Verity Johnson: Teach tweens the difference between reality and rubbish

The Victoria's Secret Pink range is causing a stir online. Photo / Supplied
The Victoria's Secret Pink range is causing a stir online. Photo / Supplied

"Any remaining passengers on JQ431 to Auckland your plane is waiting to leave."

Bloody flight attendants; they have no sympathy for those with time management problems.

When I finally boarded, I got a glare from the woman in row 1.

I knew I was late, and that my Victoria's Secret bag was aggressively pink, but I didn't merit that much visual abuse.

Then I remembered the controversy over Victoria's Secret Pink campaign. Now, not only does Victoria's Secret corrupt innocent girls, it also makes them late for planes.

Those undies are evil.

The media storm over Victoria's Secret's latest line is hotting up. Over 11,000 people have signed the petition on calling for the brand to drop their Bright Young Things range. The underwear apparently sexualises tweens - despite it being marketed to students.

Good heavens - is society trying to sexualise young girls? Never!

It's as if we hadn't had 10-year-old Thylane Blondeau modelling for Vogue. Or the then 15-year-old Miley Cyrus' topless photos. Or any music videos.

According to the American Psychological Association's report, 81 per cent of music videos contain sexual imagery.

There will always be a company or media outlet that sells sex.

But is stamping and screaming in protest really working? Sure, it may stop one company. But there will be another one selling fishnets to 13-year-olds quicker than you can say Lolita.

But attacking the companies isn't the answer. The way to stop the over- sexualisation of girls is to teach us what's actually expected of us.

Despite years of watching MTV, I don't wake up and slap on body oil and stockings to go to the supermarket.

Why? Because when I watch TV or music videos I know what I'm watching isn't real.

I know that women don't have to gyrate on tables to be accepted. I know that real men don't call their girlfriends "ho".

This is what we need to teach tweens - the difference between reality and rapper rhetoric.

Girls need to get how women really act - what's OK and what's not. When we know this, we can critique society when it tells us how to behave.

We can work out if we accept what it tells us, or if it's just mindless, misogynistic mumbo jumbo.

This ability to analyse what we're told is essential. Not just to tween girls, but to all young people. Think about all the crazy views society shows us. We need to work out what's worth listening to.

If we have this framework of right and wrong then it doesn't matter what the media tells us. If it doesn't fit in to what we know is right, we can tell them where to shove it.

And yes, we watch a lot of TV. According to the UK's Daily Telegraph it's more than four hours a day.

But to us teenagers, friends and family are the biggest influences in our lives.

With drinking for example, in 2011 the BBC found that teenagers who saw their parents getting drunk regularly where twice as likely to get drunk regularly themselves.

According to the University of Washington, children of smokers are more likely to smoke themselves.

But this can be a positive influence too.

The sociologist Greer Fox found that girls who talked more to their mothers had attitudes and behaviour patterns that lowered the risk of becoming pregnant.

So parents helping their daughters make sense of society's definition of women can fight against the barrage of bilge from people such as the Pussycat Dolls.

We need to talk to our tweens.

We need to explain that a girl's self-worth isn't measured in cup sizes.

We need to say that grinding every man you meet isn't necessary.

We need to get up there and say that brainy is sexy.

And if you don't like it then we'll stamp our stiletto through your foot.

Verity Johnson is an Auckland student.

- NZ Herald

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