Push-Up Bikinis for Bitty Boobies, Botoxing Mommies, and Undead Dolls

Mattel's line of Monster High dolls. For Ages 6 & Up.

 In the last ten days or so I’ve seen some crazy go on in the world of girls. First it was Monster High, which we’ve talked about before, but is in the news again. You recall Mattel’s newest creation of undead dolls and cartoon that look like oddly colored, vamped up prostitutes walking around on stilts-like legs. Sure it is a direct play by Mattel to cash in on the current culture crush of vampire/monster love right now thanks to the Twilight industry. And yes, you better believe your child’s classmates have seen the movies and maybe even read the books….about manipulative and controlling relationships between a teenage girl, a vampire, and a werewolf. I don’t get it. You know, I’m just uncomfortable with the idea of my child playing with a doll that looks like a sex worker, packaged with pathetic character story lines about boys, partying, and body beautification treatments like waxing and applying massive amounts of lotion. 

But with girls aging out of Barbie by age 7, Mattel needed another line of add-on toys for these girls to consume. So, with the marketing practice of age compression, a development team at Mattel would look at what 14-15 year olds are into, and then turn that into a product for a 8-9 year old. Undead streetwalker-looking dolls was the logical next choice. 

Then there was the story of the British mum who relocated her and her daughter to San Francisco to be closer to the children’s beauty pageant circuit. This mother is determined that her daughter is going to become a teen star and earn her millions. Which is why, naturally, she is injecting the 8 year old with Botox, saline, and giving her virgin waxes. I’ll just let you go ahead and Google that. The story broke in The Sun, which is a tabloid, but has since been verified by other news outlets. 

Kerry injects her 8yo daughter with Botox regularly to give her a leg up in show biz.

 Cheeky little Britney (aptly named) is quoted saying, “My friends think it’s cool I have all the treatments and they want to be like me. I check every night for wrinkles, when I see some I want more injections. They used to hurt, but now I don’t cry that much. I also want a boob and nose job soon, so that I can be a star.”  I want to weep. 

What’s worse, mom defends herself saying, “I know one day she will be a model, actress or singer, and having these treatments now will ensure she stays looking younger and baby-faced for longer. I’m sure people reading this will think I am being irresponsible…All I want is for Britney to have the best start in life, so it is easier for her to become a superstar.” 

And then, for the win: “More mothers should do it for their daughters.” 

Well, Kerry, I tell you what. I’m excited that my five year old has her first loose tooth. I’m in no rush to grow her. I like the idea of childhood. I like it very much. You would have to tie me down or knock me out if you came near my child’s face with hot wax. This weekend when I was blow drying my hair, I let her sit on the floor in front of the mirror and put on some very light-colored make-up. She had it all over her face, little iridescent shimmery powder, because she didn’t know what she was doing. And you know what? I didn’t correct her or show her how to do it. I sorta think five year olds really shouldn’t have any idea how to put on make-up. 

We talked about the idea of giving an 8yo “beauty” treatments like this on the Pigtail Pals facebook page ALL day on Wednesday and into Thursday. We discussed, among many things, that using invasive and routinely painful cosmetic procedures to physically alter the way your child will grow into an adult and inject toxic self-hating thoughts into her little mind to the point she is anxious to surgically alter herself with the wild hopes of someday becoming a megastar earning millions should constitute as child abuse. But it doesn’t. The cosmetic use of Botox on kids SO new, there aren’t even laws on the books to make what this messed up mama is doing illegal or child abuse. It sure as shit should be, but it isn’t. I think mama and baby both need some loving therapy. 

The skimpy push-up bikini top for your gradeschooler. Yes, you read that correctly.

 We finished up last week with the latest from repeat sexualization offender Abercrombie & Fitch — a new push-up bikini top that is sold in their KIDS shop, available in sizes Small to XLarge. Now I’ve been working with kids for about twenty years, and I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet a seven year old with breasts developed to even be pushed-up. And let’s say I had a 12 year old girl who did have breasts and she was allowed to wear a bikini….would I want that bikini top to be a triangle cut push-up that shoves her baby boobies front and center for all to see? Aside from self-esteem issues that go with sexualization, we also have to give some thought to the idea that when our daughters walk around like little Lolitas, they attract the sexual attention from men and boys that they are not mature enough to handle. This also becomes a safety issue. 

A padded bikini top sold to children sells the feeling of inadequacy about their baby boobies that aren’t done growing yet and the message that they need help in the form in strategically sewn padding to ensure they are constantly sexy. 

Here’s a great quote featured on Racked (I know, ironic.): “Blogger Kdiddy at Moxiebird eloquently explains: It’s not that kids in the 7 – 14 age group aren’t aware of their bodies and have no sexual feelings or thoughts until they’re 18. We know that’s not true. But there’s a healthy way to explore those feelings that doesn’t turn a young girl into another object to be ogled. If that’s how she wants to display her sexuality, then she can make that choice for herself when she’s older. When she’s a kid and, presumably, her parents are paying for her clothing, they need to make the call as to what is appropriate and protect her from crap like this while she’s still under their care. Navigating one’s early teens is hard enough. We don’t need to add another layer of confusion by making a young girl wonder if her cleavage looks appealing enough.” 

The bright spot in all of this was a brilliant post titled “Slut Shaming on the Playground”, and gave such a wonderful and easy example of how parents can talk to their kids, guide them into a healthy place to have their sexuality develop at a normal and age appropriate place. 

This isn’t about keeping our daughters forever young. This is about allowing them their natural born right to a childhood, a girlhood, and a safe passage into the teen years with a strong sense of self and confidence. This is about keeping sexualized marketing practices and products away from our kids. There is a time and a place for sexy and experimentation. That time and place IS NOT grade school. 

Our friend Dr. Robyn Silverman added to my statement with her own: “When we allow our young girls’ childhood about being sexy, we take their attention away from developing their true sense of self and how they can affect the world and we put it on what others want them to be and what the world demands of them.” 

Dr. Robyn was on the TODAY Show this morning talking about Abercrombie’s move. What do you think of the clip?  Her post also contains some great advice for parents on how to parent around all of this nonsense.
 

I do not accept the sexualization of childhood.

I will continue to fight it.

I will continue to hold firm to the belief my children have a natural born right to a childhood.

A Clarification on Sexualization, Predators, and Pageants

Small girl competing in a Glitz children's beauty pageant.

I need to make a very important clarification in regards to the child beauty pageant post about “Toddlers & Tiaras”.

When we talk about sexualization, our focus should and must remain on the emotional, social, sexual, and physical health of our daughters.

Our daughters are the center of this discussion, and we need to keep our focus on their intrinsic value and natural born right to a childhood. Our daughters (and sons) are the focus of this discussion.

Sexualization of childhood isn’t only about pedophiles.

But it has EVERYTHING to do with our kids’ healthy emotional development around gender, sexuality, body image, beauty, and self esteem.

THE DISTINCTION IS AN IMPORTANT ONE.

(For those who want a crash course about the process of sexualization, what the four criteria are, and how it harms our children, go here.)

I saw numerous comments here and around the web in response to my post that questioned the validity of the show based on if sexual predators would see these girls. Whether or not that happens is certainly of some importance, but the emotional and physical health of these girls is the primary concern. Sexualization slides the bar of taboo around children and sex, but if the conversation moves to “pedophiles might see them” and “this feeds pedophilia”, we unintentionally objectify the VERY girls we are trying to protect. We take away our girls’ agency when we shift focus off of them and  onto the possibility of an outside party’s actions.  Our primary concern is what is happening to the minds and bodies of these girls in the present, what might or might not happen in the future is secondary.

I absolutely care about the victims of child sexual abuse, and with rational caution am wary of sexual predators, but that is a post for another day.

Child beauty pageants may be atrocious and offensive, but they are not child pornography. They do not fall under the legal definition, and to describe them as such undermines the potency and heinousness of real child pornography and the victims it affects. Whether or not the actions of some of these parents are cases of child abuse would vary from state to state and the statutes that govern that jurisdiction. Both claims need to carry a heavy weight of social condemnation with them, and should not be tossed around lightly.

I want to thank everyone who left comments on the blog yesterday, in social media circles where this post was widely shared, and in emails I received. Clearly the topic of children, specifically girls, participating in beauty pageants is a hot button issue.  The protection of our daughters’ right to a girlhood is a passionate issue for me, and I am touched that there are many, many people out there who are equally caring. The post and call to action came from a need for our society to curb the epidemic of the highly sexualized media and marketplace that surround and harm our children.

An Open Letter to TLC: Cancel Toddlers & Tiaras

Recent beauty pageant contestant. She is two years old.

Dear Producers of Toddlers & Tiaras, TLC, and Discovery Communications LLC:  

It is an extremely thin veil that hides the atrocious “Toddlers & Tiaras” as a documentary-style show for your network. For the past four seasons the show has done a good job, not so much with teaching, but of giving viewers a voyeuristic peek into the children’s beauty pageant world. We don’t need to see anymore. As Season 5 reaches its midpoint, the show now continues to do little more than become complicit in the exploitation of the little girls at its center. At best, it is now a mockumentary of the visibly unbalanced mothers (and a few fathers) who force their children to spend long and uncomfortable hours participating in these expensive pageants. Many of these children are too young to say whether or not they want to participate. When these children act out and demonstrate they do not enjoy what is happening, or do not want it to happen any longer, they are still made to participate by their pageant moms. Let us be clear from the outset that after this season it is time to cancel the show.  

I’m sure inside your producer heads you think this is crazy, especially as the show has received some buzz-worthy, controversial attention recently and continues to pull in advertisers and an average of 1.3 million viewers each week….but as your mission statements goes, it is the job of the Discovery channel family to satisfy curiosity. TLC has done its job with this show, as almost everyone who has been exposed to the program finds it distasteful and widely condemns the child beauty pageant circuit. Our curiosity has been satisfied – as demonstrated with the several thousands of negative and disapproving comments left in the last couple of weeks alone. We’ve seen it. We don’t like it. We’re over it.  

The idea of two year old girls strutting around with cones protruding out of her bustier and five year olds who sit trembling and screaming in a chair at a salon as she is enticed into a painful beauty treatment will tend to leave a bad taste in our mouth. It leaves us less interested in the pageants themselves, but more interested in gawking at and judging the deranged mothers who subject their poor daugthers to this twisted world of judged fake beauty. That might make for good ratings, but it doesn’t make for a happy and healthy childhood of the young girls who hold the title of this show. Just like their overbearing mothers, you exploit these children. A shameful act on both parts.  

The duration of this show has coincided with a large effort by a small group of dedicated experts to raise awareness to the general public about the sexualization of girls. The parents we have reached now understand the emotional, psychological, and physical harm a young girl is exposed to when she is sexualized.  As the 2007 American Psychological Association’s task force report showed us, early sexualization can lead to self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, and early promiscuity.  

Contestant on the children's beauty pageant circuit.

“Toddlers & Tiaras” is a petri dish of sexualization. Little girls are taught, often times forced by their domineering mothers, to act coquettishly, learn suggestive dance routines, wear sexualized costumes and bathing suits, endure hours of hair and make-up, and are even put on restrictive diets in order to lose weight for competition. This is perverse. While TLC continues to air “Toddlers & Tiaras”, the network becomes an agent of this sexualization.  

The toxic culture of the pageant world, the judging of beauty, is confusing to young children who have not yet reached the emotional-intellectual milestones of understanding reality and competition. These little girls become infantilized women as their parents and coaches do whatever it takes to win that crown and of course, the money. The time alone spent prepping for pageants robs girls of their childhood, time that should be spent learning and playing and socializing with friends. Teaching young girls a very narrow version of beauty, transforming their bodies so that their beauty can be measured and judged, or to use their sexualized bodies to earn money for the family is disgusting. I take great offense to this. When you add to this the chemically dangerous spray tans, butt glue, nail glue, eyelash glue, hairspray, and cosmetics applied to these tiny, developing bodies, it is not a stretch to say these pageant programs are both emotionally and physically abusive.  

The content of the show is reprehensible and the time has come to stop being a complicit entity to the unfair and unhealthy treatment of these little girls. Surely the world holds more intersting storylines than overdone, unhappy toddlers wearing hair pieces and sequined Vegas showgirl costumes while their obnoxious mothers puppet unimaginative talent routines as they pathetically live vicariously through their very young daughters.  

TLC and Discovery’s decision to not renew the show certainly won’t stop these families from exploiting their daugthers, but we don’t have to give audience to it. Please cancel “Toddlers & Tiaras”. 

Sincerely,  

Melissa Wardy  

owner, Pigtail Pals LLC  

 Its time we change the way we think about our girls.  

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Want to contact the show? Have at it:  

Producers: ToddlersTiarasCasting@authentictv.com  

Owners: Discovery Communications, LLC     Viewer Relations   1 Discovery Place, 5th Floor    Silver Spring, MD 20910  

Discovery Ethics Hotline: 1-800-398-6395