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Hi, guys, I'm Katie Lowes, actress, mom and host of the parenting podcast Katie's Karyn, a show that helps women navigate the colossal changes that come with motherhood.
You'll hear from resilient mammas knowledgeable experts and me asking a whole lot of questions. It's real talk that offers real perspective on what it's really like to be a parent. New episodes publish every other Thursday. Listen to Katie's crib on the radio app or on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Welcome to the Criminally, a podcast. I'm Holly Fry. And I'm Maria Trimark. And together we're exploring the intersection of history. A true crime. Our first season of the show is all about lady poisoners. Sometimes women take power for themselves and sometimes they do it through murder. But how many were just misunderstood? Join us on criminality as we untangle their stories on the radio app Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Welcome to go ask Ali, a production of Sean Land Audio in partnership with I Heart Radio. Hi, I'm Ali Wentworth and welcome to my new podcast.
Go ask Ali where I'll be dissecting the shit show that is modern life. You know, I've always been curious about how it all works in the chaos of our life, relationships, families, kids, sex, death, all the basic ingredients that make up our human condition. But nothing prepared me for a pandemic.
I'm married to George Stephanopoulos and I have two teenage daughters. I'm acting and writing. And one day in March, I got covid-19 and my whole life came screeching to a halt. And as I lay in bed taking Tylenol and finishing Netflix, I thought to myself, How am I going to raise a teenager in a pandemic? How is any of us going to do that? My two daughters, their whole life was upside down. They weren't seeing their friends.
They weren't going to school. There were watching all kinds of bizarre TV shows like my one thousand pound life. So I decided that would be the topic of my podcast this season, How to Grow a Teenager in a Pandemic and so on.
I'm going to go ask some other people, some doctors, experts, friends. I'm even going to try to pull my teenage daughter into the hot seat and have her answer some of these questions. So on today's episode, I'm talking about the sexualization of girls in social media. Social media has amplified age-Old pressures for teenage girls to conform to certain sexualized narratives. And those hyper sexualized models of what it means to be feminine can affect the mental, emotional and physical health of our girls.
I'm asking, how do we help them? How do we monitor them? How do we keep them from ending up on the dark web? And who better to talk to than one of my friends, Brooke Shields? She is an American model and actress. She has so many credits that we don't have enough time to list them all. But what I will say is that at age 12, she was starring in a movie by Louis Malle called Pretty Baby, where she played a child prostitute.
She is somebody who was sexualized as a young girl and who now has two teenage daughters who are just talking their way through the pandemic. Hello, Brooke Shields.
Hello, Ali Wentworth. So I'm, as you know, fascinated by what is happening to our teenage girls on social media. And we share a lot of things, you and I, not only our exterior beauty, but also the fact that we have teenage girls and we are constantly scratching our heads about how to deal with this issue. The reason that you are so I find particularly fascinating to talk to about this was as a young girl, you lived in a very public sexualized way, particularly, you know, because of the modeling, but also because of the Louis Malle movie.
And my first question is to you is, can you imagine if you were on social media when you were one through 15?
I could not imagine it in my wildest dreams. Even my mom kept all of the press away from me. So anything that was written, I never saw anything. So I didn't even see the negativity. And I think she did that on purpose because they tried to eviscerate all of us after that movie.
Well, you know, it's interesting because in our world, the sexualization of females is rewarded, whether it's magazines, television, the media. And so here are teenage girls have a platform and a place where they can self sexualized themselves as much as they can. You know, you when you were young, your mother controlled sort of your brand, but now they kind of they get to create it themselves. I'm just curious, what are your kind of parental guidelines when it comes to that?
Do you have set rules like you're not allowed to do bikini shots or nudity or only their mother is allowed to do?
Yes, no, I mean, we do we have access to all of their social media. We have the power to turn it off for any reason. I can't follow her.
I have to follow her through another account just for security reasons. Then one of them is public and one isn't.
Why? Why is one of them allowed to be public? I'm just curious.
Well, because one of them is 16 and the other is 14. And at 16 we said, all right, as long as we can still have control of it and as long as you don't post anything inappropriate, we will let you. Because the public aspect of hers is now that she's in high school, her friend group has really opened up. So there are from all these different schools and everything like that, but we have it monitored all the time.
I trust her view. I trust her fear. We have put the fear of God into them with regards to whatever you post doesn't go away. The words you choose have to be chosen very carefully. Colleges, look at your Instagram colleges, review all of that. And so they I think they're starting to get it a little bit. So most parents should be monitoring their children's social media. They don't. But, you know, we all try to as best we can.
We all hope that they don't go behind our backs and create other accounts. There are two things that I've noticed, particularly with my children, which is likes have become so, so important to get a like is complete validation of who you are as a person. And there's been so much research globally that show that, of course, young girls need physical validation because they all they see themselves is ugly or fat. And there's a very specific narrative about what we're all supposed to look like that they abide by.
But the like seem to initiate the desire to be accepted. And what happens is they start almost like an addiction to the machines at Vegas. They need the likes to kind of fill that hole. And I found that when they are private, they know that the likes can only go so far because it is within their friend group or people they know. When you open up to the public, it becomes. Kind of a mad rush to get as many likes as you like, because that sort of informs how exciting, sexy, important you are, the likes and the validation.
It is such an addiction. And what's weird about the contradiction or the being a hypocrite in my world is that I have to have the most followers that I can now followers and likes. I don't look at the lights as much as I do the followers, but now this whole world has turned into if they want you to advertise X product, they look at how many followers you have. Yeah. So if I happen to be a person that just wants to not really live that way and take pictures of what I eat and everything, well then they're not going to want me because I don't have a million or more followers.
And try telling that to your kids. And I have to say, this is for my business. This is I'm having somebody else help me monitor it. So I'm not subjected to the comments. I don't read the comments. And Roland actually said to me, she posted something with me and I asked her how it was being received. And she said, don't read the comments, Mom. And I thought that was really interesting because they were clearly not nice and she was kind of trying to protect me.
So it does tell me that somewhere in there there's a barometer. Right.
What's weird for me is I know that I'm beautiful and sexy, that I'm perfect.
So come on, don't need that validation. No, no. But there are there are always going to be people that just want to rip me apart. And then I started seeing some of the comments and they were, you know, not nice. And and I thought, my God, this is just a slight taste of what these kids are doing and what they're feeling. But it's 24/7.
And it's not only girls criticizing each other, but it's boys. And so they're giving these boys all the power to kind of tell them if they have any wrong with them. Yeah, and they do. They pointed out girls being in this platform and in this position. We're pushing misogyny and sexism at a much earlier age. You know, I feel like are we doing the right things as mothers to shield them from this till they're older, till their frontal lobe has developed and they can understand this the way we do.
I mean, I had a very strange, strange relationship with sexuality as a child because this is only a half hour podcast, Brooke, but it's hard for me to tell them I can't talk to my kids about this.
Well, this is why you're an interesting guest, because you were so sexualized as a young girl and now you have teenage girls. How do you set the rules without them saying you were being played a child prostitute? I mean, how do they not push it back in your face? I mean, it's like Toddlers and Tiaras saying, I don't want to see you in a pageant.
I mean, I'm dealing with this right now with one of my daughters. There is an agency that wants her to start modeling. And I kept saying I need to understand the why it's a very different industry than it is now. And this man said to me, said, look, she's too young, she's 14, and we wait till 16 signing them and taking care of them. And the odd thing for me was I was doing I was nine.
I was eight, seven. You know, I was doing these pictures since forever, and yet I do pretty baby. Then all of a sudden I become the most famous virgin in the world. So I grew up with absolutely the most conflicting, paradoxical way of living. And I just shut down.
But wasn't wasn't the fact that your virginity was publicized as a way to counteract the part that made you so sexualized and your mother probably got a lot of trouble for when you were younger because of pretty baby?
I mean, she got in trouble for everything and rightfully so. She was sort of a train wreck that I was always more interested in keeping her happy and keeping her alive. I don't know if she did that intentionally. The truth was I was very sequestered. I was very much in a bubble. I didn't leave my mother's site for forever, you know, and but most of these girls, most of these girls, you know, they don't leave their room.
To my other point, this being a pandemic, I think teenagers are so bored they want to be provocative. And that, to me takes you to a very dark and scary place, which is what I always live in Terre.
And I make sure that I talk to them about that dark and scary place, because even if they look like they're not listening or they roll their eyes, they hear me. And as long as I can keep a little fear in them and I mean that, like, I want them to be afraid, I read them the news. I make them watch certain documentaries about, you know, abductions and about relationships that seem like they were really with a nice guy.
And then they're tragic and. Their response, because they feel like they're invincible, especially at this age, is it's going to happen to my mom. And that's such an ignorant way of looking at things. And I just keep reiterating it. I said it could. This does not discriminate. It doesn't matter where you live, what you look like, what you are. There's nothing that makes you more prey than anybody else. And so you are not exempt from it and and the predators can find you.
It's very easy to find you on social media, MAYMAN, but you can also there's so many ways that you can find people. You just track them. I mean, that's why I can't personally follow my kids, because you can then track them to me easily. I think that we're talking about a lot of things. I think I've seen many kids post pictures that are inappropriate and they're 14. They're 14 years old, 13 years old. And my kind of question about that is it's not my kid.
What is our obligation to each other to sort of say, hey, this came to my attention?
Well, I can tell you I can tell you right now, I had an experience with this. I have a friend and her daughter starting at age 12, was posting, in my opinion, inappropriate pictures. They were incredibly sexual. They were tiny bikini shots and pouty face and finger in the mouth and the come hither look and the whole thing. And I got sort of nervous because my girls followed her and my girls looked up to her and I thought, this is a potential role model for my children.
And I got to stop this. And I talked to the parents a few times and I said, you cannot have your child using this as her only currency. And she has a public account, which is very dangerous. I mean, it's like a predator smorgasbord. You got to shut it down. And they weren't interested. They didn't agree with me because they were and are very proud of what their daughter looks like. And they liked that she was out there and they liked that she got a lot of likes because the connection led directly to them.
And I finally had to kind of pull back from the friendship and have my kids on follow that girl, because I was so terrified of the ramifications. And I started educating my children in a way where I would sit them in front of Instagram and say, look at this picture. This is a girl to me that has a hole to fill. And she's choosing to fill it by sexualizing herself and having unknown boys and men out in the world. Tell her she's OK.
You are OK. You don't need to do that. You know, so we had a million conversations about that to the point where, I mean, my daughters won't even put, like, a funny bathing suit shot going down a water slide because I've because I've terrified them and they'll be spinsters living in a castle when they're 80.
I agree with you. But another thing which is really interesting to me is I was so ashamed of everything growing up. I was ashamed of the way I looked. I didn't have big boobs. I, I always felt my butt was big. And so there was all these different little weird messages that I was getting that were so contradictory that I just I wanted to hide. And even if I were to play a role, it wasn't liberating to me.
So there is a part of me that looks at the girls. They're proud of their bodies. And I don't want them to lose that. Like, I don't want them to get shame, have shame on their bodies and they don't want them to be so puritanical. But I want there to be enough fear. And and I was trying to to say to them, if they're so worried about likes and they're so worried about being regarded and how they they come across to people, then why wouldn't they want to know that they missed the image that they're putting out there is not respectful.
Yeah. We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back. Hi, guys, I'm Katie Lowes, actress, mom and host of the parenting podcast Katie's Crib, a show that helps women navigate the big shifts which motherhood can bring. This season. You'll hear from resilient mamas like actress Gabrielle Union, thought leaders like author of the New York Times best seller Untamed and Doyle, and experts like prenatal and postpartum clinical psychologist Dr. Alyssa Berlind. We get candid about our experiences and share resources for everything parenting, endometriosis and surrogacy, divorce and blended families emotionally preparing for postpartum.
Katie's crib is covering it all for a dose of comfort and community with those who understand the struggles and the joys of raising tiny humans. Subscribe now for brand new episodes. Every other Thursday, listen to Katie's crib on the I Heart radio app or an Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome back with more go ask Ali. The problem is with this social media, what's happening is mental health is becoming a huge problem. You know, there's body image stuff, there's eating disorders, depression, anxiety, suicide.
You know, there is a story I heard recently which was about a young girl and she was, you know, not very popular and she wanted to get popular. And the popular girls were sexy and sexual and her social media had only been like puppies and cupcakes. And so she went to a party and decided to perform oral sex on a lacrosse player because he was popular. And she thought, this is my way in. And one of the teammates filmed it, put it on social media and she was slut shamed and she killed herself.
Now, this is a particularly vulnerable girl. But, you know, we're all dancing in this kind of minefield of mental health and of how our daughters are conducting themselves and viewing themselves. So for me, I think it's a great thing to educate your girls.
And also it's not just them. Like you brought up a really good point. Someone else filmed it. You could put something on and it can be screenshot it and it can be disseminated. So it's not like, oh, you're in control of it, you're not really in control of anything.
And you go to the beach and they're not having fun at the beach. They're just taking pictures. Selfies are pictures of each other or and I'm thinking when where is your child, you know, well, when do you swim and play in the sand? And I don't even make sand castles like you did when you were three, but just the joy of being outside or that's the addiction in general.
And so when you look at social media when they're young and now they're getting younger and younger and younger, you know, they're given these platanos. You know, it is sort of an out of focus duckling. And then as soon as they're sort of preteens, it's suddenly the cameras turn and it's on them. You know, it's funny faces and stuff. And then they get more kind of aware and the faces pull back and suddenly it's their bodies and they become more sexual and it's less about goofy faces.
Now it's about presenting yourself to the male population. It's like you could do like one of those flip books of seeing the ages and how they deal with social media. It's also a very curated platform. So even if you were a girl and you maybe had issues with your body or your face, you can now face Tunheim. You can make your breasts bigger, you can make your acne go away. You can sort of morph into your idealistic version of yourself.
So that's another thing that's being presented out there, which to me feeds the anxiety, depression and eating disorders, because you know that you're putting something out there that's false.
And every time you look in the mirror, you are reminded that you don't look like that image. You are perpetuating the lowest self-esteem that you could possibly have. I mean, it's just it's so devastating.
And then you have teenage girls who want to look like the image that face tune has created. So they go get preemptive Botox and fillers at 14, 15 years old, again before the frontal lobe has developed before you're capable of making good decisions. You are already cutting and pasting an image of yourself that hasn't even formed yet before they even really know who they are.
They're painting a picture that's not based on them, their own self. And they're all it's homogenising. It's like everybody is starting to look alike. It's sort of creating this avatar fembot, sort of fembot, this world. And you're putting yourself in a position to inevitably have to fail because you can't look like this Barbie doll or this this image.
But it's younger and younger.
You know, my seventeen year old daughter shouldn't be worried about how thin her waist is, but they see this kind of sexy hourglass figure, you know, and of course, the physicality is always changing now. Big butts are really in, you know. So I know now I need a big but it's constant. And the reason I keep hammering social media is when we grow up, you know, we saw them in monthly magazines, but our kids are barraged by them all day long.
These images, hundreds of them, be this, be this, be this, be this, be the biggest. They're the guinea pigs. You know, they're the first generation to grow up with social media. And I just worry I worry about the long term effects.
You know, I've I've sat with my daughter and she'll take a picture and she'll show me what can be done to it. And, well, I'd lie if I told you that the one that they doctor up doesn't look better than the real one. Right. But what's the point of that? Especially so everybody knows their doctor. It's like when a woman walks into a room and she's had a horrible facelift, you think, you know, you're not fooling us.
We know that you've had a facelift. What else? What are we proving? What are we saying exactly? What's the message? I mean, it's an unhealthy one. You know, it's let's create this fake version of ourselves because in that one instance, we get to live the fantasy of looking like that. But then what does that do when the phone goes off and when you wake up and you are just in your own beautiful, different, unique, fabulous body?
But the way we describe each other versus the way we describe ourselves is amazing. And the trainer that I work with said he sees hundreds.
Well, he used to see hundreds of people and a guy can be overweight and whatever, but he'll go to the mirror and he'll just yeah, they'll just they'll find that his muscles will be like, yeah.
And the girls could be fat and gorgeous and rocking and like, just amazing. And they'll find one thing and they'll show it and look at it and punish themselves for it. And he said, it's so sad what he sees because women don't even give themselves a break.
I've never used festoon or any of those filters, but I have it. My daughters haven't either. But I know that my eldest daughter will take a picture of me and do stuff to it before she says you can put it or she does. She does.
She's like, Mom, you can't put that. No, mom, you got to. And she'll do something. It's usually a ring. I mean, I don't suddenly have enormous breasts.
Yeah, no, I'll say. Let me take another angle. Let me take a different picture. Yeah.
I think that I, I think I rebell against that a little bit because I'm so conscious of it. I rebel against my daughters wanting to do that by saying oh this. I don't care who I am. I know Mom but you have your roots are so I don't care to pandemic. I don't care. This is who I am. And this I sort of dig my heels in about it, which is probably a terrible idea.
And I don't think they started retouching stuff until. I mean, who knows what you are doing? I know, baby. I was an ivory soap, so I think they retouch that. Yeah, they made my little chunky, but yeah, they made me a little more revolting. You know, they got rid of that.
Now, a quick word from our sponsors. Welcome back to go ask Ali.
Let's get back to the discussion, but I wanted to go back a little bit about as a parent, you know, with teenagers, you're doing a lot of like don't drink, don't do drugs, don't drive under the influence, don't let this person do that. But to me, the social media component has become a whole education in itself that I didn't have and you didn't have as a kid. So it's not like our parents gave us any kind of handbook to be able to deal with this.
And I feel like social media takes up much more of my time in terms of educating my children than any other aspect of teenage hood. And, you know, the reason that I'm talking to you and I'm going to talk to some other doctors about the sexualization of girls and social media in the pandemic is because my concern is right now with with kids not going to school, not going to camp and not sort of venturing out and having normal experiences, having, you know, first kiss with the boy or whatever that is, because they're insulated and because they're alone in their rooms or their homes.
I don't want them to experiment in a way that will cause severe damage, like you said, down the line with college admissions, with with being slut shamed, with predators, with eating disorders, all that kind of stuff. I worry that during a pandemic, these things all get amplified.
So the only thing that I can keep doing is instead of just being that broken record and shaking my head when bad lyrics come on or telling them, don't use your belt like that, I just then wait to moments that have nothing to do with this and just say, you have to listen to this conversation. This is not the image of you that should be out there. It's dangerous. It's not fair to you. And I would say you are you have to present yourself as the best possible version of yourself.
And that means being respectful because everything that's being done now is setting the precedent for the rest of their lives.
I do a similar thing with my daughters. I say when it comes to social media, what is the story that you're telling? What is your story, is your story that you're playing lacrosse and that you care about social justice and you care about this, you care about that, or is your story that you're sexy and you can bend your legs like that? I mean, so that helps them with the big picture, you know, what's the story that you're going to tell?
What, as you said, sort of what what's going to propel you into the life you want, which I think are probably better ways than I'm following you. I know what you're putting on social media. Yes. Because they're teenagers and they'll find ways around it. You know, that's to me, that's the only thing I can do. I can sort of show them the much bigger picture than if Scooter likes or not likes her bikini picture, but sort of what it means for women in a much bigger and global sense and that there is a world outside of them.
You know, I think what's happened to is it's so insular, you know, that even though it's a one little screen, but it's everywhere, one of them, she's sleeping right now with a kid, you know, but her skirt doesn't look like a skirt.
There you go. If, God forbid, somebody drops something and she has to pick it up, that's not a skirt. That's a belt. Anyway, I just don't want her to believe that her whole currency is her beauty.
Hey, listen, Brooke Shields played a child prostitute at 12, then was famous for being a virgin way after most people had lost their virginity. Modeled actress went to Princeton. I mean, you are you are a hard lady to pinpoint when it comes to sex, but a great role model for girls. So thank you for talking to me. Thank you for talking about the hyper sexualization of girls in social media. This is one of my best years.
Brooke Shields. Thank you, Brooke. Thank you, Ali.
So really quickly, speaking of. Yeah, I'm sending you an email about for a facelift.
Yep. For a facelift and a boob job. Right.
Sign me up. She's going to do like lips right now, and I'm going to go finish my pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream.
Thanks so much for listening. Be sure to subscribe rate and leave a review and follow me and my undoctored posts on social media.
I'm on Twitter at Ali Wentworth and on Instagram at the real Ali Wentworth. Go ask Ali is a production of Sean Dillon audio in partnership with I Heart Radio. For more podcast from Sean and audio, visit the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.