- It may very well be that I am too profoundly American to understand this concept, this lingerie for little girls. Though I have traveled the world and have a debaucherous youth under my belt, maybe I really am too ‘girl next door’ to be comfortable with the ideaof pre-pubescent girls wearing satin mini-adult underthings.
Or maybe it is that I firmly believe there is no need to package our little girls for sex.
Lingerie, from its beginning, has been used to seduce and titillate while the wearer is being gazed upon. In modern days, it is meant to be gift wrapping for bedroom play and sex. Alluring, erotic. And now it comes in Size 4. In fact, now thanks to Jours Aprel Lunes, families can even purchase Mommy & Me matching lingerie, which I truly hope leaves penises shriveling and falling off at the thought.
In 2003 the global lingerie market peaked at $29 billion. And to think, despite Candie’s best efforts, the children’s true lingerie market had not yet been cornered.
Instead of talking about if this is right or wrong, how horrible the sexualization and sexploitation of childhood is, how our daughters are being damaged by messages coming at them so early that their ability to be beautiful and sexy will define their worth and that their not-yet developed sexuality will be a performance for others instead of something innate….
Let’s desconstruct what this is really about, because I heard some absurd things when this was discussed:
1. “Little girls like to play dress up and look like Mommy.”
Okay, sure, kids like to play dress up. Except, this photo shoot isn’t playing dress up. It is very young girls wearing make-up and sexy Brigitte Bardot bedroom hair styled by adults while posing at the instruction of the photographer.
And when playing dress up in Mommy’s things, they are a visitor to Mommy’s world, so things are too big and don’t fit. Because those things weren’t made for them, they were made for Mommy. But we’re talking about lingerie made to fit little girls. Made just for them. There is an adorable awkwardness in clomping down the hall in high heels and a dress many times too big. This usually includes drastic over-accessorization of every piece of jewelry owned and sloppily-applied make-up. I don’t know about you, but when my kids play dress up, my drawer of lingerie and bedroom toys is off limits. Why? Because that is a part of my adult marriage and adult sexuality they have no business being a part of. I don’t think that makes me a prude. That makes me a parent.
So let’s be clear, this isn’t dress up. Now, maybe after purchase of the kiddie lingerie, a little girl at home would wear her fancy Jours underthings for dress up. I just don’t think my five year old needs diamond-encrusted satin panties.
2. “Saying that a woman wears pretty undergarments because they expect to be undressed for sex, also bad.” And “not always why I wear it… I would say it’s made to make me feel (when properly fitting, of course) feminine, sensual, attractive, etc”.
What I said, for the record, is that the ‘lingerie is gift wrapping for sex’. There are definitely women who like to wear lingerie for the sake of wearing lingerie, sex or no sex. Fancy bras and panties are a perk to being a grown woman. But I think it is safe to say that the majority of people wearing lingerie, the majority of times they wear it, is to be seductive in the boudoir and to be gazed upon. Now we have a children’s version, which makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. Let’s remember, Victoria’s Secret was created by a man, to make a more comfortable and easy shopping experience for men buying items for their romantic interests. The lingerie market was created and largely exists for sex and seduction, to be gazed at while wearing garments that accentuate the adult body in a sexual manner. Wearing lingerie is about sex or feeling sexy. And none of that has to do with being a five year old.
3. “There’s a very fine line between teaching girls that their sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, and not pushing them into too much, too soon.”
I don’t think that fine line calls for kiddie lingerie. Itty bitty lingerie no more instills healthy sexuality in a child than a push-up brainstills confidence in a teen. I don’t think that line is so fine. I can teach my daughter to be sex positive and I can be supportive and a trusted source of information for her as her sexuality develops at an age appropriate pace. I can teach her to respect and love her body without having to watch her skip right over her girlhood and hop into mini-womanhood. She’ll become a woman, and I am in no rush to get there. Because I raise her with the right messages, neither is she.
4. “I bet pedophiles are loving this. Now they have these images….” And ”How many pedophiles work for this company?”
Let’s answer the second question first: Most likely zero. People who sexualize little children are more often than not, not pedophiles. They develop a product that has a market, and they sell. This is about dollars, not sex. I don’t think the people at Mattel who make Monster High are pedophiles any more than I do the folks at Submarine Kidsor Abercrombie & Fitch. I do think they are people who lapse some serious good judgement when it comes to children’s product development and marketing to kids.
Now for the pedophile stuff – Friends, these images don’t hold a candle to actual child porn, and if you knew the seeminly innocuous images that get certain pedophiles off on, you wouldn’t let your kids out of your house. Your child is more at risk of coming into contact with an older or same age family member, playmate, neighbor (adult or child), or school mate for whom products and advertising like this blur the line of taboo around kids and sex. That’s a line I don’t want smudged.
While child sexual abuse, online pornography, and pedophilia do exist as dangers to our children, the real and more tangible concern with early sexualization is what messages our kids, boys and girls, are learning about gender and sexuality: how girls/women should look, act, and how adult sexuality is projected. This leads to a whole host of problems like low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, early promiscuity, risky sexual behavior, poor performance in school, and an unhealthy development of sexuality at a very crucial age for young people.
5. “I don’t think I would have had any idea I was being sexualized, and since my parents would never have let me pose in my underwear in a public forum under any circumstances (and it never would have occurred to me to want to), I don’t think anyone else would have had the opportunity to sexualize me either.” And “If no one involved, including the children, notice it happening, then how is it happening exactly?”
That is the beast of sexualization, isn’t it? Children don’t understand that it is happening to them. How would they? That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. If I have a pot boiling on the stove and I leave the room as it boils over, I may not see it happening, but I still have a mess to clean up. Sexualization doesn’t have to take place in public, and sexualization is not the same as sexual abuse.
Sexualization is an emotional and/or physical experience, often many moments and messages over the course of time, that teach the subject unhealthy values about sexuality.
There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualization occurs when
- a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
- a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
- a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
- sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
6. “I think saying ‘my daughter wants to be like me and she may by any means she chooses EXCEPT the things I do because they make me feel pretty’ is…bizarre. Girls are allowed to want to be attractive.”
I think all living creatures are looking for acceptance, and a part of that comes from being found attractive. But in girlhood, that shouldn’t come from being sexy. Trying on Mommy’s dresses and make-up and painting toes is one thing – both totally normal and age appropriate, while keeping in check the focus and emphasis on “being pretty”. Trying on mini, child version of the type of lingerie Mommy would wear to seduce Daddy while away on an anniversary weekend? Not okay. Disgusting, really.
Playing with hairstyles and clips and updo’s – totally normal and age appropriate. Sitting at a photoshoot getting a Brigette Bardo bombshell updo to model lingerie made for kids? Are ya kidding me? Not. Okay.
There are some things adults do because they are adults that have no place in childhood.
Girls are allowed to want to feel pretty and should spend a small portion of their girlhood experimenting with hair and make-up and dress up and that kind of stuff. That is not what this is about.
It is all about allowing our children to be children, and not rushing them in sexuality and adulthood. It is about seeing the value in our girls enjoying and thriving in girlhood. If we do that, we’ll be raising a great bunch of young women.
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