Friday, May 14, 2010

Our Little Single Ladies

By now, most of you have seen the latest viral internet sensation that is “Little Girls Going Hard on Single Ladies.” Before being pulled from YouTube today the video of five 7-year-old girls shakin’ what their mamas gave them to Beyoncè’s “Singles Ladies”, garnered over 1 million hits and has sparked discussion ranging from pedophelia to the appropriation of booty poppin’ by little white girls. Between this spectrum of opinion, however, most viewers are upset and even disgusted at the display of pint sized sexuality. Ironically, comments on YouTube don’t seem to be focused on the dance moves, which in my opinion were mild in comparison to other viral hits, like Kids Dance Orgy. Rather, people seemed to be more concerned with what the 7-year-olds were wearing, which wasn’t much. But I’m not here to talk about their outfits or their moves.

Today’s young girls are not just being exposed to adult sexuality, they are being bombarded by it. What has come to be known as the “tween market”, children ages 8 - 12, is a $300 billion dollar industry.  By honing in on young girls at a time when they dream about being Kristen Stewart from Twilight, advertisers have developed specific tactics to influence their decisions and hopefully (and successfully) get them to buy their wares. One of the most appalling of these tactics are those used by marketing research firm, Girls Intelligence Agency (G.I.A.). Training and deploying 40,000 “secret agents”, the G.I.A unleashes its tween agents, young girls who they refer to as “influencers,” into the world of sugar and spice and directly into the bedrooms of little girls. Secret agents host slumber parties stocked with new, never seen before goodies for market testing. Secret agents, who often work for free in exchange for merch and the illusion of importance and independence, report to the G.I.A., telling them exactly what little girls want—to be grown. Waging a war on the minds of little girls, marketing execs give them exactly what they ask for: (see below)
And parents are buying it . Miley Cirus raked in $25 million this year. The Olsen twins: $15 million. Vanessa Hudgens: $3.2 million. Those little single ladies who are dancing their hearts out on that stage are just doing exactly what their society is telling them they should be doing. For them, these are the only images of female empowerment they have access to. They are only embracing the values of pop culture that many of us consume on a daily basis. In this sense, these girls are merely a reflection of our values as a society. If you are offended by these girls, stop for a moment and take a look at yourself. Men, did you enjoy Beyoncè’s “Single Ladies” video? Women, have you ever sexed yourself up for the attention of a man? The answers to these questions are most likely yes. We are all guilty.

Criticizing their parents, who have to do battle against forces that effectively remove them from the picture, doesn’t help either. Today’s parents are trying to keep their jobs and heads above water. Advertisers are banking on this. With less time to spend with their children, many stressed-out parents find themselves buying more things to make up for their lack of presence. I’m willing to bet money that those girls’ mothers are tucking their confused daughters into bed, trying to buff out the dents in their already vulnerable self-esteem, and assuring them that they are not the sluts and kinderwhores that people are calling them, themselves wondering where they went wrong.
There are bigger things at work here. The last thing we should be doing is judging these girls who are clearly talented and driven. What we should be doing is taking a look at ourselves and asking questions about how we as a society have gotten to a place where we are calling our own children whores. When we ask these questions we will find that it’s not these girls or their parents who should be on trial. So people, put your gavels down. Stop hatin’ and give these girls their due props because they killed it.

Do the work. Create media awareness with your kids. Check out:
Media Awareness Network

Read the follow up piece: Closing Comments on "Our Little Single Ladies"

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