It all started in 2009. After I viewed Lil Wayne and Young Money’s performance of “Every Girl” at the BET Awards that year, I was very disturbed. Saddened even. For it was this performance that confirmed something I had been observing over the years–the loss of Black girlhood.

As Mr. Please Say the Baby himself and his crew rapped about their ambitions and desires to sleep with women all over the world, there on stage with her fellow pre-teen OMG Girlz was his daughter Reginae dancing along to lyrics such as:  “I’ll f–k the whole group/Baby I’m a groupie/My sex game is stupid/My head is the dumbest/I promise, I should be hooked on phonics”. It was at this moment that I knew we had degenerated socially and culturally to a place where we openly accept this scenario. Trust and believe I may have listened to inappropriate songs as a youngin’ but you would never catch my parents rocking with me. Or better yet, a live audience (I would hope)..

Many young girls today are growing up way too fast. Whether it’s the way they dress, carry themselves, or the sexual behaviors they’re engaged in at very early ages. To make matters worse is what they’re associating being “grown”  with, which is often times heavily influenced by entertainment and media. It seems there is no concept of age-appropriateness anymore.

For example, I recently saw a picture from the Nicki Minaj themed party Kandi Burrus threw for her daughter’s 10th birthday, complete with multi-colored wigs, tu-tus, and a Nicki Minaj impersonator. While over the top birthday parties celebs throw their children have become common, the imagery of it all was somewhat troubling to me. I couldn’t help but think the party was at least mildly inappropriate for her age. I’m not in a position to judge Kandy’s parenting skills because I don’t know her personally, however I think overall we need to be more careful of the messages we send young women. Not to say that Nicki Minaj has no positive aspects to her music, but if her image relies heavily on sexualization, don’t think that message is not being interpreted by a young girl as well.

And who could forget the video of a dance team made up of seven year old girls dressed in Burlesque attire dancing to Single Ladies? Unfortunately, it’s just one of a number of disturbing videos online of girls who’ve barely reached puberty aiming for “sexy”. From companies like Abercrombie & Fitch marketing thongs to 8-10 year olds to the risque images of many of their favorite entertainers, the assault on girlhood is at an all time high.

I never want to sound like one of those preachy adults who always reminisce and condescend us with the “back in my day…” lectures. However, my thoughts come from a place of love and genuine concern. Some may argue these issues are nothing new, but I honestly believe growing up in the 90s, the status quo was much different. For one, we had more balanced and diverse images of women–Black women  in particular–in entertainment to look up to. Tween and teenage girls could see women like Brandy, Monica, Whitney Houston and Erykah Badu, in addition to the likes of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown. There were no flamboyant reality shows constantly glorifying cattiness amongst adult women. Child stars did not have stripper-esque poles as stage props at the Kids Choice Awards. And playing with dolls and jumping rope were still normal pastimes.

This apparent change even caused the American Psychological Association to create a task force to research and report on the “Sexualization of Girls.” According to the  2007 report, sexualization occurs when

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

It goes on to say “virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the Internet and advertising.”

We see the results of this everyday. Whether it’s our daughters, younger sisters, cousins, nieces, or girls in our neighborhood. Too often I overhear conversations or see a status, picture, or video pop up in my newsfeed that causes me to shake my head. We all have a responsibility to provide them with healthier images and perceptions of womanhood. Something that is inspiring and not distorted.  We must strive harder to be the examples that balance out the onslaught of hypersexual messages they are fed on a daily basis.  My message to young girls today is to be mindful that sex and sexinessis not a marker of maturity, but responsibility is. If your sense of self-worth is rooted in the attention your body brings, it will likely lead to insecurity. Find a worthy goal and get in tune with who you are. Live your life, and don’t be in a rush to “be grown” but better yet, enjoy the beautiful journey of growing up.


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  • Ms. Stef

    This topic has been bothering me for a while now. I’m 22 and I definitely do not remember trying to be sexy when I was little. Even now, “being sexy” or being called sexy is something that makes me slightly uncomfortable. I’m inclined to blame the parents. Yes, the mainstream media has bombarded us adults and the generation behind me with images of sex and what it takes to be sexy, but like @Yb said, these images have always been in existence. I watched Britney Spears and semi admired her school girl outfit (I went to Catholic school so the new spin on the uniform was intriguing) but I knew that if I tried to walk out the house like that my mother would snatch me by my hair. On top of that I had other women (who looked like me) to look up to at the time. Alicia Keys was one of them. We still have those positive age appropriate images. However, parents are not exposing their children to those positive images in conjunction with the negative images. Young girls are going to hear Rihanna and Nicki Minaj and see them on tv. It’s almost inevitable. But the parent needs to sit the child down and let them know that while these are popular images, these are not appropriate for them to emulate at that age. But from what I’ve seen in my neighborhood and working with younger children, few parents care about what their child is doing. Some are promoting this behavior because they think it’s cute or funny, not realizing the damage they are doing to their little girls.

  • lola_z

    I totally agree w this article. Kids are growing up way too fast.
    I have 2 little chubby bubbies and my daughter is about to be 2 and I am soo worried about this.
    I find myself only listening to CDs since the radio has nothing but *ish and F*** as every other word (especially the urban radio stations).
    I only let them watch Qubo and PBS Kids – to me a lot of the “supposedly” younger channels don’t have kid appropriate shows anyway. Everyone on there has gfs and bfs…
    I told my mom the other day that I feel a little overprotective and she reassured me, let me know it’s ok. Better to be safe than sorry.

    I also started listening to conversations she has with other little kids too (see she’s only 2, but super tall so people think she’s older than her age). I was at the park the other day with them and 2 little girls ran up to play with her. While I found it cute to see her interacting w the girls, when I walked up to them, the language they were using, was not appropriate to me.. By no means were they saying profanities, but the “what the hell is… ” and “hell nos…” were not phrases I would want my banana to be using.. I don’t want to be overbearing, but I worry that maybe what I find inappropriate, might not be for other parents.
    It’s the easiest thing in the world to have a baby (both men and women), but one of the hardest things to be a responsible parent.

    • MimiLuvs

      My niece (aka my Chunky Monkey) is two years old as well and I am vigilant, when it comes to the things that she is exposed to (when she is in my care). Every time we go to the park, I make the other kids go through a screening process. I want to weed out the fast-mouth ones.

    • “It’s the easiest thing in the world to have a baby (both men and women), but one of the hardest things to be a responsible parent.”

      Hence why I’m really careful to choose a husband with the same mindset that actually takes this responsibility seriously.

  • Keke

    This is sooo true!!! I was reading an in-depth report about corporate greed, and one of the things the author mentioned was the need to sell sex younger and younger as key demographics change. By sexualizing younger and younger people, corporations can ensure a target audience for a certain length of time and maximize profits. It’s crazy that we can clearly see this being played out in performances such as the ones you listed.

    Oh and I looked up the seven year olds dancing. It was super scary to see little girls telling people to “put a ring on it.” *shudders*

  • ?!?

    Yes. Like the other commenters mentioned, parents are to be blamed. Too many parents need to read a parenting book. Letting kids listen to rap and watch the majority of the stuff on TV is bound to lead to problems if you haven’t raised them right. Parents need to do better.

    I remember when I was younger I saw these girls doing this butt shaking move to a popular song at the time. I went home into my parents bedroom where they had one of those sliding door mirrors. I thought my parents were in the kitchen, and I did the move. My dad came in the door, and he gave me such a look. I thought I would die right then and there. I never did that again.

    I listened to hip hop and R&B when I was younger. I think the difference is that I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. I remember Mystikal’s Shake It Fast. I had no idea what the heck he was talking about. And Peaches and Cream lol. I just thought the music was really good. Nowadays kids know what Lil Wayne is talking about. I can remember watching music videos. I thought the women were scandalous. I never wanted to be them. Now girls want to imitate these women.

    I can’t even stomach Nicki Minaj. She is all over the place. I guess she reasons that it’s the parents’ job to protect their kids from stuff they shouldn’t hear.

  • THIS to the tenth power.

    On the other hand, in the next article, we are praising the fashionable “interpretation” of sheer clothing revealing our bras and undies.

    Ladies, we need to make up our minds – do we, or do we not need and want to be respected?