Sometimes We Women Are Our Own Worst Enemies

by Teresa Tomeo | September 3, 2011 12:01 am

I don’t think I would get too many people disagreeing that the over-sexualizaiton of women and girls is a big problem.   Even “Good Housekeeping” magazine had a major story on this topic. The report in the publication’s August edition focused primarily on the fallout from shows such as TLC’s “Toddlers in Tiaras” along with the climate in our culture that goes out of its way to convince women of all ages to “look and act like sexual bait.”  But I wonder how many of us are willing to admit that we women, when it comes to this sad situation, are doing more to hurt rather than help our gender.

Ironically, this became painfully obvious to me at a recent visit to my local nail salon.  There is nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves and putting our best foot, or when it comes to “pedis” and “manis”, our best feet and hands forward so to speak.  But there is something terribly wrong when we take it over the top and not only accept but embrace other women who dress and act in ways that make the infamous material girl also known as Madonna, look like Laura Ingalls of “Little House on the Prairie” fame.

So there I was in the salon trying to mind my own business and trying not to notice the ever so annoying program, The View that happened to be airing at the time. One of the guests that morning was none other than pop star, Lady Gaga.  That was just about enough to send me out of the pedicure chair, and over to the TV to hit the off button.  But I was stopped in my tracks by the conversation that began soon after Gaga appeared on the television screen.  A woman in her sixties who was sitting in the chair next to me, and who happened to have her little granddaughter with her suddenly starts talking about what a great voice Lady Gaga has and how she is just everywhere.  Her manicurist then begins to also rave about the singer and how it takes real “courage” to dress so provocatively and appear in public. This manicurist has a daughter about two or three years old.  “She has a lot of guts,” the manicurist proclaims.   That was about all I could take.  The word “guts” is not the word I would choose when describing performers who don’t use their public positions wisely and hurt rather than help women. What type of impact do these women think someone like a Lady Gaga has on young girls when they see the superstar dressed like a stripper? And have they ever listened to the lyrics of any of her songs?  I don’t have enough space in this column to explain the “causes” Lady Gaga gets behind but suffice to say they don’t line up with the faith in which she was raised…which just happens to be the Catholic Church.

I couldn’t, of course, let their comments go.  Given what I do for a living and given the impact the media had on my own life as a young girl who struggled with an eating disorder because I wanted to look like someone in my favorite sitcom, I had to say something.

“It has nothing to do with guts and everything to do with marketing and money.”  I blurted out. “Sex sells and she knows exactly what she is doing.  She’s Madonna on steroids and she is adding to the ever growing problem of the over sexualization of girls, especially young girls.  I think it is very sad and she is making a bad situation even worse.”

Talk about silencing a busy place in sixty seconds or less. I now seem to have developed that ability into an art form.  But again, knowing what I know from my own experience as well as the research I have done on this topic, I couldn’t keep silent.

I left the salon that day thinking about the little granddaughter who overheard grandma raving about Lady Gaga.  I also thought about the adorable and innocent toddler I have seen from time to time hanging out with Mommy the manicurist.  Does her mother have any idea what her child is up against in today’s over-sexualized culture? And why, I lamented, are so many of us of all different ages, so willing to buy into what society and the mass media are selling when it comes to images of women?  Is this the best we can do?

Maybe the words I used weren’t the most effective but I am hoping the lack of response means they’ll think twice the next time Lady Gaga shows up, if not for their own sake at least for the sake of their daughters and granddaughters.

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