‘Tis the season to give thanks.  Here at Hardy Girls, we’re thankful for a lot, including the girls in our programs, the young women who make up our Girls Advisory Board, the coalition of girl-serving organizations working with us to make the world a safer, more fair place for girls to grow, and the absolutely fabulous sense of outrage and desire for justice that fuels the activism we do each day.

Speaking of outrage: You’ve probably seen the “I <3 Rich Boys” thongs for 7 year-olds, the super sexy and suggestively posed Dakota Fanning in Marc Jacobs “Oh Lola” ad campaigns, and the latest mess that is the Toddlers & Tiaras show.  No?  Trust us, it’s out there and it is part of an alarmingly fast-growing trend called the sexualization of girls.  This trend…we’re not so thankful for.

the SPARKteam

The SPARKteam at their October retreat in NYC

In 2007, the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report on the state of sexualization and objectification of women and girls in the media.  The task force found that virtually every form of media provided ample evidence of sexualization, including television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, sports media, video games, the Internet, and advertising. And, media sexualization of women and girls is linked to increased eating disorders, lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression, and lower test scores in virtually every subject.

Because of this trend in media, what it means to be a girl is more limited than ever, and the messages start earlier than ever.

But we’re not sitting back while marketers and media execs get rich off the objectification of girls, and neither are the teen girls and young women we work with.

When Hardy Girls first co-founded SPARK with the Women’s Media Center, ISIS, and the ASAP Initiative at Hunter College, our biggest concern was how to engage girls and young women in a movement to speak out and push back on media sexualization.  So, in true Hardy Girls-fashion, we worked to assemble a group of smart, energetic, diverse teen girls and young women to become the SPARKteam – the youth voice of the SPARK movement, to ensure SPARK was totally girl-powered.

Since the SPARKteam first came together a year ago, they’ve grown into an amazing coalition of sharp writers and cultural critics, taking on sexualized and insulting ad campaigns, highlighting and advocating for the good media out there, and doing it all with a wonderful sense of humor and that brilliant outrage.

On Friday, SPARK movement will make its television debut on ABC’s 20/20, talking about the sexualization of girls in media and what our coalition is doing about it.  We invite you to join the SPARKteam, Hardy Girls’ co-founder Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown, and many of our partner organizations on a live chat at http://www.sparksummit.com/spark2020/

We are sparking the explosion of a new, national, girl-fueled movement that’s challenging sexualization as the core issue for girls in the 21st century. Media conglomerates and marketers are not going to give up this lucrative trend voluntarily.  This is the time to be bold.  As SPARKteam blogger Melissa Campbell wrote, “No matter how scary this fight is, we’re all in it together…and we need to be.  No one else is going to look out for us or speak up for us; we need to do it ourselves.”

Indeed, this is a revolution and it’s powered by girls.