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Book Review: Getting Real Edited by Melinda Tankard Reist

Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls edited by Melinda Tankard Reist is a collection of essays/charges against the world-wide phenomena of the pornification of childhood thru advertising, marketing and pop culture.

This was a great book to read as the authors are Australian and sometimes I wonder how much of our collective reaction to porn and adult images going mainstream is a reflection of our country's Puritanical leanings. For the contributors to Getting Real, the problem is embedded in not just faux-feminism, but a twisting of feminism by marketers and others to make women believe that if they are "in charge" of their sexuality, then there isn't anything wrong with stripping, making out with other women to turn on men and so forth.


About half way thru the book I came across a few statements that made me think, "Wait a minute...This isn't a feminist book!" So I did some investigating of Reist and found that she is part of a women's think tank. Hmmm...Upon further digging, I came to the conclusion that the Women's Forum Australia seems to be what one might get if NOW and the Independent Women's Fourm had a lefty baby. If anyone has more info on them, I'd love for you to leave it in the comments. There's just a tinge of anti-sex sentiment in some essays.

While there are some essays that wade into slut-shaming such as calling out strippers and sex workers, I think on the whole it's a pretty good book. It's definitely a quick read. The essays are well cited, but avoid a lot of academic jargon. There's an eye-opening essay on street billboards and how it is illegal for people to have porn at the workplace, but we have to walk thru porn infested streets on a daily basis.

There was also one paragraph that turned the issue back onto me. The idea that many of us are Flickr'ing and YouTube'ing our children's lives that we are teaching them to perform their lives on camera. What's to stop them...are we teaching them the difference between that and performing sexually on camera? 

The best part of the book was a new term: corporate paedophilia. "Sexualising products being sold specifically for children, and children themselves being presented in images or directed to act in advertisements in ways modelled on adult sexual behaviour. (pg 42)" This goes far beyond the dress-up of our youth to performance on a daily basis. "The task for today's teenagers is to win back their freedom from the adults who run the advertising agencies and girls magazines and the 'sex-positive' media academics who insist that 'bad girls' are powerful girls. (page 93)"

There is also a discussion about the medicalization of girls' bodies. From HPV vaccines to plastic surgery, it's all there to ponder. As I said, the book is feminist, but with a dash of moderate/conservative feminism thrown in. But this topic does bring together some usually opposing forces. Thus it's always a good discussion.

Grab a copy for yourself at an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book after the publishers contacted me. And yes, when I cite passages, I kept the spelling the same, thus all the u's.

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