The nation’s girls are being sexualised earlier than ever and we must protect them, the head of a top independent girls’ school has warned.
Dr Helen Wright, who is also the new president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), which represents around 200 private single-sex schools across the country, expressed profound concern that the sexualisation of young girls is so prevalent across society and the media.
Her comments come as a group of MPs, religious groups and media campaigners have written to The Sunday Times welcoming a move by the Government which would restrict access to pornography, in a bid to combat child sexualisation.
Dr Wright lamented that children – and even parents – seem to have no idea what is appropriate any more.
She mentioned actress Miley Cyrus, who started her career as wholesome Disney character Hannah Montana, yet is now subjecting her young female fanbase to a new sexualised image.
Dr Wright asserted that despite occasional backlashes from parents against their children being exposed to overly sexualised images, the idea of sexually available women as role models to aspire to has “slipped into mainstream society as almost the norm”.
Which is why, she added, “we have to get real as a society. We have to ask: what are we asking young women to aspire to?
“Many parents just go with the flow when their children are subject to peer pressure to follow the latest trend. Unless we make a stand now, we face the very real danger of damaging the mental health of a whole generation of young women.”
Dr Wright said she will use her new platform with the GSA to campaign against the sexualisation of young girls, which she believes is one of the major issues in our culture.
She said: “It is the explosion of images, advertising, music videos, focusing almost exclusively on the attractiveness and sexual identity of women, rather than on the whole person.”
The GSA has launched an advice website for parents called mydaughter.co.uk and will also publish a book next month entitled Your Daughter.
Dr Wright says the GSA will be contributing to the Government’s investigation into the sexualisation of children. The investigation is expected to report its findings in May.
In December Communications Minister Ed Vaizey called for broadband providers to do more to protect children from sexually explicit material.
Mr Vaizey said he wanted internet service providers to begin blocking pornographic websites at the source, meaning that people who want to view them would need to ‘opt-in’ to lift the restrictions.
The recent letter published in The Sunday Times welcoming the move said there “is growing concern about the ‘sexualisation of childhood’, and the prime minister has voiced fears that we are sleepwalking into a society where ‘porn is the norm'”.
Speaking before the general election, David Cameron said he planned to penalise companies who market their products inappropriately to children.
He said: “More and more today, sexual-provocative images are invading public space – space shared by children.
“In the Tube station, at the bus stop, on the billboard – there’s the creeping sense that we’re sleepwalking to a place where ‘porn is the norm’.”
He added: “After all, it’s our shared responsibility to protect children from aggressive commercialism and premature sexualisation.
“This is not about being prudish or old-fashioned. It’s about remembering the simple pleasures of our own childhood – and making sure our children can enjoy them too.”