The retail store where I work recently received several photocopies of a letter placed over the front of several magazines in various displays throughout the store. These letters covered over such diverse titles as Shape, Women’s Health, Vanity Fair (yes, that one), and others. Oddly though, not Cosmo or Maxim, but maybe these were just missed (or they ran out of flyers).
The letter said this:
“PLEASE consider carefully how your placing these sexually alluring photographs affects the lives of those coming into your buisness. They plant seeds of curiousity in children and in spouses, altering families. Your leadership in our community should be used to better the lives of others, not steep them into a life of bondage with promiscuous and sexually explicit pictures. As a parent it deeply concerns me about the lack of responsibility for our future generations and their sexual purity. PLEASE DO NOT place these images in full view of my childern. You are encouraging the idea that a woman is a sex object. She is much more than that…she is VALUABLE!”
(bold, underlining, and misspellings are all the author’s.)
Seeing as how these photocopied letters were left in stealth and anonymously, neither I nor the retail store have any means to contact this parent regarding their concerns. Therefore, I have chosen to respond here:
To the anonymous parent who left photocopied notes over our retail store’s magazine section:
First off, let me say that I personally agree with everything you have written. I, too, am a parent who is very concerned with the pervasive culture of sexuality within our society today. May I add that I am a recovering addict and victim of this culture as well, having spent many years under the bondage of pornography and the very images you are rightly concerned about.
In other words…I get it. I truly do.
In that vein, I have a couple of thoughts for you:
First–planting “seeds of curiosity in children…” is not a bad thing. Yes, the slippery slope of material which you are addressing is questionable. But, prevalence of this material also provides many opportunities to engage your children in an age-appropriate dialog over what is being shown, why it is appropriate/inappropriate, and better alternatives to express the same intent this material is wishing to provide. If you do not think this material is appropriate, tell your children why—in a constructive, non-judgmental fashion. Or, simply tell them about what is being shown, eg: “That woman’s name is Jillian Michaels. She is a fitness expert, and she is showing that through exercise and a good diet, you can be an awesome athlete, like she is.”
Do you know what your children will probably say?
“Oh!” followed by, “…hey look, pool toys!”
Second, turning this material around in its placeholder, or putting photocopied condemnations over the covers, only serves to heighten a child’s curiosity. They think that now they’re missing out on something. That Mom’s hiding something. Something controversial. Something shocking. Something “adult”. As a result, of course they’re going to want to see it! Only now, you’ve added the additional stigma that it is “bad”, lurid, and taboo, which somebody probably told you it was, once upon a time.
Is it? Possibly.
But no more or no less than that same child can see during any given day at any given public beach, or in any afternoon at a local fitness center (or, occasionally, standing in line at your local retail store).
I also agree regarding the “lack of responsibility for our future generations, and their sexual purity.” However, your target of blame on exactly WHO is responsible is somewhat misplaced.
Would it help if our nationwide retail establishments did not carry such material? Undoubtedly. But, we live in ‘Murica, where capitalism reigns supreme and the almighty dollar is the language of choice. God Bless the U.S.A. If you want to protect the future generations, how about we start by raising up that generation of future consumers NOT to be driven by such provocative sexual imagery?
That all sounds well and good, right? But, do you know where all of that starts? In the home. Not in the retail store, not in the publishing business, not with the clothing manufacturers, et. al.
Do you want to discourage the idea that a woman is nothing more than a sex object? Do you want to teach your daughter or son that a woman is more valuable than that? Well then….
It starts (and ends) with YOU.
It starts with education.
It starts in conversation.
It starts with engagement, not by turning a cover around. Not by chastising a retail establishment via anonymity. All you’re accomplishing by doing this is promoting fear and cowardice within yourself, and curiosity and temptation within your children. The most effective thing that can be done, the bravest thing that can be done, is that which is going to have to be done by you.
Talk. To. Your. Kids.
Thank you for reading. Have a great day.