I’m driving back from California to Chicago, and while on the road this week I’ve caught TV news programs I don’t normally watch — like way too much Headline News. But while flipping through channels Wednesday morning I was thrilled to see feminist media critic Jean Kilbourne and education professor Diane Levin on The Today Show discussing their new book, “So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.”
While stories about the hypersexualization of young girls is nothing new, feminist analysis of this issue is too rare. Despite the over-use of Madonna in the background and many basic questions, Kilbourne and Levin manage to make good points about the images being read pervasive than ever and how this affects boys attitudes toward girls.
Levin also brings up representations of masculinity. “Seeing images of being violent, tough and macho also goes against being able to have caring, connected relationships when they grow up,” she said.
And while the discussion is brief, Levin does mention the role of television deregulation in the 1980s, which led to the explosion of marketing to young children on television.
What’s most refreshing is that the authors talk about getting beyond the “just say no” approach to popular culture and instead insist that parents engage in real discussion that connects with their child’s interests. It’s not as easy as shouting, “Turn that *&%$ off!” but it’s important that young people learn critical analysis early on.
Here’s an interview with Levin and Kilbourne and an excerpt from chapter one. Video of their appearance on The Today Show is available below.