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Too Much Pressure?

Lets be honest here, starting high school is never a fun time. There is stress that
comes with walking out of those high school doors. There is stress present in almost
every aspect. For example, there is stress over SAT scores, college admission/scholarship
essays, GPAs, finding the perfect prom date, and getting ready to say goodbye to your
friends and go off and begin the story that is your life! As if that werent enough pressure,
there are some that have to deal with much more personal and deeper issues that perhaps
wouldnt exist if it werent for the pressure induced by our society. Specifically, I am
referring to the pressure that is stemming off of what we see in medias such as magazines
and television shows/movies. It isnt about these two media sources alone, but one-
source influences the next, and the other one influences the next, and it suddenly becomes
a perpetuating cycle. Personally, as a protective older sister, I am concerned over my 13-
year-old sister whom just started freshman year. My sister, Samantha, happens to be a
very bright and mature girl for being a 13 year old. I find that whenever we happen to get
into the topic of school and what responsibilities are expected of her as a student, sooner
or later we go off on tangents and discuss the social aspect of high schools. She conveys
her feelings of sometimes feeling pressured to dumb her-self down because boys dont
go for intelligent girls. Or she finds herself talking about clothes and gossip when she is
the type to concentrate on getting all of her work done and picking up a book. She tells
me about the girls in school who wear ridiculous looking clothing, whether it be too tight,
or too small, or too exposing, or whatever the case may be. Even when I was beginning
high school just a few years back, I remember a few times when I happen to be in the
bathroom before class started and overhearing a conversation. A girl was talking about
how she had to pack some extra clothes in her backpack and make sure her mom didnt
see her packing her mini skirt and tank top because if she did happen to catch her dressed
like that she would kill her. Now looking back at all of this, the question that arises
seems to be: Why?
The issue at hand is that girls are being introduced to this idea at such a young
age, they feel no need to question it, and they simply believe that is a norm. In using the
term teen girls I am referring to the group of girls from middle school to teen girls in
high school. This issue is partly because of all of this media we are surrounded by. They
never question why they cant be themselves and be accepted, why they have to pick one
and not both options. They never think, Why do I have to look this way to be pretty?
We see the exploitation of women in nearly every flip of the channel. Keep a look out the
next time you turn on the news channel report. If you look carefully, ALL of the women
reporters are wearing tight clothing with exaggerated amounts of makeup and over-the-
top hairstyles. Another part of the problem is that there is no escaping it. If you dont
watch television, it is in the magazines you see while picking up some milk at your
nearest grocery store. Take a look at what todays video games are all about and how
they portray women. They are characterized by the exposing mini skirts and tank tops or
a bikini and high heels, face full of makeup. In these games, subliminal messaging of
sexual exploitation and violence make it seem as if it is nothing out of the ordinary. If
you are simply online you will run into some types of advertisements in which women
AND MEN are sexualized. The most popular seem to be ads for perfumes in magazines
or luxury brands in general. If you are commuting to work and tune in to any radio
station, there is a slim to none chance the song playing on air will be about achieving
world peace and rather over violence, money, or women.
There have been many books, which analyze this problem and attempt to create a
long-term solution. In M. Gigi Durhams, The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of
Young Girls and What We Can Do About It, Durham explains the issue at hand and
gives possible solutions.
Durham references a time during Halloween when she opened
her front door and was greeted by a 5-year old girl dressed in a tube top, mini skirt,
platform shoes, and eye shadow claiming she was a Bratz Doll. How could it possibly be
that it is socially acceptable to let a 5-year old girl dress this way, despite it being for
Halloween? Durham explains that this is a perfect example of the widespread culture
American norm shift that is taking place. She presents a counter argument, which states
that allowing girls to dress this way is in one way or another claiming their right to be
independent. The issue is over whether girls who de dress this way are dressing like
this because they want to, or because they think it is what they are supposed to want to
look like. They are being stimulated to believe this is the way girls have always dressed,
and will always dress because it is what they see on television shows. Durham briefly
discusses how she wants her two girls to grow up being truly independent and she
acknowledges that we as humans are sexual beings. The key is to surround kids and
teens with the right sex education and not be afraid to talk about these things.

In Jane E. Brodys article, she discusses the subconscious effects media, such a
television shows effects kids. She explains how a Kaiser Family Foundation study found

M. Gigi Durham The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls & Ways to Fix it
(Overlook Press: Peter Mayer Publisher, 2008).
that the shows most watched by adolescents in 2001-2002 had 'unusually high' amounts
of sexual content compared with TV as a whole: 83 percent of programs popular with
teens had sexual content, and 20 percent contained explicit or implicit intercourse.
argues that is just another way teens are being forced to mature at an unjust exponential
Just a few decades ago, depression was seen in cases of women in their mid 30.
Over the past 50 years, it has fallen from mid 30s to mid 20s, and now a significant
portion of young women are becoming depressed by their early to mid teens. At least
of all teenage girls are currently suffering from self-mutilation, eating disorders,
significant depression, or serious consideration of suicide. According to Dr. Hinshaw, the
girls who do escape clinical label have a lot to deal with as well. They face having to deal
with the hatred of their body, obsessive dieting, sexual confusion, and feelings of not
being good enough to live up to expectations.
Dr. Hinshaw is the author of The Triple
Blind in which he explains some of the conflicting messages that are putting teen girls at
risk for depression, suicide, eating disorders, and other problems.
Like in most cases, there are plenty of things that can be done to remedy
the situation. For one, we can monitor what our children are watching in hopes of having
them less exposed. We can continue reaching out to magazine companies and demand for
a more realistic version of the model in the magazines and not just on the cover. Also, ask

Jane E. Brody Children, Media and Sex: A Big Book of Blank Pages The New York
Times (January 31, 2006).
Dr. Hinshaw Under Pressure: Are teen girls facing too much? Today books
(February 10, 2009)
for less gossip filled columns and more informative or news like articles to keep the
minds of young women going and fill their heads with intellectually stimulating questions
and to steer far from debates over who wore it best. One more step we can take is to stop
being so afraid of letting women be themselves. Instead of scrutinizing them when they
dont wear makeup, compliment on their natural beauty! If they dont feel like wearing
such uncomfortable clothing, all power to them! If men dont have to wear clothing so
tight they can barely breath, why do women? It is pointless to allow such small esthetic
details to judge someone on their personality, their skills, their talents, and their
intellectual capacities, everything that should actually make a person who they are.
In conclusion, it is clear that there are many sources powerful enough to
influence, and more importantly, pressure the state of young women. It is easy to say that
one will be able to resist and keep a strong will but the problem is that the pressure is
coming from all types of directions and angles. Perhaps one of the biggest road blocks is
that we arent able to see the situations and circumstances these 11-17 year old girls are
being put into. We have forgot what it feels like to be afraid to lose friends and suddenly
become uncool. This stage where the child still hasnt figured out what they believe in,
what they stand for, their talents and skills, and their likes and dislikes. Essentially, they
are just beginning to working on discovering who they will become. These girls face
pressure from the media to be pretty, thin, popular, friendly, outgoing, intelligent, sporty,
determined, funny, studious, interesting, well rounded, motivated, and mature all while
dealing with the confusion of balancing school work, puberty, and determining what they
want to do when they get older. It is simply unreasonable to believe society could throw
all of these issues at teen girls and expect them to solve them all without suffering from
any effects, even if they happen to be subconsciously. It is unreasonable to surround a
middle school girl with these magazines and television shows/movies and expect her to
feel like she isnt good enough. Together we can find ways to help girls growing up and
help support them so they dont feel the pressure to concentrate on irrelevant issues and
work on what is really important, being themselves.