Watch 500,000 girls aged between 5 – 10 years old asking “Am I pretty or ugly?”

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Francesca Morosi is a doctoral researcher based in UK and she is just about to complete her PhD research on media and young girls, a project which was fully funded by a 3-years scholarship at Nottingham Trent University.

Here is her fascinating PhD Project.

“My main curiosity in undertaking my PhD project was finding out whether there was some kind of relation between girls’ media habits and their embodiment of femininity: in particular I was curious to see how young girls are influenced by the media pressure to look beautiful and sexy and which contextual factors make girls more resilient or more vulnerable to this pressure.

Due to my own past personal struggle with eating disorders I was also interested in seeing whether there was a connection between young girls’ media consumption, their perception of advertising and their body image issues.

During my research I felt tremendously inspired watching young girls (age 8-11) talking about their media experiences and I became more and more intrigued by their different ways of perceiving and expressing femininity, observing and hearing their stories, their reality of living in a media world saturated by images and messages which constantly suggest girls to act in a certain way. From advertising to TV programs, from videogames to magazines, from songs’ lyrics to music videos, the emphasis is relentlessly on showing off a good-looking and sexy outer shell, when there is so much more in every girl to be nurtured and cherished.

The world of these girls is so different from the one I grown up myself: comparing to them at the same age I would be considered on a strict “media diet”, with roughly half hour cartoon watching (I was obsessed with the popular 1980’s Japanese made, Candy Candy) and perhaps some good entrainment show or movie to share with the whole family in the evening. There were not computers, not mobile phones, not videogames, nor any other electronic gadget to distract my senses at that time. Equally, my looks did not match at all the modern tween girl fashion: looking at an old picture of mine in 1979 I can see how today I would probably be easily mistaken for a boy due to very short hair and boyish attire (often wearing clothes passed to me from my older brother). Perhaps one of the few things my 9-years-old self would have in common with my participant was the practice of playing with some kind of Barbie’s dolls (although of course today Barbie seems to be totally discarded as an early years toy and most 9-11 years old would not even dream to entertain themselves with it! Some girls at this stage have thrown away all their dolls, while for some Monster High dolls represent the perfect substitution and I’ll write a specific post about this).

As the girls were coming from a similar economic and socio-cultural background, I started to wonder whether the difference in their ways to perceive and embody femininity could be observed and linked to factors in their life and specifically I ‘ve decided to focus on family relationships and values, peers, extra-curricular activities, school attainment and, of course, media consumption.
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