CC professor Tomi-Ann Roberts was recently invited to and attended the Women of the World summit in Lincoln Center New York City, on April 3-5. Professor Roberts served not only as a delegate to the entire summit but also as an active panelist in an event titled “What are we Teaching Our Daughters.” Professor Roberts, a feminist psychology professor, and two other panelists, actresses Rashida Jones and Winnifred Bonjeani-Alpart, discussed the sexualization of women in American culture and the psychological affect it has on young girls.
The event began with popular music videos and clips of women dancing scantily clad and sexual in nature. The clips included Miley Cyrus’ performance at the Video Music Awards and Lady Gaga’s music video for “Do What U Want.” Professor Roberts noticed in Cyrus’ performance that “pigtails, lollipops, teddy bears” are direct allusions to “childhood [and] girlhood” and that the performance not only was relatable to young girls, but also that it acquainted being a young woman with the notorious behavior of the performance, including “twerking.”
Professor Roberts and the other panelists discussed the way that young girls take such cultural images to heart and attempt to emulate them. “When you’re a seven-year-old girl and you’re watching closely, you being to self-sexualize,” Roberts explained. The panel agreed that these images are internalized, forcing young women and girls to “meet this sexy standard.”
Roberts also explained to the panel and audience that sexualization is different from healthy sexuality (which she is very in favor of) in the way that sexualization removes a person from their “person … and separates them from their body.” Further, it convinces young women that their “sexuality is a commoditized, consumable product.” All three panelists agreed that young girls and women were living in this culture of sexualization.
The psychological damage done by all of this sexualization, as Roberts explained, is that “it takes cognitive energy” to live up to the standard’s culture created for women. Roberts applied this notion to school-age girls explaining that when they are “pulling up a tank top or pulling down a skirt,” they have “fewer resources to use when thinking about a math test or throwing a ball.” A resounding agreement rose from the audience as Roberts explained to an imaginary school age girl, that despite her appearance, “You still have to do well on your math test and you still have to get into college.” Panelists agreed that young girls feel that they have to place more focus on using personal image to achieve success rather than intelligence or athleticism, a travesty to women everywhere.
The panel noted that this panel should not be mistaken as a “parenting segment, [but rather] a community segment.” The entire community should be upset and energized by the over-sexualization of women in America, the panelists explaine. “Boys and men should be pissed off too!” exclaimed Roberts. Roberts and Jones agreed tha, “culture is selling you a stack of bills” when it convinces girls that power is “twerking and sticking your tongue out.” Roberts and the panel presented a passionate and convincing testimony concerning the damage done to youth through culture’s representation of women at an incredible three-day event.
“I’m so honored to be a part of this remarkable summit” Roberts told coloradocollege.edu upon receiving her invitation. She also noted her excitement to “share the stage with her heroes for girl’s and women’s empowerment….” Other notable advocates for women’s rights attending the summit included Hillary Rodham Clinton, Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Katie Couric, Barbara Bush, and former president Jimmy Carter.