Sexualizing GirlsThank you for "Goodbye to Girlhood" [Feb. 20]. My daughter is 5 now, and there has been an explosion of interest in the past year with the whole "princess" thing. When my daughter was a baby, we deliberately steered away from pink clothes and overly sexualized outfits. (I was appalled by the number of short shorts and halter tops in the stores for toddlers, not to mention how difficult it was to find a simple modest tank-style bathing suit.) Her toys were a mix of "girl" and "boy" toys, and she seemed equally interested in Bob the Builder and Polly Pocket. This past year, however, it has been constant "princess fairy" this and "princess fairy" that. I feel like we are on a slippery slope, and I'm not sure where to draw the line.
I'd love to know what the experts recommend or what clever tricks other parents have come up with.
Even though I'm an 18-year-old at college, I definitely remember being a late elementary/middle school girl, when skirts suddenly became ultra-short and girls had to wrap their jackets around their legs when they sat down. It is easy for the media to say that kids are smart, they know right from wrong, blah, blah, blah. However, it is much harder to value your brain or personality when teen magazines and TV shows add to an already boy-crazy social attitude. Going away to college has been the best possible remedy for my self-esteem because I am separated from magazine headlines promising flat abs and TV shows in which 16-year-olds are played by 25-year-olds, toned by personal trainers.
As a nutritionist who has treated young girls with eating disorders for 20 years and a mother of two girls ages 8 and 12, I wholeheartedly agree that young girls are being objectified and exposed to inappropriate messages and images at earlier and earlier ages.
In the Washington area, many parents embrace this as a cultural norm, allowing their children to dress and behave inappropriately at younger ages. To combat these messages, we can talk all we want, but beware that we risk alienating our children if we set limits and prohibit them from attending parties and events with all of their friends. I often feel like I am fighting a losing battle when I attempt to talk to other parents about this issue -- they just don't get it!
Faye Berger Mitchell
A magazine that I read, Girls' Life, was mentioned in this article. The writer was saying how the magazine is more concerned with sex appeal and physical looks rather than what is on the inside. I completely and totally disagree with that statement. No, I have not read Teen Vogue or Cosmo Girl. But I know from friends and looking through magazines while waiting in long lines in stores that they are not all focused on sex. For example, in the Girls' Life February/March issue, there are a ton of articles about how to stop smoking and achieving your dreams by persevering and working hard. Also, these magazines advise girls about how to work out problems that they have with friends or boyfriends. So they are actually really good and helpful. They encourage you to trust yourself and not fall for drugs and other stuff.
I have an 11-year-old daughter who keeps telling me, "Mom, I don't want to grow up too fast. I like being a kid." I think the broad sexualization of pop culture and obsession with celebrities is extremely detrimental to young girls, and it is sad for our society as a whole. I thought the women's movement was supposed to empower women and girls to be strong, smart, independent and, most of all, not sex objects. But looking around at pop culture today, we are far worse off now than we were in the '60s. We're back to women standing around in nighties holding numbers on game shows. What a throwback.
Great article, but I'm flabbergasted to hear that tarting up girls is a new trend. When I started middle school in the mid-1970s, I quickly learned that my "babyish" conservative clothes wouldn't do. All the cool girls dressed like Jodie Foster in "Taxi Driver."
It was clear to me at age 11 that I'd have to do the same or eat lunch alone for the rest of my life.
The Barbie Body"She's a Doll, Meaning Her Shape Is of Inhuman Proportions" [Feb. 20] speculates that "a 5-foot-6 Barbie would boast an ample 38-inch bust, a waspish 18-inch waist and slender 33-inch hips."
This isn't accurate, and indeed Paul Mulshine, as a reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger in 1997, actually measured a Barbie. He then multiplied each dimension by six and came up with a woman who is 5-9 with measurements of 33-18-31. That's still skinny, but hardly the "inhuman" Barbie of lore.
What Did the Doctor Just Say?The lack of health literacy ["A Silent Epidemic," Feb. 20] is a crippling problem in all sectors of medicine, especially in emergency rooms across the country. Emergency-department physicians are dealing with health literacy issues that come in a variety of forms, including foreign-born patients who do not speak English and others who barely have functional language skills. This stress is multiplied when coupled with the hectic, quick-decision-making environment of the emergency department. There is little time to go over a consent, describe an emergency procedure or get an adequate history! Problems arise in the area of interpretation of results, outcomes and complications from procedures that are very difficult to rectify in the short time emergency-department physicians speak with patients.
This department is a microcosm of the national health-care system. Our tattered safety net clearly is suffering under many social weights, and the potential for errors is staggering.
Kim Bullock, MD
While very recently there has been improvement in provider-patient communication, I'm finding that providers just don't tell the patient what they are doing or why the are doing it. They ask questions like, "Do you know why you're having these blood tests today?" I like to answer no, to see what they say. More often than not, I don't get an answer! Just this week I was at the dentist, and it seemed that whether or not I should be using a WaterPik, as well as the condition of a tooth that is in trouble, was something akin to a state secret, to be whispered between the professionals and not shared with me. Recently my family physician's office called to schedule a referral appointment for me without telling me the details of why this referral was being made. During a nutrition class on using healthy cooking oils, the instructor could not answer my question regarding a particular type of oil. It goes on and on. I often feel that I am treated as if I am stupid during the health-care delivery process or as arrogant if I have any questions.
Ann Hewitt Worthington
Back in the Boat"Pulling Against Time" by David Brown [Feb. 13] was very interesting but too technical for me. Many rowers are very interested in the technical and physiological aspects of rowing that Brown discussed. Information about where readers can learn more about rowing would also be helpful, including Concept2.com and Row2k.com, which has links to many other rowing Web sites, rowing schools and local clubs. There is even a special club for breast cancer survivors, We Can Row.
I am 68, and I row every day of the year I can. I was on the Magothy River today for my five-mile row, and when I can't get on the water, I use my high-tech rowing machine, as do many other rowers. I had a quad bypass and I have terrible arteries, but rowing and diet keep me alive and keep my spirits in high gear.