are true for me? How do these perfectionistic traits impede my efforts to change my problematic behavior?

b. What irrational beliefs of perfectionists do I ascribe to? How do these beliefs influence my desire to change? How do these beliefs contribute to a failure script in my efforts to change? What rational alternatives can I adopt to reduce the negative impact of perfectionism in my life?

c.  What are the negative consequences of perfectionism in my life? What am I doing to address these negative issues in my life? How do these negative issues affect my past & current efforts to change my problematical behavior?

d. What new rational behavior do I need to develop in order to overcome the negative impact of perfectionism? How will these new behavior traits help me to fully achieve change in my life?

e. How can my social support system help me in overcoming my perfectionistic attitude? What contributes to perfectionism in my support system? What changes in my support system would reduce its perfectionistic character?

f. How does dealing with my perfectionism help me in my efforts to change? How well does perfectionism explain why past attempts to change have failed?

Step 2: In your journal, identify a problematic behavioral pattern you want to change; then list the characteristic negative behavior traits of the pattern. For each of the negative characteristics list positive alternative behavior traits.

 

For each of the new alternative behavior list your likelihood of achieving them 100% of the time. How many new behavior traits could you achieve 100% of the time?

 

Step 3: Once you've recognized that no change can be achieved 100% of the time, continue changing your problematic behavior patterns.

 

If you continue to be hindered by perfectionism, return to Step 1 & begin again.

How Seventeen Undermines Young Women

By Kimberly Phillips

This article originally appeared in the January/February 1993 edition of Extra!, the bimonthly magazine of media criticism published by the media watch group . Reprinted with permission.

Harvard professor Carol Gilligan, studying the psychological development of teenage girls in 1988, found that they experience a major drop in self-esteem as they reach adolescence. Only 29 percent of teenage girls said that they "felt happy the way I am," as opposed to 60 percent of nine-year-old girls. Gilligan suggests that this adolescent crisis in confidence is due to the conflict between the image that a girl has of herself and what society tells her a woman should be like.

Seventeen, the most widely read magazine among teenage girls in the United States, claims to "encourage independence" and help each reader "become this wonderful person that she dreams she will be." But far from encouraging independence, Seventeen only reinforces the cultural expectations that an adolescent woman should be more concerned with her appearance, her relations with other people and her ability to win approval from men than with her own ideas or her expectations for herself.

An average issue of Seventeen contains about eight to 12 fashion and beauty features, taking up two-thirds of the magazine's editorial content. There is usually one story about a new exercise or fitness regime, one story in which an "average-" looking girl gets a makeover, numerous pages of makeup tricks and techniques, mini-stories on what's new in the fashion world, and the feature fashion spreads, which are usually four to six pages long.

For a magazine aimed at an audience of teenage girls, Seventeen does a lot of reporting on men. In 1992, 61 of the celebrities profiled in Seventeen's "Talent" section were men, while only 20 were women. Every issue of Seventeen has a column called "Guy Talk," in which a columnist named Robert Love expounds upon the male view of relationships and women. One of only two articles in 1992 about eating disorders among teenage girls was written by a man, giving his perceptions of "My Sister's Battle with Anorexia." The whole July 1992 issue was devoted to describing "One Hundred Guys We Love." (Perhaps as a follow-up, the August issue ran an article called "Hello, I Love You: How to Write a Knockout Fan Letter.")

Even the fashion and beauty stories are centered around men. A fashion spread in the February 1992 issue called "A Little Romance" featured a blonde, blue-eyed model wearing stylish clothing trying to "find Monsieur Right in France," which, according to the captions that accompany the story, is "all about flair -- looking tres cute -- and searching like crazy!" In April 1992, a fashion spread featuring young women in short bloomers and cowboy boots was captioned "How to Rustle Up a Ranchero..." The August 1992 issue ran a fashion spread called "Romance 101," which had photographs of a young woman gazing adoringly at her boyfriend. A caption read, "Making the honor roll can have some hidden perks -- like John begging me to cram for the English midterm with him...."

In keeping with this trivialization of intellectual pursuits, an average issue of Seventeen has only two or three full-length articles on non-beauty topics. These articles almost invariably deal with a teenage girl's relations with other people, rather than ways for her to be happy with her own life. There are articles about how to find the right boyfriend, whether it's by taking a special Seventeen quiz ("What's Your Guy Style," 7/92) or by consulting the horoscopes ("The Love Scope," 2/92). Then there are articles about how to fit into the social structure at school ("Popularity: What's the Secret?" 10/92). The fiction stories that Seventeen publishes usually deal with the same kinds of topics.

In 1992, there was not one article about the abortion debate. There were no full-length articles about the "Year of the Woman." Aside from one full-length article about sexual harassment (9/92), political issues were minimized and crammed into a three-paragraph column, which frequently shared the page with another column about makeup or trendy clothing. Even environmental issues were turned into beauty issues, as in the opening line of an article on ozone depletion (1/92): "The environment's in trouble -- and the more it suffers, the tougher it is on your skin."

By assuming that skincare is the first thing on their minds, magazines like Seventeen are telling young women that their minds are unimportant. By teaching young women that the most important things in a woman's life should be her looks and her relationships to men, they only serve to reinforce the drop in self-esteem reported in Gilligan's study.

Complete the Magazine Survey to see whether or not Seventeen has continued with this formula.

Women

'It's porn, innit?'

What does this Playboy logo mean to you? To WHSmith, it means one of the most popular range of stationery ever sold. And it's aimed at children. What's going on, asks Rachel Bell

Monday August 15, 2005
The Guardian


Last month, seven smartly uniformed schoolgirls could be seen picketing outside the Croydon branch of WHSmith in south-west London. The protest, which made headline local news, was against the store selling Playboy-branded stationery, targeted at teenage girls. The protesters, ranging in age from 11-15, from Coloma convent girls' school, decided to take a stand following class debates with their teacher.

When Eleanor Kirwan saw the Playboy stationery range next to Disney and Winnie the Pooh in WHSmith and in her classroom, she reckoned her pupils deserved to know exactly what they'd been sold. "I do not vilify the pupils who own Playboy stationery - my criticism is directed at those who buy the Playboy licence and target children. Companies must take social responsibility into account as well. Our argument is that they are simply prioritising financial gain over the moral offensiveness of using children to sell sex. I merely accompanied the pupils to their picket. They were present because they had made an informed and passionate choice."

Playboy was established as a pornographic magazine in 1953 by Hugh Hefner. Over the decades the brand has extended beyond the magazine into Playboy Enterprises Inc, reaching into every form of media. Playboy products can now be found in the Argos catalogue. Debenhams stock Playboy women's watches, bedlinen, cushions and expensive gift chocolates. Even Playboy mobile phone covers are big.

Hefner's LA Playboy Mansion entered the mainstream by becoming a celebrity party haunt, and MTV snooped around the place for its popular Cribs series. Justin Timberlake, adored by zillions of pre-teen and teen girls, made the video for his collaborative single with Nelly there.

So WHSmith has just jumped on the Playboy bandwagon. The difference is that, unlike other retailers, it is clearly marketing its products to children, not adults. Its Playboy stationery range which, in my local branch in Wood Green, London, shares a stand with Bratz and Funky Friends, includes pink and glittery pencil cases, pink ring-binders, mini pads, diaries, zip files, gel pens and eraser sets. I know a five-year-old who'd just love the set of cute bunny rubbers in a row. Pencil cases are largely used by schoolchildren. Pink and glittery is largely favoured by girls from 0-16 years. By placing the bunny logo on school equipment, underage children are seduced into buying into the pornographic brand - an adult, top-shelf brand that sells women as sexual commodities. But WHSmith denies that Playboy means porn.

"Playboy is probably one of the most popular ranges we've ever sold," says head of media relations for WHSmith, Louise Evans. "It outsells all the other big brands in stationery, like Withit [a range of cute cartoon animals], by a staggering amount. That should give you an idea of how popular the brand is. We offer customers choice. We're not here to act as a moral censor."

The pressure group Object, which is also campaigning against WHSmith's promotion of the Playboy brand to children, says: "Playboy's logo clearly represents pornography. The magazine routinely features sexualised and full-frontal images of naked young women. It also promotes pornographic videos and strip shows. Playboy is about men buying women and presents this as natural and normal male behaviour, together with fast cars, football and male role models (not shown naked). WHSmith is therefore endorsing pornography to young, impressionable and possibly underage girls."

Kirwan says the teenage girls in her school "are aware of what the Playboy icon is" and "were saying that, even though the pencil cases feature no blatant pornographic images, the bunny symbol represents pornographic images. The girls are able to acknowledge that symbols have a deeper significance than that which is on the surface. For stockists and manufacturers to deny this is shockingly disingenuous."

But for WHSmith it's a style choice. "We believe it is a fashion range," says Evans. "There's no inappropriate imagery. It's just the bunny. It's a bit of fun, popular and fashionable."

While some will always defend the media being saturated with images of women as sex objects and the mainstreaming of porn as "a bit of fun", others are deeply concerned about the damaging effects it is having on the perception of women. Kirwan's class debates confirm that children do not always understand that media representations of women are not real. "The girls do not yet have the mental sophistication to recognise that the Playmates are not real. They don't realise that the image of female beauty that they see in the media is staged and not something they can expect to emulate. They really didn't know about the amount of styling that someone like Posh [Victoria Beckham] has. I do recognise an attitude among the older ones that it's not a problem to be a glamour girl or a playgirl. "

Talking about any kind of sex, particularly in school, is excruciating for some children. "One 12-year-old told me," says Kirwan, "that since we had started discussing the stationery, she had thrown her Playboy pencil case away. 'It's gross. I don't want that on my stuff,' she said. These are girls of the age where even using the words sex or pornography can be embarrassing. Lots of the 11- and 12-year-olds hadn't even heard of pornography and yet had the porn king's logo on their school equipment and plastered across their chests at weekends."

Earlier this year Mizz magazine, which is aimed at preteens and teens, promoted Playboy stationery on its cover and as a free giveaway inside. Editor Lucie Tobin defends her choice of giveaway: "The Playboy brand extensions are one of the most popular with our readers - to them it is a cool stationery and clothing brand. They love the colours and the logo which is given added cool by its association with American hip-hop stars. To them, it is a fashion range and they are unaware of its history. We reflect our readers' tastes, not tell them what they should like.

Tobin adds: "Our readers are 10 to 14 and relatively unworldly. Under my editorship, we do not cover sex in Mizz and pride ourselves on being parent-friendly and responsible."

That responsibility obviously doesn't apply to Tobin's endorsement of brands, which Object describes as "normalising and marketing pornography to young teenage girls".

Natasha Walter, author of The New Feminism, says, "The use of the Playboy logo in what would once have been seen as bizarrely inappropriate places is only part of the widespread mainstreaming of pornography that is pretty characteristic of our culture. Playboy itself, once the target of second-wave feminist rage, looks so harmless and playful to most people now, especially when compared to the kind of hard, mean pornography that can be easily seen by anyone over the internet."

The more Playboy is welcomed into the kids' mainstream as harmless fun, the more insidious it becomes. "This magazine is dangerous as it is perceived to be stylish and is one of the main marketing tools of the pornography industry," say Object. "It helps to ensure an endless supply of young, naked 'babes' and reinforces the misperception that young women depicted solely as sexual commodities is a glamorous and natural career option for young women. "

The perverse image of female beauty that Playboy promotes, of women as Identikit, size-eight, ever available sex toys, all oversized breasts and lips, becomes normalised, too. As does porn's image of female sexuality. "Pornography has a powerful misogynistic message in that the portrayal and perception of women and female sexuality is for the consumption and usage of men," says Object. "Pornography reinforces narrow gender roles, with the result that pre-pubescent and teenage boys learn via pornography that it is their right to use female sexuality for their pleasure and commodification."

Girls, already bombarded with images of unattainable thinness and beauty, are given get another fake image of feminine perfection to idolise. Just as they're developing their self-awareness and sexuality, when their self-esteem is so heavily dependent on body image, it's not just unfair to sell children the ideal of the Playmate; it's plain grotesque. Witnessing mainstream and teen media embrace the likes of Abi Titmuss, Jodie Marsh and Jordan, little girls now see becoming a glamour girl as a viable career option. Is porn star next?

"I like the brand because it's posh," explains 14-year-old Tatiana. "It makes you feel like you're worth something." When I ask her if she knows what the bunny logo means, she giggles and says, "It's porn innit? But people don't think it's porn. They think it looks nice."

The cute bunny, surely one of the most ingenious ideas in the history of morally loathsome marketing, is embedded as respectable, normal. It's so subliminal - and all the more pernicious for it.

Walter is heartened by the schoolgirls' protest, saying, "I think it's possible that one day the tide will turn, and what looks so acceptable in the mainstream public arena might get pushed back to the fringes again by women - and men - who aren't prudes, but who are tired of seeing sexuality imagined in such reductive ways."

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