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Thursday, May 29, 2008


Over the weekend I read an interview with M. Gigi Durham, the author of a new book called, The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It. Here's how Durham describes the Lolita Effect:
The Lolita Effect is the media's sexual objectification of young girls. In the Nabokov novel the protagonist, who is 12 years old at the start of the book, is the object of desire for Humbert Humbert the pedophile. In the book you're put into the mind of the predator; Lolita, in Humbert's view, initiates the sex and is very knowledgeable and all that. Nowadays the term Lolita has come to mean a little girl who is inappropriately sexual, wanton, and who sort of flaunts her sexuality and seduces older men. I'm very critical of that construction in the novel and in real life because little girls can't be held responsible in this way. They're not born with the understanding or intention of seducing older men, and the burden of responsibility can't be placed on children. They're just too young to knowingly enter into these kinds of relationships. The Lolita Effect is the way our culture, and more importantly our corporate media, have constructed these little "Lolitas" by sexualizing them and marketing really sexualized items of clothing and behaviors to them -- constructing them as legitimate sexual actors when they aren't.

It makes me long for the "good old days" of film stars like Shirley Temple who remained a child far beyond the time when she should have been accepted as an adult. Shirley Temple, was thought of as clean and wholesome. Her dresses may have been short, but they weren't provocative. Her sweet-girl-all-the-time image, although also unrealistic, is infinitely better than Lolita image projected by the girls who become stars today.

So what do we do to protect our girls? Be informed. Read. Understand the pressures in our society. Study marketing and teach our children its power to influence society. Resist the pervasive role of advertising.

Here are some books dealing with girls today:

Garbarino, James. See Jane Hit: Why Girls are Growing More Violent and What We Can Do About It. [303.6 GAR]

Lamb, Sharon and Lyn Mikel Brown. Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers' Schemes. [306.3 LAM]

Linn, Susan. Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood. [305.23 LIN]

Tanenbaun, Leora. Slut!: Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation. [305.23 TAN]

If you'd like to read the original Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, we have a copy in our fiction section. To help you approach it as a work of literature, we have a critical study, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita [813 NAB].

A little side note: Barbie, the doll, is in court. Barbie's role as the world's no. 1 doll has been threatened by the Bratz doll. The reason for going to court? It seems the Bratz doll's designer is accused of developing the idea for his doll while working at Barbie's home, Mattel!
His idea was a smart one: as Barbie was becoming middle-aged, girls today would surely respond to a doll with a little more edge. He came up with Bratz with their oversized lips, wild hair-dos and bare bellies.

Oh, what a world we live in...

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