Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pg. 99: M. Gigi Durham's "The Lolita Effect"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: M. Gigi Durham's The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What You Can Do About It.

About the book, from the publisher:
Americans are bombarded with perplexing and alarming media images: brand name thong underwear for ten-year-olds with the slogans “Wink Wink” and “Eye Candy” written on them; oversexed and underdressed celebrities gone wild; Bratz dolls and their “sexy” clothing line for preteen girls. How do we raise sexually healthy young women in this kind of environment?

In The Lolita Effect, University of Iowa professor and journalist M. Gigi Durham offers new insight into media myths and spectacles of sexuality. Using examples from popular TV shows, fashion and beauty magazines, movies, and Web sites, Durham shows for the first time all the ways in which sexuality is rigidly and restrictively defined in media—often in ways detrimental to girls’ healthy development. The Lolita Effect offers parents, teachers, counselors, and other concerned adults effective and progressive strategies for resisting the violations and repressions that render girls sexually subordinate. Durham provides us with the tools to navigate this media world effectively without censorship or moralizing, and then to help our girls to do so in strong and empowering ways.
Among the praise for The Lolita Effect:
"We’ve all seen it—the tiny T-shirts with sexually suggestive slogans, the four-year-old gyrating to a Britney Spears song, the young boy shooting prostitutes in his video game—and University of Iowa journalism professor Durham has had enough. In her debut book, she argues that the media—from advertisements to Seventeen magazine—are circulating damaging myths that distort, undermine and restrict girls’ sexual progress. Durham, who describes herself as “pro-girl” and “pro-media,” does more than criticized profit-driven media, recognizing as part of the problem Americans’ contradictory willingness to view sexualized ad images but not to talk about sex. Chapters expose five media myths: that by flaunting her “hotness” a little girl is acting powerfully; that Barbie has the ideal body; that children—especially little girls—are sexy; that violence against women is sexy; and that girls must learn what boys want, but not vice versa. After debunking each myth, Durham offers practical suggestions for overcoming these falsehoods, including sample questions for parents and children. In a well-written and well-researched book, she exposes a troubling phenomenon and calls readers to action."
--Publishers Weekly

"In this intensely researched exploration of the media’s exploitation of girls, Durham exposes the links between destructive teenage self-images and the popular, highly sexed, and negative representations of girls in magazines, television programs, and movies. Considering everything from suggestive Halloween costumes for little girls to the relentless onslaught of articles about how to “get a guy” in teen publications, Durham makes her persistent way across the media landscape. Seventeen magazine in particular bears the weight of her analysis, and the results are both shocking and disturbing. By pointing to specific articles, she exposes a pattern of teaching girls to attract and please the opposite sex while minimizing serious conversations about sex or equal gender roles in relationships. In her conclusion, she asserts that this cumulative “Lolita effect” is “a major factor in the high rates of teen pregnancy and STDs in the U.S. and many other countries.” Durham’s provocative and erudite study of the demeaning way society views girls serves both to alarm and educate; consider it required reading for parents and their daughters."
--Colleen Mondor, Booklist

"... No one is immune from the media's influence, and her book offers dozens of helpful, specific ideas for rendering it less potent. Durham calls (rather optimistically, given the current economic and political climate) for media literacy in the K-12 curriculum. She writes wisely that there's no point in trying to force girls to reject the Lolita effect. But we can raise questions and present different interpretations of the images that surround us .... We can help children see that the fashion, beauty and fitness industries -- along with the mass media that need their ads -- are purveying titillating, unrealistic pictures of what it means to be 'hot.'"
--Washington Post
Learn more about the book and author at The Lolita Effect website and blog.

Meenakshi Gigi Durham is an associate professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa.

The Page 99 Test: The Lolita Effect.

--Marshal Zeringue