Let’s talk about the over sexualisation of our girls

Rachael CrowMusings

One of my passions of working with girls is talking openly about peer persuasion, media pressure, expectations of society on girls and women….and I’ve been lucky enough to witness many girls becoming strong, healthy, self confident young women, with their own strong opinions and self assurance about how they meet the world.


Of course life can knock us off our ‘core’ sometimes, we all have wobbles eh? But again, this is something as a Mother and Daughter Lodge, we discuss, share examples, give tools and stories that arm them with the knowledge to handle the wobbles, and as much as this is wonderful for the girls, it’s also great for the mums- ‘cos we get wobbles too!

A recent wobble for me was my 8 year old coming home from a party where she “was the only one without make up”. WHAT?? Really?? I was truly shocked! Make up is defiantly a hot topic for me as it touches on self confidence, sexualisation of girls, hiding behind a mask- not to mention the toxicity of the ingredients in of some of whats out there, and introducing our girls to consumerism way too soon!

And then I came across Pinkstinks…a campaign group standing up to the overtly gender-segregated, sexist products aimed at young children.

“Pinkstinks is a reaction to what we see around us.” Emma Moore

This article about a “nail bar” just “hit the nail “on the head for me!

Elaine Johnson writes “So what’s my problem? Nail painting can be fun and for either sex. They have bright colours and fun designs, so what is it? I think I could have been persuaded – having your nails painted like a ladybird in non-toxic paints, is surely a fun and potentially creative thing. And what about little fake tattoos and the like? No-one really minds; kids have been emulating grown-ups since forever. But don’t kid me the company behind this is about creativity, expression, stimulation or innocent childish fun. The bar is pinkified to polished, glamour-puss proportions and surrounded by peripheral make-up products, jewellery and what can only be described as some type of burlesque fans. You won’t find any primary colours here. This is the booming market of little girl-beautifying. It’s beauty play. And beauty is what 21stCentury girls are being taught is their primary objective.

The nail bar in question is named TANTRUM – boy, does that name conjure up some pleasing connotations: diva, irrational, petulant, spoilt, greedy, demanding, nagging, dissatisfied, unpleasant, and of course the all-important, infantile. Oh what a laugh we can have at that clever brand name; those little madams and their innately bossy, bitchy ways! We all know girls are inherently beauty and consumer orientated! Don’t they just love it the little cats – hilarious!

So, let’s talk SLAP. Make-up for children – why not?

It seems we can’t bandy around simple arguments and say ‘Look, clearly this is awful – tacky, tasteless, vanity-inducing, materialistic and for-god’s-sake-stop-living-vicariously-through-your-children-people’ (hands up, we all do it in our different ways!). Common sense is evidently outdated and overrated. It’s about research not pious opinions. And in some ways that’s fair, because it seems that the parents buying into this stuff do actually think this will boost their daughters’ confidence – well of course – if they knew it was damaging they wouldn’t do it would they? Would they?!”

Elaine goes on to mention the parabens in makeup, wearing mummys make up as “play”- which is very different from a girl being bought her own set, the difference between ‘face painting’ and sexualising our girls, A 2009 study by Grabe and Hyde showed links between self-objectification and body image, disordered eating, anxiety and reduced academic ability…. she goes on making point after point…

Another one of my pet issues is tiny bras for girls….I wonder if this fad will end in more women being diagnosed with breast cancer as their lymph glands and breast tissue is going to have spent longer stuffed into a bra? Not to mention…once again, we are sexualising our girls too young, placing emphasis on how girls “look” rather than who they are, and introducing them to the world of beauty consumerism way too young.


Not that long ago MP Sarah Campion fought Matalan to remove a “Plunge Bra” for teens…

Debbie Gong write for the Irish Times about her “concern is that the marketing of sexualised products to children replicates and reinforces the inequalities of the contemporary adult “sexualscape”. Female children are being encouraged, through the consumption of toys, clothes, jewellery, make-up and dolls, to engage in activities which reinforce sexual passivity (as well as normalise heterosexuality) – they are all about performance, self-adornment and being looked at.”

So how do we counter act this media and society pressure? Be true to your beliefs, explain to kind relatives who want to buy this stuff for your daughter that it’s age inappropriate, explain to your daughter that make up is Ok for grown ups (like driving, drinking and smoking!!) but it’s not for children, and maybe gather some mums and talk about it together- you may find other mums are feeling the pressure that “all their daughters friends are wearing it” when the reality just isn’t true!

and take a look at these…

Positive magazines for girls

Aquila- AQUILA Children’s Magazine is the ultimate intelligent read for inquisitive kids. Full of exuberant articles and challenging puzzles that will get the whole family involved, every issue covers science, history and general knowledge. AQUILA is a quality production, beautifully illustrated throughout with contemporary artwork.
● Intelligent reading for 8 – 12 year-olds
● Cool science and challenging projects
● Exciting new topic every issue

Kookie – KOOKIE is an inspiring new print magazine for girls aged 8 to 12+. In a world that too often says there’s only one way to be a girl (think pink), KOOKIE stands apart. It’s packed with stories that build a girl’s confidence and expand her horizons. There are interviews with remarkable women and girls from around the world, profiles of pioneering women in history, original fiction and comics, plus lively content on science and nature, art and activism, sports and technology, as well as craft, debate, puzzles, pets and more. KOOKIE is surprising, informative, inclusive and most of all… fun!

New Moon Girls – Give girls the year-round community, support & fun to grow with courage, compassion & creativity.


(C) Rachael Crow 2018