Australian girls are so bombarded by sexualised imagery, it is affecting their physical and mental health, says author and campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist.
Ms Tankard Reist, author of Big Porn Inc and Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, was at St Mary Star of the Sea College in Wollongong yesterday to talk to students about the sexualisation of girls in pop culture and the media.
‘‘I unpacked with them about 200 images that I have collected from toys, games, music video, clothes advertising and magazines and we had a look at the distorted messages that girls get about their bodies, their relationships and their sexuality,’’ she said.
‘‘What I try to do is help girls see that they are fine the way they are, that it’s the culture that’s making them sick.
‘‘The research tells us that our girls are suffering an epidemic of body image dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, self-harm, low self-esteem and eating disorders.
‘‘And the research links those negative physical and mental health outcomes with the negative messages we give girls about their bodies and about what girls are good for.
‘‘I showed some images today that showed a 10-year-old girl modelling adult clothing. What we are doing there is making little girls look much older than they are, and that is a very dangerous path we walk when we start to do that.’’
Despite the volume of sexualised imagery that people are exposed to every day, Ms Tankard Reist said that her campaigning movement, Collective Shout for a World Free of Sexploitation, had claimed a few successes.
‘‘We’ve had quite a few victories against corporations – getting their products removed, getting their billboards taken down as a result of grassroots protest actions from people who have decided they’ve had enough,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s a juggernaut, we’re really up against it, but we are having wins against significant brands and we are mobilising and equipping people all over the country to enable them to take action.
‘‘The biggest encouragement for me is from the young people themselves who say they’ve decided to resist the toxic culture, to make complaints, to live above the sludge of a sick society, so I have to take some heart and some hope from that.’’