Diane Abbott voiced concerns about the sexualisation of British teenagers and the “pornification” of popular culture at a Fabian’s Women’s Network event on January 22.
Abbott expressed her belief that young girls are feeling compelled by societal and commercial influences to “grow up too quickly.”
She said: “For so long, it’s been argued that overt, public displays of sexuality are an enlightened liberation. But I believe that for many, the pressure of conforming to hyper-sexualisation and its pitfalls is a prison.”
A section of the speech entitled, “There’s something wrong with society…” highlighted the difficulty involving the gap between parent and teachers and their children, in understanding the Internet and social media.
Abbott said: “There’s something wrong with a society as a whole when children say they have no-one to turn to for advice because their parents – outwitted by technology, and struggling to juggle work and home life – don’t really know what’s going on.”
The MP pointed out that parents’ and teachers’ ignorance of “sexting” and “slut shaming” should be dealt with.
Her speech comes as the sexualisation of children enters the political agenda.
On January 20, 2013, Claire Perry MP, Prime Minister David Cameron’s new special adviser on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, addressed parental concerns about children and about inappropriate material on the Internet.
She told the Daily Mail: “We have to feel more empowered to ask. Make sure your kids allow you to be friends with them on Facebook, ask them whether what they are doing is appropriate.”
But Abbott clarified prior to her speech, on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, that: “I don’t believe that parents should be snooping on their children.”
Abbott did give some suggestions for parents, suggesting that they create simple procedures for blocking adult material on computers and handheld devices.
Abbott described herself in the speech as a “card-carrying feminist,” and stressed that her viewpoints had nothing to do with her being “prudish” or with a belief that “sex is sordid and shameful.”