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Let Children Be Children
June 4, 2011 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Let Children Be Children British government to recommend new measures aimed at preventing children from over-exposure to sexualised imagery in the media.

Key measures reported to include:

• Retailers to ensure magazines with sexualised images have modesty sleeves.
• The Advertising Standards Authority to discourage placement of billboards near schools and nurseries.
• Music videos to be sold with age ratings.
• Procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult and age restricted material on internet.
• Code of practice to be issued on child retailing.
• Define a child as 16 in all types of advertising regulation.
• Advertising Standards Authority to do more to gauge parent's views on advertising.
• Create a single website for parents to complain to regulators.
• Change rules on nine o'clock television watershed to give priority to views of parents.
• Government to regulate after 18 months if progress insufficient.
posted by modernnomad (107 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is of course doomed, but I wish I didn't find sympathy in myself with it. It is an indicator that I am Oldening.

Yesterday, I saw a teenage girl in a schoolgirl outfit, short pleated skirt and all, and thought: poor kid. She comes by it honestly, because it's obviously for her actual school, but through no fault of her own I now associate her outfit with stupid sexual fantasies. If I were a private school principal these days, I'd make the uniform a boxy blue jumpsuit -- Then I realized how much I would have hated myself as a teenager, and lamented.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:27 AM on June 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Kids: "What's a magazine?"
posted by Artw at 7:28 AM on June 4, 2011 [19 favorites]


British government to recommend new measures aimed at preventing children from over-exposure to sexualised imagery in the media.

British government to recommend new measures aimed at turning back time.
posted by oxford blue at 7:31 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


In response to his recommendations on clothing, it is expected that the British Retail Consortium, following consultation with Mumsnet, the web-based parents' forum, will announce a new code next week. It is expected to advise retailers against suggestive or gender-specific slogans on clothes, black or enhanced bras, and will propose modest swimwear for pre-teens.
What the hell? So young black girls' bras will stand out like beacons underneath their clothes? How thoroughly modest.
posted by bewilderbeast at 7:33 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Treating the symptoms.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:36 AM on June 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, I guess with being a complete hateful faliure at everything the luv-con alliance has to do something petty and pointless to look relevant.
posted by Artw at 7:38 AM on June 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


What in gods name did they think they were voting in? Modern coinservatism is in shambles.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:40 AM on June 4, 2011


Lib-con, that is.
posted by Artw at 7:41 AM on June 4, 2011


Why do I have a feeling clothing and bathing suit regulations are going to be much harsher towards girls?

What the hell? So young black girls' bras will stand out like beacons underneath their clothes? How thoroughly modest.

Good point, they should just wear one of these to take care of that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:42 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems like an odd thing to be throwing money at, at a time when the British government is slashing funding for things like libraries and services that keep children out of poverty. So British children will be cold, hungry and uneducated, but at least they won't be exposed to anything sexy.

I'm not exactly unsympathetic, although I feel like this kind of thing often has unpleasant unintended consequences. But boy does this not feel like it needs to be a priority right now.
posted by craichead at 7:45 AM on June 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


Mumsnet and the Mother's Union collaborating with a Tory government? Shudder. It's a like a super mutant version of Mary Whitehouse, only not so easy to point and laugh at. Although there is something ironic about two parenting organisations outsourcing parental responsibility to the government; quite literally the Nanny State.
posted by afx237vi at 7:47 AM on June 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Mumsnet became self-aware at 2:14 AM, June 4, 2011.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:51 AM on June 4, 2011 [24 favorites]


Mumsnet . . . sounds like a particularly ghastly invention of Cyriak.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:52 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know when Britain was great? The Victorian era. The poor kept to their part of town, and other than one or two outbreaks of cholera, everyone was sooo much happier.
posted by DigDoug at 7:57 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm looking forward to the return of full sleeve bathing costumes.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:00 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


And yet on nearly every table in Britian there sits a roast chicken, displaying its wantonly nude and exposed legs.
posted by The Whelk at 8:06 AM on June 4, 2011 [23 favorites]


Have any kids throughout history not been fascinated by sex? Lord knows me and all my friends were, even when we had no idea what the hell we were talking about.
posted by maxwelton at 8:11 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


• Change rules on nine o'clock television watershed to give priority to views of parents.

I'm sorry, we're prioritising a specific subset of license-payers (at best, I doubt anyone will discount the views of non-license paying parents) over all the others with what justification, exactly?
posted by Dysk at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Our lives are spinning out of our control, our governments and institutions no longer seem to work, the climate is changing, so let's grasp for something we think we can control: what kids wear!
posted by orthogonality at 8:15 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


We really need to outlaw breast feeding, poor innocent babes - just born!- being exposed to all that wanton tit. Enough to make you sick,
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


She comes by it honestly, because it's obviously for her actual school, but through no fault of her own I now associate her outfit with stupid sexual fantasies.

...and even worse, bad pop music.
posted by jonmc at 8:24 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


So suppose I want to desexualize school uniforms.

Merely making them more concealing won't work because nuns' habits are also a fetish.

Making them bland might work better, but then, catholic schoolgirls' uniforms already are rather bland. The tartan pattern on the skirt isn't standard, lots of schools use flat colors and require it to extend past the knees.

The uniform is sexualized because of the idea that good Catholic girls are innocent, a value often promoted by the church itself. So I suppose I'd have to undercut that idea somehow. I doubt I can get the Catholic church to cooperate, so it would have to be something more like an advertising campaign.

How about I standardize everyone else's uniforms to look the same? That could work.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:29 AM on June 4, 2011


Mumsnet became self-aware at 2:14 AM, June 4, 2011.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:51 AM on June 5 [4 favorites +] [!]


Unlike its members, then.
posted by oxford blue at 8:41 AM on June 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Define a child as 16 in all types of advertising regulation.

I love arbitrary lines in the sand. They make for great laws.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:48 AM on June 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wait, what, black bras???? WTF are these people smoking that they think the color of the bra makes it sexualized. Or, for that matter, the puberty and the coming of age is not about sex. Do they not understand basic human evolution or reproductive processes?
posted by Bovine Love at 8:49 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is of course doomed,...

The discussion could have been ended at this point, because it's about the truest thing any of us can say. The government might not last long enough to implement most of this; many parents and retailers won't take it seriously; and everybody else will just laugh at the crass intrusion into people's lives. Kids - now defined as anybody under 16 - will just love flouting these laws. I'm pretty sure 15 year olds know how to sexualize themselves plenty well.
posted by Jehan at 8:52 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems to have the support of Labour. From the article:
Some Labour politicians have, however, called for regulation to be put in place faster . . .
This does seem like a continuation and further expansion of policies introduced by Labour—specifically, the overhaul of the youth justice system and the shift towards trying to curb anti-social behaviour.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 8:55 AM on June 4, 2011


Jesus, the election was only a year ago...
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2011


More like "Let real children be idealized children in the minds of adults who never think about sex!"

That said I'm always struck by the way the English use their language. It's very straightforward. In the U.S such a program would be called the childhood desexualization program, or reinchildification system or something.
posted by delmoi at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can't win by pushing the abortion button in Britain. Though some Tories have tried, it's too associated with American right-wing religious nutters to gain much traction, so this is the British answer to it: Moral Majority Lite. You distract the electorate from the real damage which is being done to children by the cuts agenda, by the sleight of hand of making a huge fuss about saving them from more nebulous moral dangers. It costs peanuts and fools a lot of stupid people into voting for your policies 'for the sake of the children' while you are actually dismantling their children's future.

Because children can learn how to circumvent internet controls, or only need one friend who can do so, to get access to digital media, and because that allows them to bypass the traditional media mostly being targeted here, this will do bugger all to actually protect children, but it will energise The Daily Mail readers to vote Tory, and that is what it's for.
posted by Flitcraft at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Ofcom has dismissed previous complaints at the way in which programmes like X Factor, watched by millions of children, feature huge stars such as Christina Aguilera and Rihanna wearing few clothes and posing suggestively.

Ofcom ruled that Rihanna's routine "featured some gentle thrusting", but it was "suitably limited".


Suitably limited gentle thrusting? Oh dear.

Also, did I take too many women's studies classes or does Ofcom sound really Handmaid's Tale-y to anyone else?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2011 [4 favorites]



• Retailers to ensure magazines with sexualised images have modesty sleeves.
• The Advertising Standards Authority to discourage placement of billboards near schools and nurseries.
• Music videos to be sold with age ratings.
• Procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult and age restricted material on internet.
• Code of practice to be issued on child retailing.
• Define a child as 16 in all types of advertising regulation.
• Advertising Standards Authority to do more to gauge parent's views on advertising.
• Create a single website for parents to complain to regulators.
• Change rules on nine o'clock television watershed to give priority to views of parents.
• Government to regulate after 18 months if progress insufficient.


Until something is done about all those sacks of pornography in the woods these measures are doomed to failure.
posted by fire&wings at 9:04 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems to have the support of Labour. From the article:
"Some Labour politicians have, however, called for regulation to be put in place faster . . ."


Labour in the UK, since the New Labour project, is a right wing 'Law and Order' anti-civil liberties party, trying to outbid the Tories for the tabloid-newspaper reading vote. In the Scottish elections they actually tried to gain votes by advocating mandatory minimum sentences of six months for anyone caught carrying a knife, which would have meant building new prisons to accomodate all the (mostly) young people they would be intending to lock up. No surprise then, that they will jump on this classic Tory bandwagon.
posted by Flitcraft at 9:08 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't even understand the black bra thing. I never bought my bras in a separate kids section. I chose my bras from the same bra selection as grown-ups. I don't know how you could have avoided giving me the choice of purchasing a slutty, slutty black bra.

Having said that, I don't entirely understand the need for high heeled shoes for elementary school kids. And I don't know if I think this is sexualized, exactly, but do toddlers really need wedge-heeled sandals?
posted by craichead at 9:09 AM on June 4, 2011


Suitably Limited Gentle Thrusting is totally the title of my dystoopian SF novel.
posted by The Whelk at 9:10 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm in Leeds right now and I think the criminalization of hen and stag parties would do wonders for your national character and dress sense.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


But I wanted it to be the name of my Victorian dandy cosplay badminton team!
posted by elizardbits at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I would join that team in a heartbeat, elizardbits!

Also, presumably, wouldn't black bras do a better job of, oh, blocking out the naughty bits?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:15 AM on June 4, 2011


Maybe they're all big Hitchcock fans and they're worried black bras may make them more likely to be hacked to death in the shower?
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on June 4, 2011


Mumsnet became self-aware at 2:14 AM, June 4, 2011

and immediately covered its tiny, budding breasts.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:20 AM on June 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't even understand the black bra thing. I never bought my bras in a separate kids section. I chose my bras from the same bra selection as grown-ups. I don't know how you could have avoided giving me the choice of purchasing a slutty, slutty black bra.

Having said that, I don't entirely understand the need for high heeled shoes for elementary school kids. And I don't know if I think this is sexualized, exactly, but do toddlers really need wedge-heeled sandals?


I wonder what the underlap/overlap is between "old enough to shop without my parents" and "still have to buy children's clothes"? Stopping sexy children's clothes may be hitting a very small section of the population whose parents aren't buying the clothes for them anyway.
posted by Jehan at 9:23 AM on June 4, 2011


I guess the UK porno-filter is back on the agenda then.
The Ofcom Rihanna kerfuffle did give rise to this fantastic Register headline.

Bailey's review builds on the previous work of Dr. Linda Papadopoulos and Dr Tanya Byron whose records as serious academics speak for themselves.

You know when Britain was great? The Victorian era. The poor kept to their part of town, and other than one or two outbreaks of cholera, everyone was sooo much happier.
A halcyon period of childhood innocence .
posted by SyntacticSugar at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2011


Great, so Labour, true to form, is actually trying to stake out a position to the right of the Tories on this? I guess if I were a civil liberties-minded British voter, I'd have no choice but to vote for the Lib Dems then? Oh wait, right. That doesn't work either.

Wow, yeah, you guys are screwed just as badly as we are.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:53 AM on June 4, 2011


Dr Brooke Magnanti's excellent take on this topic.
posted by Megami at 10:05 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Until something is done about all those sacks of pornography in the woods these measures are doomed to failure.

The difference is that the porn-in-the-woods scenario is the good-ole-days, when sex was dirty and strange and something a kid had to consciously leave the straight-and-narrow to seek out. Now, due to a complexity of factors which mostly revolve around advertising and marketing to adults, SEX is in all of our faces pretty much all of the time, because, of course, it sells.

Someone mentioned up thread that this program is all about treating symptoms. I couldn't agree more. We're not going to resolve the negativity inherent in the hyper-sexualizing of children by turning back the clock, undermining our communication technologies etc. We might however accomplish something via education. That is, get sex-ed on the curriculum as of Day One Grade One. No, it won't cure those of us who are already mature of our various fetishes and peccadilloes, but it might just give birth to future generations with a more, shall we say, grounded view of the issues.

Not unlike these kids here.

posted by philip-random at 10:16 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


We really need to outlaw breast feeding, poor innocent babes - just born!- being exposed to all that wanton tit. Enough to make you sick.

Actually, mumsnet recently got a bit tangled up by supporting prohibitions on Internet indecency which would have outlawed their own pictures of women breastfeeding. They're very pro women being able to breastfeed without shame, and breastfeeding not being considered a sexual or indecent thing.

On the one hand, this is more government by tabloid. On the other, a couple of days ago I saw a pacifier on the rack at a general store with FLIRT written in all caps on the... whatever the bit that isn't the teat is called. As part of a double-pack with DIVA IN TRAINING.

Da fug?
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:19 AM on June 4, 2011


Let Children Be Children until they get to be teenagers, at which point get the police and kettle them whenever.

Honestly, I'd rather see a "Let Adults Be Adults" program.
posted by mhoye at 10:29 AM on June 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Wow, so y'all folks across the pond really didn't understand George Orwell did y'all? Modesty sashes for everyone!
posted by fuq at 10:37 AM on June 4, 2011


Kids aren't being sexualised. The UK is becoming more prudish about sex, and the emphasis of this prudishness falls on young girls who, for the most part, are just practicing wearing the clothes they'll wear when they get older.

Last weekend, the g/f's youngest (10 yrs old) spent the evening mimicing giant breasts with two giant water filled balloons pushed down her top. Disconcerting as it was, there's no need to start trying to ban anything. Or blaming anyone. Or imagining that this is some kind of sexual act. It's play and it's what kids have done FOR EVER.

I find it depressing that at exactly the same time as the slutwalk walks are re-emphasisng the fact that what women wear has no bearing on their safety or character, we're treating young girls like hypersexualised victims.

So yes. Let children be children. Let them play the games they've always played. And stop trying to sanitise our society by insisting that we think of the children. It's a fallacious emotive argument, and it depresses me that people still fall for it.

sidebar: If you don't already know this, the Daily Mail were so disgusted by the Rhianna display on x-factor that they had to print 4 full colour pages showing those disgusting images in full. Fucking hypocrites, the lot of them.
posted by seanyboy at 10:40 AM on June 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Real freakin weird. Now before going any further, I'll mention (as a disclaimer) that I'm American and come at this from an American perspective, but....

... we see this same shit here. And I don't understand it. On the one hand, are children overly sexualized in this culture? Yes! It's disturbing, and I'm not cool with it. Like, why have I seen 12 year old girls who don't even have bodies yet wearing shorts with words written across the butt? Seriously, why? It's gross. And what is up with those beauty pagaents? Seriously, WTF?

At the same time, I see those things as a failure of parenting, not a failure of government. Why is it that these people who are all "government out of our private lives!" when it comes to helping the poor are all about "government, please come into my private life!" when it comes to things like abortion and "decency"? It just doesn't make any sense.

Forget "let kids be kids". How about "let parents be parents"?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2011


I saw that on Facebook - it was hilarious. "We apologise for printing these SHOCKING IMAGES, but we think Britain must be alerted to the MAGNITUDE OF THE THREAT. If you freeze the video and watch it frame by frame, as we have, you can see such SHOCKING MOMENTS as..."

It was as if countless voices cried out as one, and were suddenly replaced by a muffled fapping sound.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


LogicalDash: "So suppose I want to desexualize school uniforms.

Merely making them more concealing won't work because nuns' habits are also a fetish.

Making them bland might work better, but then, catholic schoolgirls' uniforms already are rather bland. The tartan pattern on the skirt isn't standard, lots of schools use flat colors and require it to extend past the knees.


Well, I think the best solution would be to ban schoolgirls altogether.

How about I standardize everyone else's uniforms to look the same? That could work."

I prefer my solution, but if I, a male, end up wearing a skirt, well... I guess I'll take one for the team. (it has nothing to do with the fact that cross dressing can be pretty hot *cough*)
posted by symbioid at 11:01 AM on June 4, 2011


(That was in re Rihanna and the Daily Mail, of course - interposts ahoy!)
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:04 AM on June 4, 2011


It's been a while, but I'm pretty sure that when I was a kid, I had genitals.

Perhaps I'm misremembering.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:12 AM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


*gasp*

Sys Rq had genitals as a child. Burn him!
posted by likeso at 11:34 AM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, if we had a society that didn't demonize sex, but did a better job of teaching little girls that there is more to being a woman than being a sex object, then I bet these people would still be upset.

Modesty standards do nothing to address treating women as sex objects in the first place. The black bra thing is a good example. A black bra is inherently sexual to them, so let's get rid of them--ignoring the practical reasons a girl might own one. It can't be innocent because some people perceive it as sexy.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:41 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Looking forward to the specs for the new chastity helmet.
posted by Splunge at 11:53 AM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I saw the headline, my first thought was "Oh good, they're going to let them run and play and climb trees and walk to the corner grocery by themselves and fall off of playground equipment and so forth."

Oh.
posted by no relation at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2011 [24 favorites]


It's been a while, but I'm pretty sure that when I was a kid, I had genitals.

You give them back, he's very upset.
posted by The Whelk at 12:45 PM on June 4, 2011


The Mumsnet Census, June 2009. Notice there is no mention or race or ethnicity.
posted by honest knave at 12:50 PM on June 4, 2011


Let Parents Be Parents
posted by fullerine at 12:59 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Last weekend, the g/f's youngest (10 yrs old) spent the evening mimicing giant breasts with two giant water filled balloons pushed down her top. Disconcerting as it was, there's no need to start trying to ban anything. Or blaming anyone. Or imagining that this is some kind of sexual act. It's play and it's what kids have done FOR EVER.
I don't know. I got big breasts at a very young age, which means that I got a lot of unwanted sexual attention when I was emotionally and developmentally a little girl. And it fucked with my head. My understanding is that there's a lot of research that shows that this is a common phenomenon: girls who develop early are subject to unwanted sexual attention at a young age, and it leads to poor body image, feelings of shame about their bodies, and really high incidence of eating disorders. There was really nothing that anyone could do about the fact that I had c-cups when I was 11. That was just the way the genetic chips fell. But I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would think a normally-shaped 11-year-old would need a push-up bra, considering what an utterly humiliating and perplexing experience it was for me at that age to have grown men tell me that I had nice tits, inform me that I should wear tighter clothes to show off my great tits, or demand blow-jobs from me because apparently my big tits meant that I was fair game. I have no problem with playing dress-up, but it seems to me that some of the weird trends in pre-teen girls' clothes go beyond playing dress-up, and I don't think it's great for little kids to be sexualized before they have any understanding of what sexuality is. Maybe it'll be fine in a perfect world when people don't view little girls who look like mature women as targets for harassment. But I'm not convinced we live in that world.
posted by craichead at 1:01 PM on June 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wait, what, black bras???? WTF are these people smoking that they think the color of the bra makes it sexualized.

I'm afraid when I read that the only thing I could think of was priests and altar boys. Mentally and sexually healthy adults do not spend enough time thinking about 12 year old girls in black bras as sexual beings to warrant banning that specific colour of bra. Perverts who think their poorly hidden desire to fuck underage girls, on the other hand...

Funny how there's all this concern for crap being shoved at kids, but I don't see any measures to take on Coke or McDonalds.
posted by rodgerd at 1:20 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mumsnet and the Mother's Union collaborating with a Tory government? Shudder. It's a like a super mutant version of Mary Whitehouse, only not so easy to point and laugh at.

Mumsnet isn't conservative, or Conservative, by any stretch of the imagination. The forums have a v. strong feminist slant, it's very supportive of working mums, etc. (There's a reason why the Daily Mail has picked on its members as examples of all that's wrong with mothers today.)
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:30 PM on June 4, 2011


These kinds of things always seem to be more about removing things from adults than 'protecting kids'. How about we leave this up to the parents, who seem to want to pawn off the difficult parts to laws? kids will always experiment, have sex, look at sex, etc, because it's biological and part of growing up.
posted by usagizero at 1:40 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's great for little kids to be sexualized before they have any understanding of what sexuality is

I'm 23. My understanding of sexuality amounts to, "it gets people really excited, sometimes in a good way, but often has unwanted side effects. Like sports but with even more societally-imposed norms and shit."

I don't really disagree with what you've said, but if we collectively got our shit together about sex education, this problem would be a pushover.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:11 PM on June 4, 2011


Treating the symptoms.

What would the causes be?

Because children can learn how to circumvent internet controls


You're missing the point.

Sure they circumvent, but if they do, they at least know that louche material is generally considered unsuitable. As do adults. When the louche and inappropriate is all over television and news stands and movies, it appears to the child to have the stamp of general approval.

And to some adults. You ever try explaining to an ten year old girl why her parents think it inappropriate for a ten year old classmate to wear short shorts and fishnet stockings to school? (And no, I am not making that one up.)

Curious to know of the above comments how many came from people with children, especially small children.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:18 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


My daughter is 8, and she has been grappling with the concept of "sexy" for a few years now. She has a general biological understanding of sex as a process for reproduction, but I don't think she really connects that with the messages of "sexy" that she has received. She perceives sexy as positive and grown-up, and as consisting of a certain appearance and attitude. I've talked to her about this many times, but it is hard to convey why she shouldn't be or want to be sexy.

Because she is a child, she doesn't understand the connection between sex and "sexy." She just hears her friends talking about it, and sees a variety of images with "sexy" women where sexy equals powerful, rich, interesting, famous, etc. She doesn't see the unspoken message about those women being interesting, famous, etc. because they are sexually desirable and act as though they are sexually accessible. She shes sexy as sophisticated, when it really means fuckable.

The problem is that if you buy into "sexy" as a positive thing at 8, as you get a little older the expectations behind sexy get more explicitly linked with sex and a specific set of (often contradictory and unattainable) attitudes and beliefs about women and sex. It goes from "sexy girls look like x and sound like y" to "sexy girls do x and y." You may not want to do x and y, but you already believe that you are supposed to be sexy. Your peers believe that you should aspire to sexiness. Your favorite songs and tv shows showcase sexiness. There's nothing wrong with sexy - you've known since you were a little kid that you were supposed to grow up to be sexy. If you can't or don't measure up, then you are the problem - you are deficient.

That what is so damaging about our specific brand of highly sexualized culture - adults understand what is meant, but they are not the only ones receiving the messages. All that said, I don't think that modesty covers for lad magazines will be effective. This is a cultural problem and, as mentioned above, trying to paper over the symptoms won't work.

The only real solution is changing the culture that values women for their attractiveness and availability. And that change happens one person at a time, through raising awareness, showing girls and boys alternatives and supporting them, and promoting cultural messages that show women as complete people and not just sex objects.
posted by jeoc at 5:30 PM on June 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Artw wrote: ... the luv-con alliance has to do something petty and pointless to look relevant.

I favorite this typo so much.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:40 PM on June 4, 2011


Yes, god forbid that children are exposed to sex, but certainly the most graphic and casual depictions of violence are A-OKAY BECAUSE WE KNOW SEX IS THE REAL HARM.

This isn't to excuse the pervasive chauvinism undercutting so much of society, but to act like this is a) a new phenomenon, or b) can be addressed by shitty laws in shitty ways is just moronic.
posted by smoke at 5:55 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


You ever try explaining to an ten year old girl why her parents think it inappropriate for a ten year old classmate to wear short shorts and fishnet stockings to school? (And no, I am not making that one up.)

Ooh! I know! I know! It's because everyone who dresses like that is asking to be raped! What do I win?



Nothing, that's what I win, because that's completely fucking stupid.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:11 PM on June 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Which is to say, hey, remember the early eighties? Everyone wore short-shorts and nobody cared. Get a grip.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:14 PM on June 4, 2011


I think Indigo was going for 'You look like a prostitute" not "You look like you want to be raped".

No one ever explained this stuff to me when I was a kid though so I'm not sure on that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:19 PM on June 4, 2011


Actually, today I think that would make you look like Ke$ha. Who is not an appropriate role model for a 10 year old (or anybody, really).
posted by jeoc at 6:23 PM on June 4, 2011


Jesus, people, I myself would prefer not to have to explain to my 7 year old why that lady on the magazine cover at the store is licking a giant lollipop and showing her tummy, Mommy.

I agree with Indigo that few commenters here have had actual experience taking young kids out in public or even watching a ball game with them.
posted by jfwlucy at 7:01 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, everyone knows that the way those teenage sluts dress causes teenage boys and men to lose control! Shame on them all. Burqas for every female over age five!!


(Although, I do dislike the way a lot of teens (and pre-teens, even toddlers) are dressed. But banning ads won't do shit--they just want to dress like their mums.)

posted by BlueHorse at 7:33 PM on June 4, 2011


Yes, everyone knows that the way those teenage sluts dress causes teenage boys and men to lose control! Shame on them all. Burqas for every female over age five!!
Oh for fuck's sake.

I give up. It was really stupid of me to reveal something painful and personal about my life. I won't make that mistake again.
posted by craichead at 7:38 PM on June 4, 2011


Jesus, people, I myself would prefer not to have to explain to my 7 year old why that lady on the magazine cover at the store is licking a giant lollipop and showing her tummy, Mommy.

Then by all means, your preference for not doing something that isn't remotely difficult in some hypothetical scenario due to a potential for mild awkwardness should dictate how everyone else has to operate.

Look, you used to have to wipe shit off a baby, and now you have to explain the world, warts and all, to a small child. That's just how parenting works. Sorry.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:51 PM on June 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think children need to be exposed to more sex, not less.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:07 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I’m always surprised by how many people think that the interests of corporations are the same as societal interests when it comes to the cultural industry and that there is no such thing as market failure. We regulate and tax companies because we know that in the pursuit of profit they will sometimes impose costs on society (such as pollution and sometimes the costs are psychological such as with noise pollution) that aren’t covered by the price of the product they are selling. Why do people expect Universal Music Group, Rockstar Games, or Abercrombie & Fitch to be any different from Exxon Mobil, Tyson Foods, or Bank of America?
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 8:57 PM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I’m always surprised by how many people think that the interests of corporations are the same as societal interests

Yes, zero is a surprisingly small number, isn't it?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:17 PM on June 4, 2011


The only real solution is changing the culture that values women for their attractiveness and availability. And that change happens one person at a time, through raising awareness, showing girls and boys alternatives and supporting them, and promoting cultural messages that show women as complete people and not just sex objects.

this. precisely.
posted by wayward vagabond at 9:38 PM on June 4, 2011


Jesus, people, I myself would prefer not to have to explain to my 7 year old why that lady on the magazine cover at the store is licking a giant lollipop and showing her tummy, Mommy.
Tough, you have to.

I too have a seven-year-old daughter and the hardest question isn't why is that women dancing in her pants, but why is it always a woman who is doing the dancing in the pants.

(Her heroes are GLaDOS and River Song, so if she has her way future generations won't have to answer that one).
posted by fullerine at 9:59 PM on June 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Conservative government is conservative, shock.
posted by Decani at 5:00 AM on June 5, 2011


craichead: I'm really sorry that you feel your experience is being devalued or underplayed. What you describe is horrible. I can't imagine how it must have felt. But the problem there is assholes who sexually harass young girls. As you said, even when you were wearing concealing clothing, you got shouted at and told to wear more revealing clothing. The solution to assholes who sexually harass young girls (or anyone, really) isn't in the clothes - because there will always be something that triggers the harassment. It's in educating assholes, challenging them, making sure the assholes' peers don't turn a blind eye or endorse that behavior, and making it clear that sexually harassing children is not acceptable. And - because you're right, we don't live in that world yet - it means parents balancing what their child wants to wear or do against the ways in which it might affect her, which the child might not have the full picture about.

That's what's odd to me about indigo jones' question:
You ever try explaining to an ten year old girl why her parents think it inappropriate for a ten year old classmate to wear short shorts and fishnet stockings to school?

Because, well, no. Is it important for the ten year old girl to understand what her parents think about her classmates' fashion sense? Isn't the issue about talking to one's own ten-year old girl, communicating good values, and helping her to make good decisions in a range of areas, including personal style?

To me, this feels like something the invisible hand of the market actually is in a position to address. I don't much like shopping for magazines and finding that New Scientist is on the same shelf as a whole bunch of magazines with semi-naked women and headlines advertising their sexual appetite and availability. I like women fine, but, as fullerine awesomely said, it feels unbalanced and weird that the only muscular naked torso is on the front of Men's Health.

Not because of the children - although it must be sending pretty messed up messages out to girls about science - but because of me - my purely personal taste. If there was a store which didn't stock FHM and the like, or shelved them elsewhere, or put them in modesty sleeves, I wouldn't be totally horrified by that. It would just be an alternative retail experience, and it might impact jfwlucy's decision on where to shop with her child - the same way some drugstores and bookstores don't stock according-to-Hoyle pornography, or keep it sectioned off, to make their store more family-friendly. The problem there is probably the relationships and the deals stores have with their franchise owners and suppliers, and probably market logic on sales, but it's a market question.

Mumsnet - a private organization with no regulatory powers putting together an advisory code for retailers - sounds absolutely like what Mumsnet ought to be doing. But government legislation to force shops to conceal content that is neither identified as pornography or age-restricted? That feels like dangerous overreach.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:01 AM on June 5, 2011


decani: Conservative government is conservative, shock.


I think more "political party that in opposition presented itself as socially liberal, small-government, pro-individual rights and anti-quango is elected and turns towards state intervention in local zoning and business decisions".

I think a Brit who voted Conservative (or Liberal Democrat) could complain that this wasn't what they voted for, in the same way that a Tea Party supporter could complain that they didn't want their representatives to spend all their time cutting millions of dollars of federal funding going to family planning while ignoring billions of dollars going to the production of obsolete weapons systems, or trillions going to propping up banks. They'd have been painfully naive, but they could complain about it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:10 AM on June 5, 2011


I think more "political party that in opposition presented itself as socially liberal, small-government, pro-individual rights and anti-quango is elected and turns towards state intervention in local zoning and business decisions".

posted by running order squabble fest at 1:10 PM on June 5


Political party misrepresents its intentions before election, shock.

I'm sorry. I'm old. :-)
posted by Decani at 5:22 AM on June 5, 2011


I think more "political party that in opposition presented itself as socially liberal, small-government, pro-individual rights and anti-quango is elected and turns towards state intervention in local zoning and business decisions".
To quote the mighty CopShootCop: 'surprise, surprise, the Government lies.'
Honestly anyone who actually believed that the Tories (or the Yellow Tories) were 'socially liberal, small-government [and] pro-individual rights' needs to be sterilised for the good of the species.
But, like Decani, I'm old.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:19 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


But the problem there is assholes who sexually harass young girls.
I think we're all clear on that. But I think that sexual harassment is just the most extreme way in which a little girl's worth is diminished, or at least changed in ways that aren't necessarily positive, when she becomes seen as sexually mature. When you're too young for anyone to want to have sex with you, you're valued for a wider variety of traits, and your identity is tied to things other than the way you look and whether that's appealing to guys. As soon as you're perceived as potentially sexually attractive, that becomes a huge part of how you're valued socially. For teenage girls, whether you're hot or not is a huge part of who you are.

This is problematic for teenage girls, because their sexual attractiveness is over-valued compared to other things. But it's not without its consolations. Teenage girls' experience of sexuality isn't limited to being objectified. They're also sexual agents: they're exploring their own developing sexuality, and they typically want to be found sexually attractive because they're starting to realize that they're interested in sex themselves. But that's not true for eight-year-olds. Sex is gross and weird to eight-year-olds, and that's developmentally appropriate.

So basically, the best case scenario for a sexy eight-year-old is that she doesn't realize what being sexy actually means, and it's just pure objectification. She is playing out the role of a sexy woman because she realizes that's valued by society. And in that case, it's pushing forward the time when she stops thinking she's valued for who she is and starts thinking she's valued for how she looks. The worst case scenario, though, is that she does have some inkling of what being sexy means, and that's really bad, because eight-year-olds aren't developmentally ready to think of themselves as possessors of grown-up sexuality.

Like I said, there's a whole raft of research that shows that early puberty is really damaging to girls and that girls who mature early continue to have problems with self-esteem, body image, and attitudes towards their sexuality well into adulthood. And while some researchers think that might be because there are physical problems associated with early puberty, most seem to think it's because it's traumatic to be treated as sexually mature when you're developmentally still a child. And if it's traumatic to be treated as sexually mature because you have breasts when you're eight, I'm not sure why it wouldn't be traumatic to be treated as sexually mature because Abercrombie has decided to sell padded "push-up bikinis" (their words! really!) to eight-year-olds, so it looks like you have breasts even though you don't.
To me, this feels like something the invisible hand of the market actually is in a position to address.
I guess I don't agree. I think there are huge market incentives for corporations to tell women and girls that they need to buy products in order to be sexy. I mean, I do a pretty perfunctory performance of femininity, but it still involves a whole array of hair-styling products, shaving products, self-tanner, nail polish, and make-up, not to mention clothes and shoes. There's a lot of money in selling this stuff to teenage girls, and there's a whole industry of magazines devoted to informing teenage girls they need to use this stuff and educating them about how to use it. Pre-teen girls are a largely untapped market. (And companies like Victoria's Secret Pink which have successfully tapped into the pre-teen market have made a lot of money doing that.) Unless you believe that advertising and marketing have no effect, in which case I think you're in denial, then you have to acknowledge that the market is going to push little girls to think of themselves as potentially sexy, because sexy is where the money is.

And I guess the last thing I'll say is that if you actually read fashion mags, a lot of that marketing is pretty negative. The idea is that your body in its natural state is unsexy, and you need to buy and use products to fix it and make it sexy. Is that really a message you want pre-teen girls to get?
posted by craichead at 6:27 AM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


And I guess the last thing I'll say is that if you actually read fashion mags, a lot of that marketing is pretty negative. The idea is that your body in its natural state is unsexy, and you need to buy and use products to fix it and make it sexy. Is that really a message you want pre-teen girls to get?
I think, for me personally, you affect change in the one area you know you can. Your child. Whether my daughter will consider my howling at the sexeh wind to be symptomatic of my decreasing sanity, or the decreasing sanity of a culture which treats half of all humanity as decoration is something I'll have to deal with. All you can do is give your child the tools to howl with you and to be strong when the wind is blowing form her peers.

So I fill her head with confidence, and cynicism and the information with which to fight it and the nuance to sometimes see that sexeh is you know, sexeh.

And I fill her heart with the strength to fight, because it is a fight.

But mostly I cross my fingers as hard as I fucking can because we treat women like shit in this world and someday she will have to come to terms with that and she will wonder why the men in her life don't see this, and don't just fucking stop doing it.
posted by fullerine at 6:58 AM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


When you're too young for anyone to want to have sex with you, you're valued for a wider variety of traits, and your identity is tied to things other than the way you look and whether that's appealing to guys.
This is just the most depressing thing I've read for a long time - suggesting as it does that women can only hope to be appreciated for qualities other than their sexual attractiveness before they hit puberty, and after that they are doomed to be regarded as more or less desirable sexual objects. That's a hideous, dysfunctional setup, and not selling push-up bras to eight year olds (and absolutely, what the Hell?) isn't going to do anything more than postpone the point at which they become targets of sexual harassment and objectification.
And I guess the last thing I'll say is that if you actually read fashion mags, a lot of that marketing is pretty negative. The idea is that your body in its natural state is unsexy, and you need to buy and use products to fix it and make it sexy. Is that really a message you want pre-teen girls to get?
Absolutely not. Is it a message I want teen girls to get? No. Is it a message that I want post-teen girls to get? Again, no. This vast conspiracy to make women feel ugly and undesirable in order to make them buy cosmetics and clothes and "shaping girdles" and diet pills - and chocolate, for that matter - is grotesque. But legislation to ban lipstick, or to ban designer labels, won't fly. At the very least, somebody lobbying for that is probably also saying that, as far as they are concerned, market-driven capitalism has failed women, or more precisely has used women as cheap labor at one end and conspired to take their unequal wages back at the other by making them feel fat, and that therefore capitalism has to be dismantled or radically restructured in order to be of any benefit to women. That's not an untenable position, but it's a pretty radical one.

If we assume that the market is not subject to radical restructuring in that way, at least not within the immediate future, legislating to ban the sale of certain items of clothing feels simultaneously like incomplete legislation and excessive legislation. I'd rather see the government working to ensure equality of opportunity for women, schools teaching girls that it is not their assigned lot in life to be a target for harassment and boys that they have a duty not just to refrain from harassing women but to challenge harassment when they see it, employers being given strong incentives to create equal workplaces - all that utopian stuff. And, while that's happening, parents need to parent - to give their children values, to guide them and to raise them.

If nobody bought padded bras for eight-year-olds, I can say with absolute confidence that there would be no padded bras for eight-year-olds in next year's Summer collection. If a bookstore made a selling point of being a place you could take your daughter in the knowledge that she wouldn't be confronted with the drumbeat of objectification from its magazine racks, and that became a successful strategy, you'd see other bookstores following suit. If people took their protests to the shop doorways, or sustained economic pressure through visible boycotts, you might again see change.

However, I am deeply suspicious of any move by government to legislate on what clothes children can be sold - not least because it is very close to legislating on what clothes children are allowed to wear. Britain already has laws on public indecency and behavior likely to cause a breach of the peace. There are systems in place to protect children in danger from bad parenting. Those systems are far from perfect, but I'm not sure that limiting the sale of T-shirts saying "Flirty girl" or Playboy-logo pencil cases will do much to help them. This stuff should be protested and resisted, absolutely - but legislated against? That feels like a complex step.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:07 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Conservative government is conservative, shock.

More like, conservative government is stupid and ultimately wasteful in an enormously predictable way. We're about to see a similar thing here in Canada with harsher drug laws and the building of more prisons. Hooray for the triumph of reason!
posted by philip-random at 10:35 AM on June 5, 2011


There are already many laws and regulations in place restricting the products that minors are able to purchase or consume. I don’t think the British government is yet advocating for banning makeup or designer clothing for children, but if it did, it seems like it would merely be an extension of existing laws rather than a radical restructuring of the economy.


One of the things that I find interesting in these discussions is the idea that consumers should be the ones to alter their behaviour in response to a negative externality rather than producers. When negative externalities arise in industries other than the cultural industry, the usual expectation is that producers are the ones that should take the negative externality into account. When a factory farm contaminates the groundwater, the usual response is that the producer should stop doing that. The government will put in environmental regulations (or fine the producer) to solve the problem. Another way to solve the problem would be to ask the people who are affected by the contaminated ground water to stop consuming it (they could start purchasing bottled water instead or move away to a place that has clean drinking water). I think the argument that parents should take “responsibility” for protecting their children from harmful side effects that arise from the production of music, magazines, or fashion are very much like asking the neighbours to a factory farm to take “responsibility” for their health by purchasing bottled water.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:52 AM on June 5, 2011


I don’t think the British government is yet advocating for banning makeup or designer clothing for children

If you re-read what I wrote, you'll notice I was talking about banning designer clothing and makeup as a whole, not for children, which would be a rather radical step. Don't get me wrong - it may be that capitalism has to be sacrificed for the interests of children, or of women, or indeed of people, and I think that's a perfectly arguable position, but I never mentioned designer clothing or makeup for children.

I think the argument that parents should take “responsibility” for protecting their children from harmful side effects that arise from the production of music, magazines, or fashion are very much like asking the neighbours to a factory farm to take “responsibility” for their health by purchasing bottled water.

I think the difference between groundwater contamination in your analogy and, let's say, t-shirts with slogans deemed by a government agency to be too explicit for the age group it would generally fit is that there is generally some science to the effect that whatever the groundwater has been contaminated with is bad for people, and also there is no circumstance where a human might drink that contaminant and experience no ill-effects, or even positive effects. At present, I don't think there is scientific evidence in the same way for children's clothing or magazine covers, and there is some evidence that cultural products like music, in particular, is not harmful to adults - and may even be beneficial. I think those two factors make this a false equivalence.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:27 AM on June 5, 2011


Ofcom ruled that Rihanna's routine "featured some gentle thrusting", but it was "suitably limited".

Hawt. Tell me more.
posted by darkstar at 11:45 AM on June 5, 2011


But it's the suitable limited gentle thrust that really drives you ins-a-a-a-a-ne!
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:53 AM on June 5, 2011


I’m not so sure it’s a false equivalence. Factory farms produce meat, and I think most people think that meat production is beneficial to society. Many people get great enjoyment out of consuming meat. The ground water contamination is an unintended side effect of the production process. I don’t think factory farmers want to harm people, but it is something that happens by accident. I think it’s the same with cultural producers in some cases. Arts (and I would include the production of advertisements in this) and fashion are great things that give immense amounts of enjoyment to people, but it seems plausible to me that there could be some unintended negative side effects arising from their production. I’m not familiar with the scientific literature, but I would think there must be evidence linking things like anorexia to the proliferation of fashion magazines.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 12:10 PM on June 5, 2011


Arts (and I would include the production of advertisements in this) and fashion are great things that give immense amounts of enjoyment to people, but it seems plausible to me that there could be some unintended negative side effects arising from their production. I’m not familiar with the scientific literature, but I would think there must be evidence linking things like anorexia to the proliferation of fashion magazines.

Oh, it's absolutely plausible. It just isn't supported. Correlation does not equal causation. Whereas there is usually some pretty clear proof of causation, through chemical theory or experience, between drinking EPA-identified contaminants at EPA-determined levels and physical harm. Thus, it's a false equivalence.

Legislating to restrict things that you think might have some possible psychically damaging effects is almost the template for a slippery slope, though. For example, I think that children shouldn't play with toy guns, or toys resembling knives or swords, because they give the message that the best way to resolve problems is by violence. Should the sale of these items be restricted? In fact, I think plastic toys in general are a bad idea - they are not biodegradable, they are expensive and, just like inappropriate fashion items, they are often bought unwillingly by parents under pressure from their children.

While we're at it, I think that people replacing their mobile phones - which are full of both rare and toxic materials - once a year is actually obscene. It is giving children absolutely the wrong idea about how to conserve the riches of the Earth, and is endangering the environment they will be living in after we are dead. These are areas where it is entirely plausible that immediate or long-term harm is being done to our children. At what point should government intervene?

That said, let's also not forget that this consultation is not talking about censoring fashion magazines - that was a sidetrack. There's discussion of moving "lad mags" to the top shelf or putting them in modesty sleeves - which doesn't seem like a terrible idea, given that their covers are often functionally identical to a lot of pornography, but does feel like a weird thing for government to get involved with, as does specifying what, beyond existing obscenity and public order laws, is an appropriate or inappropriate slogan to put on a T-shirt. I think Mumsnet's retailer pressure on black bras is odd and potentially a little weird, but it also feels like the sort of thing retailers' codes of practice should probably cover, so they are taking what seems like the appropriate route by petitioning retail trade bodies.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:43 PM on June 5, 2011


• Change rules on nine o'clock television watershed to give priority to views of parents.

Because it's totally beyond the capability of any parent to change the fucking channel or turn the damn thing off, isn't it?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:59 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, if the Conservative party really is shopping for something child related to be freaked out about it could do worse than this: Three in 10 UK children 'own no books'

Oh wait. They hate libraries. And books. And, lets be honest here, children.
posted by Artw at 1:19 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm in Leeds right now and I think the criminalization of hen and stag parties would do wonders for your national character and dress sense.

If you want to see real hen and stag parties, you should visit Newcastle. Those people in Leeds are lightweights.
posted by klausness at 1:48 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great, so Labour, true to form, is actually trying to stake out a position to the right of the Tories on this? I guess if I were a civil liberties-minded British voter, I'd have no choice but to vote for the Lib Dems then? Oh wait, right. That doesn't work either.

Yeah, I was actually pretty sympathetic towards the Lib Dems, since they were the only party that seemed to take civil liberties seriously. As it turns out, they only seemed to take civil liberties seriously.
posted by klausness at 1:54 PM on June 5, 2011


If you want to see real hen and stag parties, you should visit Newcastle. Those people in Leeds are lightweights.


That's like saying "Yeah thumb screws are bad but if you want the real thing you need some sulfuric acid"
posted by The Whelk at 1:57 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to see real hen and stag parties, you should visit Newcastle. Those people in Leeds are lightweights.
That's like saying "Yeah thumb screws are bad but if you want the real thing you need some sulfuric acid"


Oh, so you've been to Newcastle.
posted by klausness at 4:01 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once they deal with the threat of British children encountering sexiness they can move on to outlawing cosmetic dentistry.
posted by srboisvert at 5:45 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a problem the market really has solved on its own.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:53 AM on June 6, 2011


Report is available for download here.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:04 AM on June 7, 2011


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