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Music videos eroding self esteem


Miley Cyrus, blurred lines, self esteem, music videosTeenagers now see sexualisation as “part and parcel” of living.

According to academic Dionne Taylor, teenagers now see sexualisation as “part and parcel” of living, and the constant streaming of raunchy dances featuring scantily-clad women is affecting their life chances.

Taylor’s study of black women aged 15 to 29, living in Birmingham and London, found that this sexualisation on videos, which are played back-to-back on music channels, affected their confidence, education and ultimately their employment prospects.

Taylor, a criminology lecturer at Birmingham City University, told the Birmingham Mail recently that when she was growing up as a black teenager she felt similar pressures.

“As a teenager I was told ‘you’ve got a big bum’ – the focus was always on my body parts,” she said. “There was a feeling that you had to conform in some ways to these images to be worthwhile.”

While this study focussed on the black community, Taylor recognises that white and Asian girls also face similar pressures and she criticised the much publicised “twerking” by Miley Cyrus as “ignorant”.

“There was a part where [Cyrus] had black backing dancers and she smacked their bottoms. It was ignorant. The men we see in these videos are fully clothed and women are scantily clad.”

Her research, entitled ‘I Wanna Love‘, discovered a complex relationship between teenagers and black music culture. On the one hand they identified with the music, but on the other, did not feel the sexualisation represented them.

At a conference in April, British school teachers raised their concerns about an over-sexualised culture and the link between low self-esteem and body image, and debated how best to talk about the issues in schools.

Siobhan Freeguard, founder of Netmums, said: “There is a toxic combination of marketing, media and peer pressure which means children no longer want to be seen as children, even when as parents we know they still are.”

Meanwhile, singer Cyrus grabbed the global headlines, in the western world at least, with her “twerking” routine at a US awards ceremony. It caused a media meltdown because she had formerly played the clean-cut girl-next-door Hannah Montana and has, in the tradition of many before her, re-invented herself using sexual iconography.

This performance was quickly followed by the release of her “Wrecking ball” video – in which she appears naked – which was produced by Terry Richardson, who is famous for sexualising artists in his shoots.

Marcela Kunova, writing in The Huffington Post, said: “Miley is sending yet another important message to young women: the best way to get noticed is to embrace your sexual objectification. And it works.”

She’s right there. The video has broken the record, previously set by One Direction, for the most views in one day. Since then it has been viewed more than 46 million times.

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