Why do young girls feel the need to over-
By Keziah Rutschow, Reporter
We often shame and accuse women of over-sexualizing themselves without considering why. As women, many feel the need to do this because of media, male validation, and insecurities. Our minds are very impressionable when growing up, so these hints of misogyny have been continuously planted in our minds. When girls are exposed to the sexualization of other adolescent girls and young adults from a very young age it teaches us that this is how to get validation and is continuously normalized. For example, we see in Hollywood when directors cast adults to play roles of teen girls(commonly in high school) who act in an over-sexual way, show themselves off, or degrade themself for a male gaze. We watch these shows and movies in our youth and begin to think this is who we are supposed to grow into for validation from others. When I was younger, society told me that boys like me when boys are mean to me. I grew up with this belief that if boys walked over to me, it was okay because it meant they wanted me. In reality, to be fair, boys were told this too, and that idea mindlessly inflated their egos from a young age, starting to excuse their behavior towards women. Society has adhered us to the male gaze so men can feed into our insecurities while benefiting from them. Our self-worth is often built for a man’s world and we become pushovers to men over time.
Once puberty hits, teen girls find it harder to find their voice, while boys discover sex, and commonly objectify women. Many of us girls yearn for reassurance while our insecurities take over; boys quickly learn to manipulate these insecure girls to get what they want. Sometimes when we are in relationships, this dynamic causes us to question whether or not we want to engage in sexual activities with boys because of genuine desire or just because of the fear of disappointment. We have this ideology that we need to be in a relationship and have sexual relationships, or we aren’t worthy. Girls who over-sexualize themselves for the male gaze often feel used or unloved because boys may only see girls for their bodies. So once a guy makes a bad reaction, girls can feel like they are not good enough and don’t fit into society’s unrealistic and wrong expectations. This validation affects girls, but everyone can get the feeling of being invalidated by men because of how society is tainted by the male gaze. Growing up in a society where putting mens’ wants has commonly been put over womens’, affects girls from a young age. As a society, we start building up men’s egos from a young age to a point where it feels like nothing is valid on both sides without a man’s approval. Men are not the only source of girls’ insecurities, but many adults enforce these ideals into young girls. While there are many compassionate and supportive adults, many ignorant adults go unchecked. More than 50 percent of public high schools still enforce strict dress codes and even a higher number for elementary schools. After many students shared their concerns on Vashon Island School Districts dress code policies. VISD decided to prioritize making changes to make the dress code more gender-neutral. Before these changes, many adults have told themselves and many other girls to cover up just because their bra strap was showing or they wore spaghetti straps. I remember my male teacher telling my friend to cover up when she wore an off-shoulder top in Highland Park Elementary School, but my innocence blocked it out, not understanding why he said this. You can’t change this attitude just by abolishing a rule or two. It takes years of education and undoing old habits to get to a place of support and understanding. It’s one thing dressing provocatively and clearly inappropriate. But girls can’t even show their shoulders or bra strap without being told to cover up. In these situations, there is an obvious problem with how adults sexualize girls for wearing normal everyday wear. These assumptions and standards shape many young girls into teenagers who feel invalidated, insecure, and lonely. Girls are held up to unrealistic standards, then people tend to shame and act surprised when girls try to reach these standards they see in the media and hear from adults and peers.
We collectively as a society need to stop shaming young girls seeking validation and start to gain perspective and understanding of why girls feel this way. When girls over-sexualize themselves, it’s not for attention but instead as a coping mechanism and reflex. Far too many young girls have grown up in a society that has brainwashed us to act a certain way. Some girls are just exploring and searching for new experiences and might not feel like they relate to this standard which is also expected. Teenage girls are not incapable of being enough for themselves and we need to continuously call out this normality among communities that make girls feel that way.