Boys and Girls – The Sexualization of Language

Open a new browser window and do an image search for boys. Here’s what I got.

All but two images in the first four rows are, in fact, boys (there are two adult male actors in row three).

Now do the same thing for the word “girls.”

It’s breasts and butts and lace and sexualized poses. Around image 40 or 50 you start to get the occasional actual child (from girl clothing ads), but as far as I scroll down, it continues to be mostly sexualized images of adult women.

Now there are plenty of other issues here in terms of race and body type and so forth, but right now I just to focus on the gender and age issue. 

I spend a lot of time writing and being concerned by the constant sexualization of girls throughout their whole lives, in fact even before they are born. I call it cradle-to-grave sexism.  Every time someone makes a “better get a shotgun” to an expectant father of a girl, it reinforces the idea that the whole job of the father is to control his daughter’s sexuality. Every flirty doll intended for children. Every shirt about dating or getting money from daddy or otherwise linking sexist perceptions of adult behavior to children. Every “sexy” Halloween costume for girls. It’s endless.

here’s the word “girls” itself. There are no girls. There’s no room for a girl to just be a child.

And here we see that even the word “girl” has been locked within this sexualized framework. Even the word!

And unlike when there’s some sexist product we can fight or boycott or protest, I have no idea what to do here. This is not Google’s fault, but rather the aggregation of use and links and imagery flung up on the page. I have no solutions today.

[Note: This post was inspired by a friend, J., who was talking about gender pronouns with her daughters, and thought Google might help. Google instead showed this].

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