Pretty baby

There are times when one feels that today’s society is focussing not on the important, but on the trivial. However by focussing on the trivial, that there are victims.

An issue which concerns me is the sexualisation of children. This not new to human society. In cultures where one owns little more than one’s body, then children’s bodies are also commodities to be bought and paid for.

But what is the excuse for today’s Australia? Bodies are still commodities; bus stops are painted with overtly sexual signage, porn magazines sit next to the Snakes Alive lollies in service stations, T-shirts aimed at the pre-teen market carry overtly sexual messages. Television shows include Toddlers and Tiaras, where children little more than babies are waxed and plucked.

This theme carries forward to the crime of paedophilia. Was it not our own former Governor General who excused a paedophile priest stating that the 13 year old girl was, “Wise beyond her years”. The victim subsequently came forward, producing a photograph of herself which revealed a chubby pre-teen.

However, there are perhaps children who are wise beyond their years due to the overt emphasis on sexualisation. There are children who are subjected to, and in many forms in the media the ideal that they should be handsome or pretty and most especially willing to flaunt these attributes in order to gain admiration; yet while still too young to realise the implications of these.

In early April, the Australian Medical Association called for an inquiry into the premature sexualisation of children in marketing and advertising: “Self-regulation by the industry was clearly not working, its president, Steve Hambleton, said, pointing to images and messages that were ”disturbing and sexually exploitative”.

From an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Groups continue to campaign against corporations that exploit the bodies of women and girls for profit. But without government and regulatory bodies demanding real change, it’s an advertisers’ free-for-all. Self-regulation continues to mean the industry gets away with whatever it wants.

Inadequacies in the present system include a weak code of ethics, the voluntary nature of the code, a lack of pre-vetting, the Advertising Standards Board’s lack of power to order removal of advertisements and meaningful penalties, and no consultation with child development experts. Even when campaigners get a win, it is meaningless. By the time the ruling is announced, the particular ad campaign is already over.

In April 2008, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission produced a report to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts
titled: Inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment

Items include G.:

(f) children are to be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse

(g) children are to be protected from all other forms of exploitation that is prejudicial to a child’s welfare

Since this time, the recommendations have sunk without trace. We have an industry who has shown almost no willingness to take affirmative action: profits before children.

I can excuse the Toddlers and Tiaras brigade; there are those whose superficiality makes then oblivious to consequences. However I do not excuse the media machine whose research into demographics makes them fully aware that the overt sexualisation of children brings them more dollars.

Note: in order to obtain a photo for this topic, it necessitated using some search terms which I would rather not repeat. This exercise in itself was both confronting and disturbing.