Soul to Sole
By Tina Mattsson
I remember my daughter’s first dance recital. She was 3. I sat in the audience and cried. Something about seeing her move her body so carefree and comfortably moved me to tears. As Mary Bawden, founder of Soul to Sole Choreography (http://www.soultosolechoreography.org), puts it, “there is a beautiful integration of mind, body, and spirit in dance.” But as she points out in her blog on her website, “It’s the 21st century, and the cultural dance environment has morphed into 2 distinct options for children: healthy versus unhealthy dance.”
Bawden has had dance in her mind, body, and spirit from a young age. She grew up dancing, but ultimately decided not to pursue a career in dance. She instead became a teacher and taught high school. But after a few years, the call to dance became so powerful she couldn’t ignore it any longer. So with the support of her husband, she went back to school and got a BA in Modern Dance from UC Riverside. Slowly doors kept opening until she was invited to start a dance ministry.
After becoming discouraged at the increasing hypersexualization of young girls in dance, Bawden created an initiative called Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited (DA:NCE) http://www.soultosolechoreography.org/dance-awareness-2/. The purpose is to “bring greater cultural awareness and education around the growing use of sexy, age-inappropriate costumes, music and choreography in children’s dance and how this is distorting the art and activity of dance for kids.”
The research is pretty clear here. Hypersexualization of young girls at an earlier and earlier age has damaging long-term ramifications. The American Psychological Association defines hypersexualization as “occurring when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior to the exclusion of other characteristics” (De Melker, 2013).
In 2010 the UK government commissioned a review called Sexualization of Young People Review by Linda Papadopoulos. She found that “exposure to the sexualized female ideal is linked with lower self-esteem, negative moods and depression in young women and girls” (Lister, 2013).
Also, the American Psychological Association says research shows that the sexualization of girls negatively affects them in many ways including: (“Sexualization of Girls is Linked to Common Mental Health Problems in Girls and Women”, 2007)
* Cognitive and Emotional Consequences: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
* Mental and Physical Health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women–eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
* Sexual Development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.
Bawden says while there are people in every culture who are truly evil, the majority of the people are unaware or uneducated. And they see something that makes them uncomfortable, such as a young girl dancing provocatively, but they don’t know what to do or say because they have no research or tools, so they say nothing. DA:NCE aims to change that.
On the DA:NCE website is an intriguing and informative video (http://www.soultosolechoreography.org/dance-awareness-ppt-video/) that traces dance and widens the net to show how unhealthy dance is connected to normalizing children to be used for pornography. In other words, “grooming girls to be objects and encouraging young men to view girls as objects.” Bawden is quick to point out it’s not the kids’ fault. It’s the culture and many other issues, one of which is money in the pornography industry and the availability of the Interne to make this happen without people realizing what’s going on.
Bawden feels strongly about children experiencing the beauty of dance like she did and that mind, body, and spirit connection. And she feels strongly about keeping kids safe in this endeavor. So she has made the video and PowerPoint presentation available for free on the site for people to use to help educate their communities.
For more ideas on how to help your child develop a strong body image and to talk to your child about their bodies check out our books 30 Days to A Stronger Child and 30 Days of Sex Talks. Also, check out our website for more information on media literacy and digital citizenship.
For more information and links to many more organizations with information on this topic, check out the resource page for DA:NCE. http://www.soultosolechoreography.org/links/
Tina Mattson has a BA in Journalism with a Minor in English. She is a mother, writer and advocate for children’s safety and education.
De Melker, S. (2013, December 21). Researchers measure increasing sexualization of images in magazines. Retrieved November 08, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/social_issues-july-dec13-sexualization_12-21/
Lister, L. (2013, June 27). Hyper-Sexualization of Girls – Dove Self-Esteem. Retrieved November 08, 2016, from http://selfesteem.dove.us/Articles/Written/Hyper-Sexualization-of-Girls.aspx
Sexualization of Girls is Linked to Common Mental Health Problems in Girls and Women. (2007, February 19). Retrieved November 08, 2016, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/02/sexualization.aspx