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Girls & Women

This Book for Teen Boys Criticized for Objectifying Women's Bodies

@ManVsPink / Twitter

A 2013 children’s book about puberty is being criticized for perpetuating the sexualization of women and girls by stating that the function of breasts is to “make the girl look grown up and attractive.”

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"Growing Up For Boys," written by Alex Frith and published by Usborne publishing, claims the book is intended to be, “a frank and friendly book offering boys advice on what to expect from puberty and how to to stay happy and confident as they go through physical, psychological and emotional changes,” according to the company’s website.

The controversial passage in the book comes in a section labeled, “What are breasts for?” and provides the following explainer for young boys:

“Girls have breasts for two reasons. One is to make milk for babies. The other is to make the girl look grown-up and attractive. Virtually all breasts, no matter what size or shape they end up when a girl finishes puberty, can do both things.”

Parenthood blogger Simon Ragoonanan brought attention to the paragraph in a Facebook post expressing anger at the potentially harmful message contained in the passage.

“This just seemed awful and completely unjustifiable,” Ragnoonanan said in an interview with the Guardian. “Usborne are serial offenders in peddling gender stereotypes to kids.”

Many worry that the type of language used in the book exemplify the problematic rhetoric that leads young boys to objectify and sexualize women and girls.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, and gender equality is goal 5. You can take action on this issue here.

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UK teacher Claire Nicholls pointed out that this language leads to harmful associations between breasts and attractiveness that can have implications for how women are treated throughout their lives.

“The other huge issue is the false equivalence of developed breasts with attractiveness and being ‘grown-up’,” she told the Guardian. “The ‘grown-up’ statement is troubling. There are girls of 13 with developed breasts. To describe them as ‘grown-up and attractive’ would be worrying, as would infantilising an adult woman with smaller breasts.”

People all over the internet have voiced their opposition to the book across a variety of platforms. The book’s Amazon page received several one-star reviews, as well as many comments disparaging the thought that this book might be used to help educate young boys.

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“This book is completely useless,” read one comment. “It perpetuates rape culture and teaches boys that women are simply there to make babies and be objects of attraction. Do not purchase this book.”

According to the UN, one in three women around the globe will be subjected to sexual violence in their lifetime. Additionally, it is estimated that one in 10 women worldwide have faced forced sexual intercourse, or other forced sex acts.

Though the book was originally published in 2013, renewed criticism on social media has forced Usborne to issue an apology and promise to redress the issue.

A statement delivered by the publisher to the Guardian read, “Usborne apologizes for any offense caused by this wording and will be revising the content for reprinting.”

In 2014, Usborne stated that they would no longer publish books with gendered titles.