HomeGifted Girls
child-beauty-pageant_1.jpgMerriam-Webster dictionary defines the term sexualization as endowing an individual with sexual characteristics or qualities. In 2007, the American Psychological Association created a task force to study the sexualization of girls in popular culture. The Task Force Report observed an alarming trend toward the sexualization of girls and its harmful impact on self-image and academic achievement. The emphasis of modern media, and therefore culture, has deviated away from the value of academia and moved towards the superficial importance of sexual appeal or behavior. The APA Task Force Report specifically discussed the negative impact of sexualization across a variety of domains.

  • Cognitive and emotional health: Cognitive development in younger girls limits their understanding of sexist media stereotypes and an appropriate understanding of sexuality. During adolescence, chronic attention to physical appearance leaves fewer cognitive resources available for other mental and physical activities. Self objectification also acts to undermine a person's confidence in and comfort with her own body, often leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.

  • Mental and physical health: General physical activity has shown to contribute to positive emotions and higher feelings of self confidence. However, studies have revealed that the degree to which girls objectify their bodies can ultimately limit the effectiveness of their physical activity and fine motor skills. Clearly, negative influences on physical activity will inversly impact a person's mental and physical well being. Research linked sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women—eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression.

  • Sexual development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on a girl's ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image. The objectification of women in the mainstream media can cause girls to become self conscious about their bodies in adolescence, which may impact their sexual health later in life. Among adults, healthy sexuality is related to greater intimacy, higher self-esteem, lower levels of stress, and greater personal happiness.

Numerous reports, studies, surveys and empirical evidence have demonstrated that the sexualization of girls and preocuppation with self- image has a significant impact on cognitive resources and mental energy. Girls tend to prioritze their mental faculties to focus on attention from the opposite sex rather than pursue academic attention. Often girls, including those identified as being gifted, do not recognize the value of being "smart" in a culture that emphasizes the importance of being pretty. In order to negate the influences of popular culture and the sexualization of women in our society, constructive alternatives are necessary to redeem the value of intelligence. The following suggestions were offered in an attemp to de-sexualize our youth and foster the importance of cognitive abilities.

Extracurricular Activities
Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Activism by Parents
Religious and Ethical practices
Student activism
Student developed media
Girl empowerment groups

Useful Resources
  • For a complete review of the APA Task Force Report follow this link