Girls deserve better

The popular TLC reality TV series “Toddlers and Tiaras,” a TV show that has over-sexualized girls at younger and younger ages since its premiere in 2009, now has a spin-off series: “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” The program is all about the adventures of pageant contestant Honey Boo Boo (Georgia resident Alana Thompson) and her family as they do whatever it takes to grab the spotlight and as many beauty crowns as possible.  

It is a sad commentary on our culture and an example of why the Parents Television Council (PTC) is launching a new initiative that hopefully will counteract the messages of degrading shows that give the impression that girls are nothing more than objects to be put on display. 

So back away from the TV screen and go to a screen of another kind — your computer. Check out the website of 4 Every Girl, www.4everygirl.com. The PTC is hoping to combat the sexualization of girls by “advocating for a media environment where young girls are honored, valued, and respected” through healthy images.  

In a statement issued in mid-October, Parents Television Council President Tim Winters said enough is enough.  

The nonpartisan educational organization has done its fair share of research tracking the media trends and is frankly sick and tired of what is being plastered on the airwaves. So, it decided it was time to take matters into its own hands and see if it could offer some healthier alternatives. 

“In recent years, PTC research has documented several troubling trends on prime-time television. Underage girls are more likely to be sexualized than adults. There is a dramatic rise in the number of teenaged girls who are depicted as victims of violence — especially sexual violence. ... We hope the 4 Every Girl campaign leads to a sharp and swift reversal in these troubling findings.” 

In addition to the website, the Parents Television Council has also developed public service announcements to help raise public awareness and concern over the issue. 

“According to the American Psychological Association, the three most common mental health problems for girls — eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem — are linked to the sexualization of girls and women in media.  We hope ‘4 Every Girl’ will bring increased awareness and concern, and a new light to the work of other organizations in the fight for healthier media images of young girls,” Winters added. 

The public service announcement is well done and, with the effective combination of still photos and music from Christian pop star Britt Nicole, packs a powerful punch that will get even the most apathetic among us to take notice of a growing problem.  

The website is a valuable resource for parents, catechists, religious education leaders and anyone looking for creative ways to make a difference in the media climate. You can sign a petition endorsing the new initiative. The website also encourages visitors to share what inspires them by promoting media messages that value a girl’s true dignity rather than just her makeup or dress size. Now there’s a concept! 

No doubt it’s an uphill battle, but Parents Television Council should be commended for going against the grain.  

Given the impact the media have on all of us, especially impressionable young girls, who, Lord help us, might be looking at Honey Boo Boo as some sort of a role model, efforts like this are so badly needed and can at least be an encouragement for families who feel like they are alone in the struggle to protect their daughters’ innocence. 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.