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The growing sexualization of young girls in media may have drastic health consequences both physically and mentally. It needs to stop!
We have seen a lot of Indian female actors entering the world of movies and glamour at a very early age. They were paired with male actors about double their age in projects, aimed at older audiences. Even these days the roles many young artists take, demand them to flaunt their sexuality. The underage actresses that enter the industry are required to act like adults to please the audience.
Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with appreciating a woman’s body. It is the narrow definition of physical attractiveness that makes it wrong. Instead of showing a teen as she is, she is shown how the people will like her. The makeup and attire she wears only fit her into the stereotypical definition of beauty. And the worst part is that many of them are still too young to understand what sexualization even means.
The preteen and teen years are the years of coming into one’s own. The impressionable mind is grasping at everything to form a worldview that stays for a very long time. These young artists define themselves through the audience, especially through the male audience and they realise that they need to be sexy at such a young age. Hypersexuality at such a tender age gradually causes them to lose their innocence and they begin to believe that a woman’s value is only based on how she looks.
In one of her interviews, Hollywood actor Geena Davis said that “Clearly the culture is sending a very negative message to girls and to boys about girls when the female characters are constantly shown in this sexy light.”
A question arises whether the disturbed personal lives that some of the female actors lead, has something to do with the sexualization they faced when they were younger. The effects of facing sexualization at such a young age are wide spread and deep rooted. It takes away the self confidence of a person. Low self esteem leads to self doubt and worry which in turn causes stress and depression.
A report was published in 2012 which said that, out of all speaking characters in the 100 highest grossing Hollywood films, only 28.4% were women. It was also found that female actors in the age range of 13 to 20 years are more likely to be sexualized. The Indian cinema isn’t far behind when it comes to objectification. Down the years, we have seen, the way many of our female actors have been objectified as young women and some as teenagers, paired opposite senior actors. They began their careers in acting very early in life.
Concerned with the growing trend of sexualization of girls in advertising and media, American Psychology Association published a report about it. The report mentions some of the consequences of sexualization of girls. They become uncomfortable and unsatisfied with their own body which limits their form and effectiveness of physical movements. This leads to appearance anxiety. Self esteem suffers a blow which leads to stress and anxiety. Body dissatisfaction and the onset of smoking become interconnected. Addictions to drugs and drinking can start later in life if someone has suffered sexualization by society or by self sexualization.
Eating disorder is another consequence of sexualization at a very early age. Desire of maintaining a thin body becomes so high that many girls induce themselves to forced starvation to reduce weight. These unhealthy patterns of eating are because of other psychological problems. This is one of the common things that actors undergo. Actor Richa Chadda too, herself confessed to having fought bulimia in one of her talks.
The sexualization and objectification of young girls and teenagers in media teach them, that all they have to offer is their body and face and they should focus more on physical appearance. This attitude and mindset is not only harmful to the minor female actors playing the part but also to the younger audiences who admire the star and want to be like them.
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Observer. Thinker. Writer.
Your post highlights a very dangerous and dark trend that is certainly taking hold of youngsters these days. The ill effects of this sexualisation of both girls and boys is already playing out in many cities and even smaller towns evidenced by an increase in juvenile delinquency and an unprecedented psychological fragility evident in youngsters today. Like you rightly point out there is unnecessary pressure on youngsters to conform to a certain body image that is touted as desirable. Often the “wanting” to be seen as desirable also leads these adolescents to experiment with all types of popular trending temptations and fads in a bid to be accepted by their peers and this often then results in dangerous and even sinister consequences. Media must be more responsible in what it presents. Artistic license must have an ethical basis and cannot be misused to mislead or misguide young minds.
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