Startling new research shows that girls as young as six already want to be sexy.
Researchers at Knox College in Illinois showed 60 girls ages six to nine two paper dolls. One was dressed in a very revealing outfit, and one was dressed in a more covered outfit.
Sixty-eight percent of the girls said they wanted to look like the “sexy” doll, and 72 percent thought the “sexy” doll would be more popular.
The study was so shocking, Fox 31 Denver’s Kim Posey, put together a similar survey of girls. The results were equally as surprising.
Kim went to the after-school program at Girls Inc of Metro Denver.
She surveyed 15 girls in second and third grade.
One at a time she showed them two paper dolls. One was dressed in a revealing outfit, one in a more modest outfit.
She asked four questions:
1) Which one of the girls looks more like you?
2) Which one looks the way you want to look?
3) Which one looks like the popular girl?
4) And which one looks like a girl you’d want to play with?
Every girl said they looked like the more modest girl, but 80 percent picked the “sexy” girl as the popular girl. “She has beautiful clothes on,” said 9-year-old Feduma.
“One’s popular and the other one is friendly,” said 8-year-old Luna.
Seven year old Alicia was the only one to recognize appropriateness.
“She’s wearing not appropriate clothes, and she’s wearing appropriate clothes,” she said.
Most of the girls did make the link between sexy and popular. “She shows her stomach,” said 9-year-old Daloriann. “The popular girl is wearing high heels,” said 7-year-old Alysa.
The girls’ answers are a big concern, but not a big surprise to the Girls Inc executive director. “They see girls dressed even this scantily clad all of the time which is really, really sad and disappointing,” said Sonya Ulibarri.
She says the girls see sexy images on TV, in magazines and even in their dolls. “These are the messages they are getting in terms of, again, who is famous? And what is popular? What is the expectation for them? And that girls are valued for their appearance more than anything else and that is really what we are trying to break through here,” Ulibarri said.
At Girls Inc the mission is to inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold. Classes work to break down stereotypes, and help girls find their own values and role models.
That means a lot of the girls’ parents. “That’s what I love about Girls Inc,” said parent Jamie Crain.
Denver Psychologist Carrie Merscham agrees there are ways to address the issue. She says you can sit with your daughters while they are watching movies or TV. “Then you can talk about what did you think about this? Or what did you notice? How did you feel about how she was dressed? And having some of those bigger conversations in the moment is incredibly protective,” Merscham said.
With that kind of conversation, she hopes girls will grow up knowing the way they dress does not determine who they are.