From Publishers Weekly
We've all seen it—the tiny T-shirts with sexually suggestive slogans, the four-year-old gyrating to a Britney Spears song, the young boy shooting prostitutes in his video game—and University of Iowa journalism professor Durham has had enough. In her debut book, she argues that the media—from advertisements to Seventeen
magazine—are circulating damaging myths that distort, undermine and restrict girls' sexual progress. Durham, who describes herself as pro-girl and pro-media, does more than criticize profit-driven media, recognizing as part of the problem Americans' contradictory willingness to view sexualized ad images but not to talk about sex. Chapters expose five media myths: that by flaunting her hotness a little girl is acting powerfully; that Barbie has the ideal body; that children—especially little girls—are sexy; that violence against women is sexy; and that girls must learn what boys want, but not vice versa. After debunking each myth, Durham offers practical suggestions for overcoming these falsehoods, including sample questions for parents and children. In a well-written and well-researched book, she exposes a troubling phenomenon and calls readers to action. (May)
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In this intensely researched exploration of the media’s exploitation of girls, Durham exposes the links between destructive teenage self-images and the popular, highly sexed, and negative representations of girls in magazines, television programs, and movies. Considering everything from suggestive Halloween costumes for little girls to the relentless onslaught of articles about how to “get a guy” in teen publications, Durham makes her persistent way across the media landscape. Seventeen magazine in particular bears the weight of her analysis, and the results are both shocking and disturbing. By pointing to specific articles, she exposes a pattern of teaching girls to attract and please the opposite sex while minimizing serious conversations about sex or equal gender roles in relationships. In her conclusion, she asserts that this cumulative “Lolita effect” is “a major factor in the high rates of teen pregnancy and STDs in the United States and many other countries.” Durham’s provocative and erudite study of the demeaning way society views girls serves to both alarm and educate; consider it required reading for parents and their daughters. --Colleen Mondor