When ‘stripper poles’ and ’16 year old girls’ are mentioned in the same sentence, most will think to stories such as a recent one out of Rhode Island – where girls under 18 are ‘permitted’ to strip for cash under a loophole in the law (Projo). What generally doesn’t come to mind are 16 year old Disney-bred starlets grinding on a pole at the Teen Choice Awards.
Miley grinds on the pole during the 2009 Teen Choice Awards
(Photo courtesy of LA Times)
While the pole dancing itself does not concern me (as some of you may know I took a great cardio-pole fitness class last summer with some girlfriends before a severe back injury forced me to ‘retire’), the fact that a sixteen-year-old girl is doing it suggestively in public to an audience of teens and tweens does.
Where are the role models?
While some may object that tween celebrities such as Miley Cryus are, indeed, role models, it has long been the case that pop idols provide a certain benchmark for what young girls aspire to. I know that growing up I looked to the Spice Girls and Britney Spears as role models. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to find a girl my age that did not want to be a Spice Girl or Britney Spears. While these women may have now progressed to the same infamous level as Miley, the truth is that they were quite wholesome back in 1998. Britney was a schoolgirl singing about e-mailing her heart and the Spice Girls were the forefront of “girl power”. Now, girls have Miley on a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards and posing in a sultry, sexual manner in Vanity Fair as well as Vanessa Hudgens’ nude camera-phone photos making the rounds to look up to.
Do we blame society for changing our tastes from wholesome to a whole new level of raunch culture or do we blame Disney for trying to force these girls into a level of purity that is simply not attainable? Are these girls just trying to grow up, albeit not so gracefully, or are they rebelling against the Disney norm to the detriment of their followers? I would venture that they are trying to be popular in a sex-crazed society and may think the only way to do so is to follow in the footsteps of train-wreck, vagina-flashing celebrities such as the Britney Spears of 2007 and Lindsay Lohan, both former child stars.
I think there is also a sort of corporate responsibility breach on the part of Disney. With their stars appearing as role models to thousands of young girls, I believe they have a responsibility, perhaps through contract, to ensure that their stars maintain a Jonas-Brothers level of purity in the public eye, at least for as long as they are employed by the company. In this sense, even if the starlet cannot take it upon herself to act her age and refrain from posing suggestively and gyrating in public, she would be bound to do so by contract. Unless bound by contract, I’m not even sure I can blame the girls from trying to rebel against implicit constraints.
In the end, one thing is for certain. Rhode Island laws aside, the sexualization of these young stars by our society and themselves is leading to something that is a bra and panty set shy of being child pornography. If this is what little girls have to look up to, I am seriously concerned about what is to come. It’s time for Disney to reign in their stars if they plan to keep pushing them as role models for their family-geared brand.