The Dumbing Down of Girls

Jun 21 • Featured • 1126 Views • 4 Comments on The Dumbing Down of Girls

Following on from my “Kids or Teens” blogpost last week about kids dressing in over sexualised ways, it was interesting to read the views of headmistress Helen Wright in the papers at the weekend.

She was warning that celebrity culture and social networking sites risk spawning a generation of dumb and shallow girls. She said, “Young women are under extreme pressure to shun intellectual interest and conform to images of women who lack depth and are obsessed with looks.”

While I don’t believe you can lay the blame for this at the door of social networking sites (back in my day they blamed teen magazines) I do think she’s right about celebrity culture.

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Every time I read a paper I am faced with another wannabe WAG selling her story about an affair, or the girls from TOWIE making dumb look fun.

From the work I do with teenage girls and the letters I receive from them (I’m also an advice columnist for a teen magazine) – I can see that celebrity culture is encouraging ever younger girls to think surface image is everything.

“Why should I study?” said one 13 year old in an email to me, “I want to be famous so I don’t need exams for that.” Another 12 year old complains that she doesn’t look like Rihanna (who does?) and another about wanting a boob job at 15 years old.

I’d like to think they will grow out of it and that it’s a rite of passage but with self esteem and body image issues sky rocketing and girls as young at 7 years saying they feel under pressure to be “pretty and thin” I’m beginning to think it won’t.

The solution says Helen Wright is that we as mothers and parents need to be braver and complain louder about how women are portrayed. She’s right but I also think we also have to balance up what they will inevitably see and hear with talk about achievements and the importance of personality. It’s not about banning one for the other, but showing that there are plenty of benefits to not dumbing down.

What do you think?


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4 Responses to The Dumbing Down of Girls

  1. Penny says:

    I absolutely agree Anita. As the mother of 2 girls it’s a major concern, especially as my eldest moves towards her teens… There’s no easy answer really, and whilst, as you say, in our days it was teen mags that were ‘blamed’, at least teen mags had teen stars that were ‘known’ for being actresses, pop stars, athletes etc…not just Wags or Jordan! It’s the online culture which means we’re all aware of them, combined with the overall display of money and fame that seem so attractive to young girls… It also seems to be about the ‘fame’ now for young kids…I’m not sure showing the deluded masses auditioning for X factor/BGT etc and getting TV airtime the ‘fame’) even if they are terrible is very helpful… Fame and body image seems to be what the masses aspire to be known for…it’s somewhat disheartening 🙁 As a parent you can only do your best to explain be nice, treat others with respect & work hard so you can get a good job when you are older!

  2. Mandy says:

    I think it’s really worrying that girls are so obsessed with image. I have written on my blog today (referencing you – I hope that’s OK?) with concerns for my own girls and they are only 8 and 5. I think we do need to be more vocal and let girls know that whilst it’s OK to look gorgeous, let’s have some substance underneath that foundation!

  3. Iqbal says:

    Great piece, Anita. I agree, the role models being offered to young girls these days are pretty lousy. Everyone wants a quick fix, no-one wants a real job, just the trappings of fame that they think are within their grasp. And we’re helped by seeing increasingly sexualised images of women in pop videos – I’m in full agreement with music producer Mike Stock who says that we’ve effectively kissed goodbye to feminism and gone completely the other way. Thank heavens for people like Adele, who show that you can be talented, gorgeous and be a fantastic role model without resorting to Rihanna-style sexual acrobatics to get attention.

  4. Ceri says:

    I agree that we could do with some better role models, but I’m not overly concerned about the influence celeb culture will have on my daughter. I remember being obsessed with Grease, Kids from Fame, Madonna – all kinds of things that weren’t especially age appropriate, and don’t think kids impose the same meanings on it as we do. Admittedly, I wouldn’t let her go out dressed like Rihanna, but surely that’s something that we as parents have to do deal with, and not really fair to set these celebs up as role models (good or bad) to our children. I think kids have always been obsessed with fame, body image etc – we just see it expressed differently now because the media works in different ways. I think it’s just like healthy eating. Provided you make sure there’s a bit of balance then I don’t stress about it too much.


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