When I was a little girl, my mom always had a wonderful trunk that we called the costume trunk. It was filled with her old dresses, shoes, and costume jewelry. I loved getting dressed up and pretending to be a lady like my mom. My mom didn't wear much makeup, but she always had on lipstick. I was mesmerized by her red lips, and wanted to have lipstick, too. Every once in a while she'd let me put on a little lipstick when I had one of the costume dresses on. There I was, walking around in huge shoes, with an over sized dress dragging on the floor, loaded down with "jewels," and my red lips. I was in heaven. But, I also looked like a little girl playing dress-up.
Today, women's sexy dresses are made in tiny sizes for little girls. They are not just emulating us, they are being us.
Children have a beauty like no other. It is a natural beauty - one of rosy cheeks and sparkly eyes, pink lips and white teeth. They are incredibly gorgeous without any accoutrements. They are ...stunning. Why in the world do we want to doll them up to look like a bad version of us?
Childhood is so fleeting...can we give them more time just to be children?
Where do we start? What can WE do? First we have to begin the conversation. Sometimes visual images make the most impact. Because, even if you haven't seen it in "your neighborhood," the sexualizing of children exists. And...the problem is growing. We run into a real problem when we project the problem onto other people. Don't we owe it, as parents, to provide a real childhood for our girls and our boys? Are we just going to take care of our own? Or, do we want to build a community in which we can come together and make the world that is out there a better place for all children?
I received the following comment yesterday after my post: Will they wonder why we didn't stop the make-overs at 5?
I for one am confident enough in my parenting to know that my daughter would be able to attend a *gasp* pop star party without becoming a future slut.
Have a nice day.
I am grateful for this comment, because therein, lies the problem. It's not about those girls, it's about all girls. Because this affects all of us and the relationships that our children will form later in adulthood. And it is certainly NOT about labeling them "good girls" and "sluts."
It is sooo ... easy to just say, "That's not MY child!"...and turn away. But, is that what we want to do? Really?
Girls that choose to dress this way are being pounded daily by the media. The normalization of female objectification in popular culture is so present, we don't even recognize it. And, some of us as parents are buying into it. Because, although the images in my previous post are blatant, many more are not. The problem is insidious. And if the products are being bought, the companies make money and if it makes money...then it's a tougher battle to fight. But, it can be fought. It can.
WE are the suckers here. And our children are the victims. The advertisers are sitting smugly in their mansions laughing their asses off at our stupidity. Or better yet, they're not even thinking of us. They're just enjoying the money that we spend...filling up their pockets.
So, whose problem is it? Is it about the parents? I think it is. But, it doesn't do any good to point fingers and put parents into the good parent/bad parent category. It's about education. It's about having the conversation with other moms, and dads. It's about talking to our kids. It's about the power of a community rising up and saying, we're not going to buy into it any more.
Here are a couple of stories that were shared on an online chat group after seeing the images in my previous post:
My sister was telling just yesterday about a friend of hers, they came over and her 7 year old daughter was wearing this outfit, that at first my sister thought was a bit much but cute, then she turned around and on the skirt it said
Booty Call was a movie about adults. The tag line for the movie?
Some guys will do anything for a little something.
I want my daughter to grow up knowing that she can be anything, do anything, because she has a marvelous brain and is free to use it. That her body is strong and healthy and a wondrous thing. That girls are worth loving for who they are. Not that her total value and worth lies in her sexual body, and whether her body is good enough/sexy enough to attract boys.
So, how can we come together? We in the blogging community have a lot of power. We can get the word out. We can start reassessing what our children are watching, and we can talk to them (age appropriate) about what they are seeing on billboards, and in everyday life. We can stop purchasing from stores that sell clothes that objectify girls and boys. If two dozen girls can shut down the manufacturing of offensive t-shirts at Abercrombie & Fitch, just think what we could do collectively! We can change things, but we have to all come together, stop the finger pointing, and realize that it affects all of us. This is not a battle just for those of us with daughters. Think how powerful it could be to talk with our sons. To raise them to respect girls and women. It is time for our voices to be heard.
If we don't do something, then we have to take responsibility for helping to turn young girls into a commodity. Is that what we really want? Let's shrug off our detachment, and make a difference. What are you going to do?
"Self-objectification isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So what can we do about it? First, we can recognize how our everyday actions feed the larger beast, and realize that we are not powerless. Mass media, the primary peddler of female bodies, can be assailed with millions of little consumer swords. We can boycott companies and engage in other forms of consumer activism, such as socially conscious investments and shareholder actions. We can also contact companies directly to voice our concerns and refuse to patronize businesses that overtly depict women as sex objects.
What would disappear from our lives if we stopped seeing ourselves as objects? Painful high heels? Body hatred? Constant dieting? Liposuction? It’s hard to know. Perhaps the most striking outcome of self-objectification is the difficulty women have in imagining identities and sexualities truly our own. In solidarity, we can start on this path, however confusing and difficult it may be. "
Caroline Heldman from Ms. Magazine Spring 2008