So much skin, so little coverage; at what cost?

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So much skin, so little coverage; at what cost?

I think it's extremely challenging for parents these days to find clothing that's appropriate for girls, even little girls. And I know that when I was raising my daughter, even then, it was difficult to find clothing that didn't make her look like she was a stripper. And now, it's much, much more difficult. So what is a parent to do? Because you don't want your child to be an outcast, you don't want your child to feel alienated and not part of the group. But on the other hand, it really does put your daughter at real risk if she dresses in this way and it puts her at risk psychologically because she's learning all kinds of things about herself and about objectifying herself, and it also puts her at risk in the real world. So I think that it's important to at least talk to our daughters about this. I know what I said to my daughter was that in an ideal world, you can dress any way you want, you know, in a range of different ways and there would be no problem. But in this world, this culture, right now, the way you're dressed is sending a message that puts you at risk and makes you less safe. And that is something that - it wouldn't be your fault if something were to happen at all, but it is sending out a message that I think is risky for you. And I also talked with her about the way in which focusing so much on one's appearance and presenting oneself so much in a very stereotypical sexy way really does alter one's self image, makes it more likely that you're going to think of yourself as an object and that does a lot of harm. So I think it's possible to have these conversations with our girls. The other thing that's really important is to find allies, to get other mothers and get together and sort of maybe agree on some standards, on some things that you won't do, so at least your child won't be an outcast, you know, there'll be other children that have the same - parents with the same kinds of values and attitudes.

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Jean Kilbourne, EdD

Author & Social Theorist

Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Her films, lectures, and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. She was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses...

She is the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. The prize-winning films based on her lectures include Killing Us Softly, Spin the Bottle, and Slim Hopes. She is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, including “The Today Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She has served as an advisor to the Surgeon General and has testified for the U.S. Congress. She holds an honorary position as Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture —advertising. We owe her a great debt.” A member of the Italian Parliament said, “Hearing Jean Kilbourne is a profound experience. Audiences leave her feeling that they have heard much more than another lecture, for she teaches them to see themselves and their world differently.”

She has received many awards, including the Lecturer of the Year award from the National Association for Campus Activities. A more unusual tribute was paid when an all-female rock group in Canada named itself Kilbourne in her honor.

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