portrayals of girls linked
SF State professor, report co-author is nationally known expert on adolescent sexuality, mental health
SAN FRANCISCO, February 19, 2007 -- An American Psychological Association (APA) report released today, written in part by a faculty member at San Francisco State University, found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising and media causes harm to girls' self-image and healthy development.
Professor Deborah L. Tolman, director of the University's Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality (http://crgs.sfsu.edu), is one of six members of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, which was charged with producing the report.
"In our society, the sexualization of girls is so pervasive that it can feel normal for young girls to look like teenagers and for teenagers to look like older women," said Tolman, who also teaches in SF State's Human Sexuality Studies Program. "Sexualized images are projected to suggest sexual availability to the exclusion of other personal characteristics and qualities, which is inappropriate for any female."
The report found evidence that the sexualization of girls negatively affects girls and young women in several ways: cognitive functioning, mental health, physical health and healthy sexual development.
The report encourages parents, school officials and health professionals to be alert for the potential impact of sexualization on girls and young women.
"We encourage parents to engage in media with their children, whether it's listening to music with them, watching television or surfing the Internet," Tolman said. "Talk about how marketing techniques make girls' and women's bodies look unnatural and focus people's attention on their bodies as if that is all that is valuable about them. Get kids to question what they are seeing and hearing, and how they may be feeling about their own bodies and their own abilities."
Tolman, who is recognized nationally as a researcher on adolescent sexuality and mental health, added that the report's results illustrate the need for further research to determine the extent of the impact on sexualization of girls and how effects differ for girls and women of different backgrounds.
The members of the APA task force studied published research on the content and effects of virtually every form of media, including television, music videos, music lyrics, magazines, movies, video games and the Internet. They also examined recent advertising campaigns and merchandising of products aimed toward girls.
Full text of the task force's report is available at: http://www.apa.org/pi/wpo/sexualization.html
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