Sexualised images stir parliamentary debate
Moves to cut down the sexualisation of girls in the media has won support from both sides of politics, but media commentators say the Federal Government should take a cautious approach to regulation.
Labor MP Amanda Rishworth wants a new code of conduct for the media industry and on Monday night introduced a private members bill into parliament.
Ms Rishworth says she hopes to moderate the proliferation of sexualisation in video clips, magazines, toys, clothes and the internet.
"... whether it is the Bratz dolls that are targeted to young girls, who are wearing fishnets, heavy makeup and boob tubes; or the music video clips that depict women gyrating around fully clothed male singers, that play alongside the Saturday morning cartoons," she said.
Ms Rishworth says one illustration of the sexualisation of young girls on the internet is through the My Minx website.
She says it is gaining popularity, in particular with pre-teen girls.
"This online persona, or Minx, is then required to be dressed and [you] can buy lingerie [and] designer clothes from outlets using fake pink pounds from an account which needs to be topped up with mobile phone credit," Ms Rishworth said.
"Having dressed their persona, users can then take their minx to clubs, earn money by working as a strippers, or increase their minx's happiness rating by getting plastic surgery."
The bill has also drawn support from the Opposition, including West Australian Liberal Luke Simkins and New South Wales Liberal MP Sussan Ley, who says rising forms of sexualisation is damaging children.
"What this is about is the corporate exploitation of children's sexuality," Ms Ley said.
"It is not the sexuality itself, but the sickening falsification and then the mass marketing of children as sexual beings that hurts us all."
Ms Rishworth says the media industry needs to take the lead and set a code of conduct.
"It is the industry that needs to really step up to the plate in this area and really look at setting a code of conduct and some standards for themselves, whether that be in the advertising area or in the shows shown on TV," she said.
Ms Rishworth says she hopes the bill will fare better than some of its predecessors.
"I've been overwhelmed by the amount of support that I've received for this motion and I will continue to raise this as an issue through the Parliament with industry and with parent groups," she said.
Dr Amy Slater from Flinders University's school of psychology suggests a different approach.
"I don't think we need to ban these types of programs, but I think we need to look at classification and what times they are," she said.
"I know people who will argue that it's parents roles to protect their children from these types of things, but I also think that it's quite difficult for parents to protect their children from these sorts of images."
But advertising and media commentator Jane Caro says people should not confuse technology with the things that have always gone on.
"The fear about little girls taking on avatars of adult personas with breasts and hips, etcetera, well what's Barbie? Barbie is actually an avatar," she said.
Ms Caro says politicians and parents need to have a sense of proportion about the issue.
"Trying to hold girls back from the natural desire to put on mum's lipstick, read big sister's magazines, play with Barbie - who after all looks like a grown woman - I can't see how that's going to have any more detrimental effect than [it did] on me and my generation back in the '50s and '60s."
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