Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Using seduction to get attention...



Shy Biker first blogged about this photo a few days ago, which was the first I had heard about this controversy.  The full story is here, but in a nutshell, this young girl (Sidney Spies) submitted the first photo to the yearbook staff to be used as her senior picture.  Upon rejection of the picture, on the grounds that it was inappropriate for the yearbook, she was asked to submit another picture.  She then submitted the second photo shown above.

As far as I'm concerned, whether or not this is suitable for the high school yearbook is a no brainer.  Of course it ISN'T!  The bigger issue is why do many young girls  go directly for sexualization when vying for attention?  Sidney is a beautiful girl and I'm sure very intelligent as well.  According to the article, she's an aspiring model and wanted this picture in the yearbook to  make that point clear.  According to Sidney, " I honestly think (the picture) describes who I am......I'm and out going person and I really do think it's artistic."   

 Call me a prude, but no, this is not artistic.  This is nothing short of blatant sexuality.  And my question is, in the 21st century, after decades of women fighting to be seen as bright individuals who have so much more to offer society than their bodies, why are more and more young women (and their mothers) allowing themselves to be overtly sexualized?  Sidney is certainly not the first.  There's been Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus and very recently Dakota Fanning on the cover of Cosmopolitan AND in a rather suggestive Marc Jacobs perfume ad that was actually banned in the UK.  Playing the sex card seems to be the quick and easy way to fame.

When we play to quick visual titillation, we sell ourselves short.  We say to the world, "THIS is how I want to grab your attention!  See me as a sex object! "      But is that REALLY how we, as women, want to be noticed?   If it takes exposed skin and an arched back to grab attention, then what does it take to hold that attention?   Stimulating conversation?  A mutual exchange of ideas?  Sharp wit?  Prooooobably not!   It's going to take amping up more of the same visual seduction.  And aren't we so much more than that?  Don't we have so much more to bring to the planet than cleavage and a seductive over the shoulder gaze?  Of course we do!

My message to Sidney, all of us in the sisterhood is this:  We need careful using our sex appeal to gain attention for ourselves.  Because THAT speaks so loudly, nothing else of value that we have to say can be heard.  As Ralph Waldo Emmerson said,  "What you do speaks so loudly, I can't hear what you say."



  1. I totally agree with your assessment that the blatant sexuality is a bad message. But I disagree in that I think it has no place in a yearbook. My reason is that the non-artistic pic is just tacky. In a yearbook striving to be exceptional, this is not acceptable. I understand the mother is backing her and she wants to model. With those pics the only thing she'll be able to model is lingerie. Not so good at high school.

  2. Judy, I completely agree! By no brainer I meant that it ABSOLUTELY has no place in the yearbook.

  3. Judy, went back and reread my post and WOW! I meant to say, "It isn't" NOT "it IS!" Did a quick edit and I'm so glad you caught that!

  4. As a yearbook advisor for 11 years, I have had to face this very issue. I try to counsel with the girls when I tell them why I will not allow their picture to run. Sydney says she is outgoing, but the truth is that he self esteem is in the gutter and she is in need of attention. That is where I start when I speak with them...we discuss the right and wrong ways to get attention and the messages your clothing (or lack of) sends. There are too many young girls like this in high schools today! They quite simply to do value themselves.

  5. Excellent post, Serene. The sexualization of young women is starting younger all the time, it's a real social problem. I try to encourage my young nieces to excel at their schoolwork, sports and civic clubs -- and later for the glamor.

  6. I totally agree!!
    What I want to know is where are her PARENTS and why do they think THIS is acceptable???

  7. Thought provoking comments, Serene. I have mixed feelings about all of this. I was definitely raised to put brain first and not put my sexuality out there, so to speak. Now, I sometimes wonder if I took that conservatism TOO far, failing to enjoy my youthful appearance, while I had it! But if I really think about it, I think I did the right thing, and I would probably make the same choices again.

  8. thank you for this post. totally agree with you. The world has become a blur, what is suggestive and what is artistic has become so grey. I am black and white when it comes to style, no revealing clothes and suggestive sexy poses. uh-uh no-no.


  9. Brava, Serene. I think a part of the problem is marketing. I know that I was in a constant battle with my two youngest daughters to get them to tone it down a bit...I wasn't a prude, but they did not seem to understand what about them brought on rude attentions.

  10. Great post Serene. I think the culture as a whole has a huge part to play in the sexualization of young women. How to change this is such a complex issue. Awareness and talking about it openly is a good first step.

  11. Hi!

    yes, the over-sexualised girls ...
    I did a research on exactly this topic, spoke with young women and girls (12-16 years) and feminists who work with young adults.

    Of course they would tell you they wear low-cut t-shirts and hot pants because they feel so hot (in late october, 12°C)

    But there is an explanation, that makes sense- it is a simple answer: with all those sexy poses they receive attention and acknowledgment with the least effort.
    It would take much more effort to write a poem, paint a picture or similar creative works.

    You can get the recognition with less effort (simply wear a t-shirt that shows lots of cleavage and take a photo with the webcam) and post hhe photo on facebook. and the "likes" will follow.

    Facebook and youtube became their lives, they somehow even depend on approval, they need to be recognised and choose the easiest way, by confronting us, the viewers with what they present.

    I am from that other generation, the one that used to paint and write.

    The topic has been on my mind for a few years and last year I did a feature for the Austrian radio.

    Afterwards I met some colleagues at the broadcasting compandy who havd listened to the programme and they were as depressed as I was when I first met the girls and listened to what they had to say.

    Unfortunately the feature was broadcasted in German and there is no online-stream available.

    What puzzled me was the fact that I seek for approval, too! By posting photos, writing postings, I love to be noticed. Having worked on the subject of the girls showed me that blogging somehow connects me with my inner girl, the one that is still seeking for attention and wants to be recognised.

    I hope this makes sense!

    PS: visting via Not Dead Yet Style :-)

  12. PS: I recommend Natasha Walter's "Living Dolls" on this topic!
    Here I posted my initial thoughts on the subject:

    Having read Natasha Walter's book I can at least say it is not that bad in Austria. Compared to UK :-/

  13. Fabulous post, Serene. You make great points, and I like that you didn't poo-poo ALL use of sexiness. I think where so many women make the mistake, including Sidney, is not understanding that there is a TIME and a PLACE, and it ain't the yearbook, or the office. It's in a private situation with someone you fancy.

    Now it's one thing to be a sexy lady by nature. There are women like that and they are just so seductive even in a menswear-style suit. The key is knowing when it's too much, too overt. It's an unfortunate development in modern society that young women can't get that less is more, that after they secure the mostly male attention they are after, the ones giving the attention will eventually move on to the next thing. Because let's face it, once you've exposed it all, done it all, as you said, there is nothing left. And without anything else to keep them engaged, men will move on.

    There is a lot about sex, visuals, and male psychology most young women (and women in general) don't understand. They don't seem to realize that there's a lot of power in it, that we really do hold the keys. It's empowering and good to embrace your sexuality in a way that doesn't compromise your reputation or integrity. If only more women got that, if they could just understand the thrill of the hunt and all that, they'd fare a lot better.

    Anyway, I believe at the end of the day, the only way to prevent this kind of misrepresentation is to teach our girls the realities of life and to make them understand that sexuality is even more powerful when it's not served up on a platter for public consumption. We need to teach our girls morals, self-respect, and social graces. Or at least NOT permit them to racy photos of themselves. In high school.

  14. Paula & Vahni, Thanks for the thoughtful comments. As the mother of an 18 year old girl, I guess this story really hit home to me. It troubles me to see young girls and women being so overtly sexualized. I'm not suggesting wearing burkas in public, but I AM suggesting that attractiveness is much more subtle than blatant sexuality. Attractiveness takes in all aspects of a person...their appearance, style, sense of humor, personality, etc.. and forms a conclusion. The public sexuality is just shallow. Ultimately, it would have helped this girl if her mom had put her foot down and not allowed these pictures even to be taken.

  15. I found this story troubling.

    Did anyone watch the Today show interview with the mom? I'm not sure how I'd approach this with my daughter, if it ever came up...but hopefully I'd find a sensitive yet effective way to get the message to her she does not want to be remembered like this.


Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! ~Serene