Oh boy! I don’t even want to guess how that title is going to affect the google searches that find my site! Still, it is also the title of a piece on CNN that my friend K sent me a while back. You probably won’t remember, but K is a friend who wrote a guest blog post on human trafficking in Canada a couple years back. She is also a tireless advocate for victims of trafficking.
Anyways… K sent me this article from CNN and asked my opinion, not as a social worker or as someone who has worked in the counter-trafficking movement and with victims, but rather as a mother. In her email to me, K said: “is an interesting opinion piece written by a man about how sexual much of the clothing for young girls has become. I have actually discussed this very issue during my anti-human trafficking trafficking work. I was absolutely shocked to find that the most frequent reaction was to be ridiculed – - by women – - for saying much the same thing as the article (at least in principle). Interestingly, the guys tended to agree with me.”
I guess before I tell you my reaction, I should tell you about the article. The tongue-and-cheek humor in the piece blatantly blames parents (and to some extent society) for the over-sexualization of younger and younger girls. While you should click the link to get the whole article, here is piece of what is said:
I mean, that is the purpose of a push-up bra, right? To enhance sex appeal by lifting up, pushing together and basically showcasing the wearer’s breasts. Now, thanks to AF Kids, girls don’t have to wait until high school to feel self-conscious about their, uhm, girls. They can start almost as soon as they’re potty trained. Maybe this fall the retailer should consider keeping a plastic surgeon on site for free consultations.
We’ve been here with Abercrombie before — if you recall, about 10 years ago they sold thongs for 10-year-olds — but they’re hardly alone in pitching inappropriate clothing to young girls. Four years ago the popular “Bratz” franchise introduced padded bras called “bralettes” for girls as young as six. That was also around the time the good folks at Wal-Mart rolled out a pair of pink panties in its junior department with the phrase “Who Needs Credit Cards” printed on the front.
I guess I’ve been out-of-the-loop and didn’t realize there’s been an ongoing stampede of 10-year-old girls driving to the mall with their tiny fists full of cash demanding sexier apparel.
What’s that you say? Ten-year-olds can’t drive? They don’t have money, either? Well, how else are they getting ahold of these push-up bras and whore-friendly panties?
My reaction to the piece is that I agree— parent’s should be held accountable for what clothes their children wear. Parents should be saying “no” and not supporting societies push to make girls sexier and sexier, earlier and earlier. Personally, I will not be buying push-up bras, thongs, or anything that says her body is for sale (for example Walmart’s undies for little girls that says: “Who needs credit cards) for my daughter at any point in her life– but particularly when she is a child.
Life is hard enough for little girls. (Yes, little boys also suffer from the strict gender roles imposed on them– but here I am talking about little girls and I am thinking about my little girl).
As I was saying: Life is hard enough for little girls. Society (and advertising and companies) send all kinds of messages. Just yesterday as we were driving over to my in-law’s house (in Chile) we passed a new billboard for a fancy hospital. It featured 7 doctors– all male. No, this sign doesn’t say that girls can’t be doctors, but it doesn’t give them a view of women as doctors. I happen to know for a fact many women doctors work at the hospital. Certainly they could have found a few to photograph.
Commercials on television and even kids entertainment are showing children having heterosexual dating relationships (sexual or not) at earlier and earlier ages. The music industry is glorifying being bootylicious. And, society, is placing a strong value on looking “sexy”.
So, little girls are learning that this is their value. Their value and their future lies in their ability to be sexy and they can fill that role if their parents will buy them whore-like outfits for everyday wear as opposed to just for Halloween. I get that corporations will fill that need– after all, they are just trying to fill their pockets. I don’t get parent’s handing over the cash and saying it is okay.
Then again, I also don’t get the appeal of Toddlers in Tiaras or many of the other TV shows that glorify making little girls dolled-up and sexy.
Having said all this— I get the other side of the argument. I get the fear that if we say children should not be dressed this way that people will blame those who are for horrendous acts against them. Just look at what was said about the 11 year old who was gang raped in Texas.
Let me be clear: Just because a girl is dressed up sexy, does not give anyone the right to violate her. Period. It is never an excuse for rape. It is never an excuse for molestation. And little girls (as well as big girls, adult women, little boys and adult men) are never “asking for it”.