What happened to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?

Date: November 25, 2010
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Growing up in the 90’s I remember my mother telling me to close my eyes whenever there was a kissing scene on TV. I also remember crying because I was not allowed to watch Melrose Place or The Real World. Those were the days when kids TV was the only TV I had access to, and when cartoons were actually made for kids.

Flash forward to 2010 and most teens have personal email and exchange episodes of Nip Tuck with their friends. Ask the average 14-year-old and they will tell you where to find free episodes of South Park, Joe Fly, or something X-rated on the net.

As a woman living in today’s South Africa, I am always taken aback by the scary gender-based violence statistics we regularly hear about. Most recently the Gender Links GBV Indicators finding that more than three quarters of men surveyed in Gauteng province admitted to perpetrating violence in their lifetime.

Although I love my country, I often wonder how it is we live in such a violent society. This 16 Days I asked myself what role I play in addressing or perpetuating the problem. As a member of the internet generation, I’m tempted to finger this culprit as the reason behind some of today’s biggest problems. And with it I look to myself, guilty as charged, a lover of pop culture and all the good and bad that comes with it, always just a click away.

The internet is a gift and a curse. It has made it easier to access useful, educational information, but also to unearth the ugly and the nasty. Any teen with a cell phone has the internet at his or her finger tips, which means uncensored content 24 hours a day.

What is the only thing between your child and explicit content? A pop-up asking that they click a button to prove they’re over 18. Gone are the days of switching the TV off by 10 to ensure your children don’t see the late night movie, gone too is the mystique of over 18 adult stores, the internet is the one stop shop for all things clandestine.

One can’t help but connect the dots as we witness the growing trend in South Africa to commodify women. We can’t assume because these images come from The States or Europe that we are not affected by them. A recently-released South African porn movie has become a hot topic on many social networking sites. People want to see it. The message this sends out? Like elsewhere, sex sells in South Africa.

Couple this with the fact that we live in a society where emulating pop culture is cool.

South African-produced music is sounding more and more American every day; young men in baggy jeans and fake American accents are fast becoming the norm. It’s also not cool to be young anymore. We have 15-year-olds dressing like they are 25 because Miley Cirus does. Sexting (sending sexually explicit texts/sms’) is the norm , thanks to the likes of Rhianna and Disney actress Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame sending half naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriends.

And ask any teen about Kim Kardashian and her claim to fame? A leaked Sex tape. Then you have nine-year-old Willow Smith singing about haters. What happened to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?

It is not just the fallen role models; it is the billboards, the adverts, the magazine covers and the average Hollywood movie, all perpetuating negative stereotypes of women. With children exposed to this content from such an early age, increasingly via the internet, we should be concerned.

Women are objectified and commodified, and men are glorified and omnipotent. Men want so women give. More and more girls are growing up believing that popularity is synonymous with nudity and when it comes to dressing up, less is more. Boys are growing up believing that women are there to serve their every need. Children are growing up believing that it is normal and justified to have sex at 13. These are the messages delivered by pop culture and pop culture is pervasive.

Yet this is where I come in: A 26-year-old self-confessed feminist. But with all this knowledge and all my critical analysis I am doing very little to address the issue, in fact, I am often at battle with myself.

I am a lover of hip hop, and no, I am not talking about the deep conscious, message-laden, focus on the rhymes good stuff, but the hot beats, bubblegum hooks often accompanied by flashy videos, and fully dressed men waving dollar bills at scantily clad women. And, I must admit, I have yet to walk out of a club when lyrics like “drop down and get your eagle on girl” spew out of the speakers, in fact, you may find I am the first on the dance floor when a Ludacris song comes on.

I would like to think I am critical of images in pop culture, never to be swayed to think or act in a way that results in my objectification. But when reality hits, I often ask myself if I am part of the solution or the problem.

So if we’re all so hooked on this stuff, how do we empower young girls and educate young boys when what we say is not what they see?

I don’t have any kids yet, but I would like to think that when I do I will spend many hours talking to my girls about the kind of self-respecting women they should grow up to be, despite what they see on TV (or hear coming out of Mommy’s IPod) and to my boys about the types of men they should emulate. It’s important to make these distinctions, especially because it looks like the internet is here to stay.

But I will also make sure I sing them plenty of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!

Kelello Tekateka is the Gender Links Justice Programme Officer. This article is part of a special series on the 16 Days of Activism for the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news. For more information on the 16 Days Campaign go to www.genderlinks.org.za.


0 thoughts on “What happened to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?”

Tsepo Ntsukunyane says:

I completely concur with you. But this whole conversion or evolution in our society is what I call disintegration of moral values.

Furthermore this disintegration is destroying the most important institution of human kind which is family. If the society can revert to their culture, meaning the basics such as respect for women and children, integrity, humility and respect for your neighbor… We will reside in a peaceful society.


Shau says:

I rad this and I am seeing myself. the worst part is that old scene from the Chris Rock stand- up comedy- ‘He ain’t talking about me!’. I actually sat and laughed at that, because it was so true! I think what is important is to know what you say, and to know that there is power in your actions as well as your words. I am not saying stop listening to the music (I know I won’T), but I am ssying be aware of the messages it is brigning forward, and how you then perpetuate it.

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