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A few thoughts on the UK government’s Bailey Review, largely regarding what it seems to leave out:
- though titled as focusing on the ‘commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood’, the report is frequently concerned with the gendering of children. In a number of different places, the report describes concern about the use of narrow gender stereotypes, e.g. in perfume advertising, music videos, clothing. However, the relationship between sexualisation and gendering is implied rather than explored in any detail. There’s some reference to ‘innate’ gender difference, but no indication what that difference might be; there’s also no discussion of when those (harmless?) innate differences might go on constitute gender stereotypes.
- the supposed sexualisation of childhood is described as presenting different problems for boys and girls. While gender stereotyping is presented as problematic for boys and girls, the emphasis is uneven. While the presumed problem for girls is that they might become prematurely sexualised as objects of desire, the concern for boys is that they will become consumers of those narrow forms of desirability. The evidence from parents described in discussion of music videos makes this particularly clear:
With music videos… I have a battle on my hands with raising my son when it comes to respecting women and not to see them as sexual objects. He seems obsessed with how they look as opposed to their talents or abilities and this causes me concern.
- there is, then, little to no acknowledgement of how such imagery might also influence boys’ identities beyond their relationship to women. There is no recognition of the ways in which images of the male body in men’s fitness magazines, for example, might objectify young men.
- the above problems may be related to the issues with the underlying (self-selecting) evidence basis for the report as a whole, and the way in which supporting research has been framed. While Dr Linda Papadopoulos’ ‘Sexualisation of young people review’ (produced as part of the government’s strategy to tackle violence against women and girls) does give some account of the ‘hypermasculinisation of boys’, there’s no mention of that narrative in the Bailey Review.
Updated to add: