Bailey Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood: Final report published

// 6 June 2011

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Bailey Review coverVia the Department for Education website:

A six-month independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, which reports today, calls on businesses and media to play their part in ending the drift towards an increasingly sexualised ‘wallpaper’ that surrounds children.

Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of Mothers’ Union, who led the independent review, has listened to parents’ concerns about the barriers they face in bringing up their children. They are particularly unhappy with the increasingly sexualised culture surrounding their children, which they feel they have no control over. They singled out sexually explicit music videos, outdoor adverts that contain sexualised images, and the amount of sexual content in family programmes on TV.

Reg Bailey’s recommendations are based on parents’ concerns and are intended to support them, make sure their views are taken more seriously by businesses and broadcasters, and help children understand the potential dangers they face. They will put control back in the hands of families.

The recommendations include:

  • Providing parents with one single website to make it easier to complain about any programme, advert, product or service.
  • Putting age restrictions on music videos to prevent children buying sexually explicit videos and guide broadcasters over when to show them.
  • Covering up sexualised images on the front pages of magazines and newspapers so they are not in easy sight of children.
  • Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet by giving every customer a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want adult content on their home internet, laptops or smart phones.
  • Retailers offering age-appropriate clothes for children – the retail industry should sign up to the British Retail Consortium’s new guidelines which checks and challenges the design, buying, display and marketing of clothes, products and services for children.
  • Restricting outdoor adverts containing sexualised imagery where large numbers of children are likely to see them, for example near schools, nurseries and playgrounds.
  • Giving greater weight to the views of parents in the regulation of pre-watershed TV, rather than viewers as a whole, about what is suitable for children to watch.
  • Banning the employment of children under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing, and improving parents’ awareness of advertising and marketing techniques aimed at children.

Download links to PDF versions of the Review document and Appendices 1-4 here

Comments From You

Dan Cash // Posted 6 June 2011 at 1:57 pm

From what I can gather this report looks like a bunch of knee-jerk hand-wringing (if such an action is possible) which serves nothing except to increase the amount of paranoia about the continued sexing up of our kids. Is it really increasing? and even if it is, what harm is it doing? I don’t know if you remember ads from the 70s and 80s but they were pretty sexist and sexy. Now they want to ban ‘explicit’ ads from near schools; don’t know about you but I have yet to see an explicit ad outside of a magazine, let alone on a billboard. The BBC illustrated the notion with a woman on a beach in a bikini. Context please!

All I can see this campaign doing, if it were to reach its logical conclusion, is to make children terrified of their sex and sexual feelings. It will cause the (apocryphal) reaction of John Ruskin to his wife’s pubic hair to become the common reaction of any teenager upon discovering sex after having been brought up in a society which paradoxically teaches abstinence as a form of sex education.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 6 June 2011 at 2:41 pm

This report is really quite interesting for what it doesn’t say as well as what it does. In basically, concludes that there is too much sexualisation of adult bodies in the media and children are unprotected from those images and the recommendations are basically all about limiting access to those images. At no point however, does the report discuss this as being about women’s bodies or female sexuality (even though that is what we are talking about!), and even though a lot of the concerns (pressure to have sex too soon, girls wanted to adapt their bodies, boys be sexually agressive and exploitative etc etc), are directly discussed by numerous feminist scholars none of the insights or gender analysis brought by feminism are explicitly acknowledged. Nor is there any reall critique of what is problematic about the ‘sexualisation of society’, other than ‘people are uncomfortable’ (which I never think is a good litmus test for social change!).

As the report begins, there are two responses to this problem: the first the conservative, children should be kept ignorant until adulthood, and the second, children should be given the education to navigate this world. And, the report claims that it is trying to get a balance between these (although a more critical reading might argue the recommendations seem to be trying to keep the children ignorant and educating the adults in how to do this!). And it strikes me that this reminds me very much of a similar tension within feminism around the line between sexual freedom and sexual exploitation. We are all trying to figure out how to cope with sexuality in our society.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 6 June 2011 at 2:47 pm

Way to go Tories with your neo-liberal policies. Put all the emphasis on individual ‘parents’ (sic) and no accountability whatsoever on the multi-national corporations which will continue to sexually exploit girl children and adult women.

What good is a website for ‘parents’ (sic) to access in order to register their complaints. We already have the Advertising Standards Agency which is operated by the advertising industry and has a clear agenda of maintaining a male myopic view of what is and is not ‘appropriate advertising.’ Same with Press Complaints Authority owned and administered by media – so both these organisations are not independent.

Still sounds good does it not? Tory government listening to parents (sic) and giving parents more power only problem is this does not result in real power to parents. But it does ensure real power is retained by those multi-national corporations who will not be subject to any legislation but instead will continue to flout these voluntary codes of practices.

Put control back in families hands?? You must be joking Reg or perhaps you think making such claims serves to hide which group has the real power and no it is not mothers, women or even girl children. But it is certainly men who are the ones ensuring the deliberate and continued sexualisation of GIRL CHILDREN remains unchallenged.

Note: Boys are not portrayed as dehumanised sexualised commodities because male clothing is not designed to show maximum male skin but instead is designed to hide the male body. I wonder why?

Dan // Posted 6 June 2011 at 3:56 pm

If you think this report, or the moral-panic surrounding it is just a little.. silly… (and ultimately anti-feminist, with it’s undercurrents of female sexuality = bad, problematic, male sexuality = nothing to worry about) then have a look at the Facebook page set up to Campaign against the hypocritical nonsense that was Channel four’s Stop Pimping Our Kids Campaign.!/pages/Stop-Stop-Pimping-Our-Kids/132254200182989

James E Lyon // Posted 6 June 2011 at 4:50 pm

Yes, like ‘Feminist Avatar’ said, “a more critical reading might argue the recommendations seem to be trying to keep the children ignorant and educating the adults in how to do this” . . From what I can tell (limited perspective tbh, just an enthusiastic member of the public), this seems to be such a strong response to the current climate in the UK and similar societies.

It does seem that denying people have/like sex is a bit like movies where no-one uses the toilet. (Not that I’m suggesting sex is like going to the toilet. Not for everyone, anyway.)

In short, a healthy openness and enjoyment of our many differences and variances is to be encouraged and finding how to do that in a responsible & intelligent way, would seem to be far healthier than trying to avoid doing it at all.

Frau BH (1848) // Posted 6 June 2011 at 8:03 pm

Having now read the whole report, I am extremely concerned. Lets ignore the fact that it is obviously a ruse to win votes whilst doing very little for now – that is actually the least of my concerns right now. However, the idea that parents of under 16s hold the moral high ground is an extremely dangerous road to go down, not only encouraging the maintenance of the patriarchal, hetronormative society we already have the misfortune to live in, but also forgetting that parents are simply humans who have reproduced. They are not without prejudice or belief – they do not live in a vacum of purity, untouched by their own experiences. If we take the issue of goods and services as an example, what is to stop a homophobic/transphobic parent from arguing that their local youth group should only employ hetrosexual youth workers? Yes, this goes against the Equality Act, but who wins in a conflict where parents are granted a higher status than those who either do not have children, or whose children have grown up?

The fact that the way women are treated by wider society is ignored, is the most astonishing thing of all. To not address the wider issues surrounding this problem shows an astonishing lack of awareness. How can the sexualisation of children be stopped and children truly learn how to treat each other with respect, as equals, if the very issues of equality and respect are not tackled? And if those issues are not addressed when children are young, then when?

You cannot simply move things out of reach/wallpaper over the cracks. These recommendations could even have the opposite effect of that intended. There needs to be proper changes within society for this issue to actually be dealt with. Attitudes need to be adjusted, women need to be afforded proper equality and all humans must be treated as people, NOT objects. This report addresses none of this – it simply provides headlines, diverting people from the very real problems which actually exist in this world.

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