Recently, while scrolling down my Facebook news feed in a moment of procrastination, a video popped up which just made my heart shrivel up like a raisin. Titled ‘Hot or Not?’ it features two fourteen-year-olds whom I vaguely know, recording themselves listing every other person in their year and giving a verdict on the looks of each girl or boy. These girls still look like children to me – I remember one when she was tiny – and their coolly issued proclamations seem so incongruous. Apparently a trend among younger teenagers (which had obviously passed my aged self by), I can’t even begin to describe how sad these videos are in reality.
This is proof of the pressure on girls to be perfect that feminists have been concerned about for decades and which now appears to be reaching a critical level. Although boys are obviously also mentioned in the video, I refer you to a previous article which explains some of the differences between boys’ and girls’ experiences regarding their own image. Whereas the boys in question are often quickly dismissed as ‘hot’ ‘fine’ or ‘alright’ it is the other girls that the video-makers really want to focus on. Their choice of words to describe their peers is troubling, as classmates, some of whom are barely 13, are either rewarded with descriptions like ‘super sexy and hot’ or slammed with ‘not anything special, sorry’.
You can just imagine the other girls watching the video, waiting nervously to hear the all-important judgement, and the effect it will have on their burgeoning self-esteem. Personally I find this an alien world – at 13, I had hardly any interest in what I or anyone else looked like unless they were Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean. I thought he looked pretty great. Nowadays, however, girls are more aware than ever of the value society places on achieving the ideal look. The ‘gendering’ of toys, the sexualisation of girls’ clothing, the examples offered to children both by the media and by the adults around them, all of these factors combine to produce girls who have very little idea of their own value beyond their outward appearance. (If you’re interested in the ever-increasing pressure placed on girls by the media, I really recommend the film Miss Representation)
The myriad effects of such a sexualised society on young women are still being discovered, but what it certainly does not do is encourage them to view themselves as multifaceted, intelligent individuals. This piece by Lisa Bloom explains perfectly how we should be treating our little girls:
“Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. Ask her what she’s reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You’re just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain.”
The only way to conquer the problem of ‘Hot or Not?’ is to encourage young girls to value themselves as entire, intelligent entities and not just in terms of their looks. Young people are the most precious resource on the planet and if half of them end up basing their self-worth purely on what they see in a mirror or the numbers on a scale, then the future doesn’t look great for the next generation.