Elevate Difference

Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls

Getting Real is a collection of essays that are charges against the worldwide phenomena of the pornification of childhood through advertising, marketing, and pop culture. This was a great book to read, particularly as the authors are Australian and I sometimes wonder how much of our collective reaction to porn and adult images going mainstream is a reflection of our country's Puritanical leanings. For the contributors to Getting Real, the problem is embedded not just in faux-feminism but also a twisting of feminism by marketers and others to make women believe that if they are "in charge" of their sexuality, then there isn't anything wrong with stripping, making out with other women to turn men on, and so forth.

About half way through the book I came across a few statements that made me think, "Wait a minute...This isn't a feminist book!" There's just a tinge of anti-sex sentiment in some essays. So I did some investigating and found that editor Melinda Tankard Reist is part of a women's think tank. Upon further digging, I came to the conclusion that the Women's Forum Australia seems to be what one might get if the National Organization for Women and the Independent Women's Forum had a lefty baby. (If anyone has more information about them, I'd love for you to leave it in the comments.)

While some essays wade into slut-shaming and defaming strippers and sex workers, on the whole Getting Real is a pretty good book. One eye-opening essay on street billboards makes the point that even though it is illegal for people to have porn in the workplace, we have to walk through porn-infested streets on a daily basis. Another essay brought up how many of us are using Flickr and YouTube to share our children's lives, which teaches them to perform publicly. There is also a discussion about the medicalization of girls' bodies. From HPV vaccines to plastic surgery, it's all there to ponder.

The best part of Getting Real was learning a new term: corporate pedophilia. "Sexualizing products being sold specifically for children, and children themselves being presented in images or directed to act in advertisements in ways modeled on adult sexual behavior." This goes far beyond the dress-up of our youth to performance on a daily basis. "The task for today's teenagers is to win back their freedom from the adults who run the advertising agencies and girls magazines and the 'sex-positive' media academics who insist that 'bad girls' are powerful girls."

The essays are well cited, but avoid a lot of academic jargon, making Getting Real a quick read. The book is feminist, but with a dash of moderate conservatism thrown in. The topic brings together some typically opposing forces, and that's always good for the discussion.

Cross-posted from Viva La Feminista

Written by: Veronica I. Arreola, April 27th 2010