© Guardian photo
Community Services and Seniors Minister Valerie Docherty
The public education campaign around online safety for girls now includes tips on dealing with hypersexualization.
The Atlantic ministers responsible for the Status of Women met in Charlottetown on Tuesday to discuss the issue before holding a press conference to announce that information has been added to the www.cybersafegirl.ca website.
“We need to get the word out to young girls and women . . . that you don’t have to be all of these specific things that the world seems to want us to be,’’ said Community Services and Seniors Minister Valerie Docherty, who’s portfolio includes Status of Women on P.E.I.
Hypersexualization is girls being treated or depicted as sexual objects. It also means sexuality is inappropriately imposed on girls through media, marketing or products directed at them that encourages them to act in adult sexual ways.
“Although hypersexualization can be an uncomfortable topic, it is important that we begin this conversation and provide a credible source for information,’’ said Docherty.
The website has information and tips for girls, families, educators and the community at-large to better understand the issue.
Girls are flooded by all types of hypersexual images of girls and women through various forms of the media. This includes television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, video games, the Internet, social media and advertising.
The message at Tuesday’s press conference was that these images, of airbrushed thin women, can affect how girls view themselves and others, and how society perceives them.
Docherty says it’s important to be aware of the messages and their potentially negative effects.
Marie-Claude Blais, minister responsible for women’s equality in New Brunswick, says the portrayal of young girls in media platforms is troubling.
“They are portrayed as sex objects to the point where the image becomes the norm and girls are lost behind the image they see,’’ Blais said. “Sexualized images of girls and women have become a consumer product benefiting many industries. They have become so common that we have become desensitized to them.’’
Joan Shea, minister responsible for the Status of Women in Newfoundland and Labrador, said three new facts sheets, in both English and French, now appear on the cybersafegirl.ca website.
“These fact sheets were developed from wide review and have been vetted through government departments, community stakeholders and women’s organizations,’’ Shea said.
Shea pointed to research numbers in 2009 that indicate 87 per cent of Canadians think advertising is too focused on young women being sexy and not enough on their abilities and intelligence.
“Research also linked images of airbrushed women to depression, low self-esteem and poor eating habits.’’
Joanne Bernard, minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, pointed at the tragic circumstances around Rehtaeh Parsons as an example of what social media is capable of.
Parsons attempted suicide at her home in Dartmouth, N.S., last year which led to a coma and the decision to take her off life support a few days later. Her death has been attributed to cyber bullying.
“Social media played a devastating role,’’ Bernard said.
Cybersafegirl.ca was launched in Atlantic Canada on Oct. 11, 2012 to commemorate the first International Day of the Girl about how girls can be safer online.