Is sexualised pop culture to blame for a poor image?

The media is constantly portraying women in a sexualised manner and many songs send out the wrong messages to children. Dionne Taylor, Lecturer in Sociology at Birmingham City University believes that: “Overwhelmingly popular culture has a ‘negative impact on young women’s self-esteem,’ deriving from overtly sexualised and demeaning lyrics and images.”

We wouldn’t expect a man prance around a set half naked as women sang about taking them home, but we don’t blink an eyelid when they reverse is true. We are bombarded with songs that are derogatory towards women and can leave children with the impression that they are mere sexual objects.

Out of the plethora of examples, take a look at Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. In that video, slim, attractive young women parade around topless, flirting with both the male singers and the audience. This results in the women being presented as ditsy, playful objects purely functioning as sexual objects.

During the song, Thicke sings “tried to domesticate ya,” “I know you want it” and rapper T.I. adds joins in with “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.” This song become one of the biggest of the year, yet we would cringe if children regurgitated the lyrics to us.

A hazardous impact

It is an accepted part of our culture that women are meant to “attract men” and this norm is particularly prominent in the media and music videos. Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and Lady Gaga are examples of women who frequently present themselves in sexualised manner, and really this is their decision, but is enough attention given to the negative effects this may have on our children? 

The Girl Guiding Association interviewed girls aged between 7- 10 years and found that many reported serious dissatisfaction with their appearance and weight.

Children are exposed to music videos, magazines, TV and media of all kinds every day. With everything from Miley twerking to Nicki Minaj’s ‘buns’ to Rihanna’s provocative moves, young girls are conditioned to this image of a “ideal woman”, thinking that this is the way women should act, look and be treated.

It’s not hard to imagine a young girl seeing their pop idol shaking it on stage and wish they looked like them, but really, how far can we blame pop culture for body dissatisfaction? Eating disorders are complex and often have a wide array of causes. It’s simplistic to assume that media alone is will cause such mental issues.

We tend to ignore peer and parent influence, the individuals own experiences and instead scold women for the baring skin and doing ‘that’ dance move. Parents have responsibility over their children and women in the industry do not. Female artists are entitled to act in any way they want, and it just happens that this sometimes involves grinding on a golden chair.

Who is really at fault?

When considering the idea that media and pop culture affect girl’s attitudes and behaviours, we often look for someone to blame. But who is guilty? The singers, for either thinking it’s acceptable or not saying it isn’t? The producers who will help mould the singer’s image? The directors who decide what looks best in a video? People who write sexist lyrics? Or people that make the sexualised songs and videos so popular by buying or listening to them?

Media is a business and, unfortunately, sex sells. The sexualisation of women is wrong, but it’s here and its happening. I feel we put far too much pressure on females in the industry to act in a way we feel is appropriate, when we should focus more on educating young women, on making sure this issue is known and who they can talk to if they feel affected.

Perhaps a stronger link lies between this and children’s view on sexualisation and women in general. This kind of pop culture is breeding a dangerous ideal that women are puppets for men to play with and we are only relevant or “pretty” if we know how to be seductive.

Lyrics are less likely to be understood by children than visuals, as they often learn the words to a catchy song without thinking too deeply about the meanings. It’s hard to gauge how much children understand, but it is still highly disturbing to imagine children humming “come here rude boy.” 

There is a possibility that they are being exposed to a skewed view on gender roles from an early age.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.