Empty Swings and Stores Full of Sexualization: We are very confused about childhood.

“Highly stereotyped and sexualized products and marketing rush our kids into looking and acting like mini-adults, but at the same time kids are given very little autonomy to wander around the neighborhood and play or to develop responsibilities.” –“Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween”

I talked about this during an interview the other day and I find this trend in parenting so curious. I think the explanation for it is that marketers and media have done two things: lulled us into being bind consumers and terrified us into irrational parents….but for all the wrong reasons. What I can’t understand is why more parents fail to think critically about it.

We are a generation of parents who no longer let our kids roam the neighborhood on bikes or trek out into the woods to build a fort or walk to the corner market to buy milk. Even suggesting as much can give people panic attacks because of the omnipresent (but statistically unsupported) fear of a child abductor lurking down the block.

BUT – we are the same generation of parents who make a brand of highly sexualized childrens’ dolls that look like sex workers earn nearly $20 million a quarter, cheer wildly for dance school performances that rival burlesque shows, allow horribly violent video games to serve as entertainment in our family rooms, and fail to shame companies and a music industry that uses corporate pedophilia to meet their bottom line.

There are not enough people getting furious over the sexualization of childhood and being fearful of the very real damage that does to kids, but let your kids play alone at the park for an hour and you become a social pariah. WHAT?!

Do we even remember what childhood is supposed to look like anymore?

I understand how marketers and 24-media do their job so well, what I can’t understand is — when did we stop questioning all of this? And why are we allowing our children to be rushed into the sexual and violent side of adulthood before we prepare them with real life adult skills like how to walk to the store and buy milk and catch the bus home. Does that seem a bit off to you?

We've removed the 'childhood' out of childhood.

We’ve removed the ‘childhood’ out of childhood.

**I’m using broad generalization because I know this community is talking about it. But nationally, oy vey do we have issues.
**Don’t put your three year old on a bus, age appropriate autonomy, people.

 

Photo credit: Simon Waters

What Girls Learn From the Top Selling Dolls

I saw those in the store the other day and I just. don’t. get. it. All of these toys look the same, regardless of brand – tiny bodies, flimsy limbs, huge heads, huge eyes, sexualized clothes, retrograde story lines and identities… I walk through the all-pink-all-the-time aisle at the stores and see the same thing repeated over and over and over again. When a doll makes it seem like Barbie has the proportions of someone who could be a human, something has gone terribly wrong.

In response to the growing frustration I experience every time I walk past or through a toy section, I just took a few screenshots of the top doll brands I see in each store. Feel free to share this with every single person who says, “If you don’t like it, just buy something else.” Because what else is there?   -Bailey Shoemaker Richards

 

 

PPBB Community Member Bailey Shoemaker Richards took screen shots of the top selling dolls. What common denominators do you see?

What are our girls learning about femininity from toys?

What are boys learning about girls?

Why aren’t we demanding better?

We seriously need to Redefine Girly.

 

Your Place Or Mine? Big Words For A Little Girl

Last night Mr. Pigtail Pals and I took the kids to our county fair. One of their favorite spots is the corn pit (think sandbox but with corn kernels) so we chatted while sitting on a nearby hay bale while the kids swam and rolled around in eight inches of corn. He brought up a group of girls he had seen earlier in the night, and was disturbed by the clothes they were wearing. He said they were approximately 12 or 13 years old. He described their outfits: micro shorts and revealing t-shirts and tank tops. He said he noticed them when Amelia read one of the shirt logos out loud while they were standing by group, the shirt said “Your place or mine?”

“Those are big words for a little girl. Hope she understands the message that saying conveys.” -I said of the girl wearing the shirt.

“She didn’t even look old enough to babysit the kids, but was wearing that shirt. Her friend had on another one with an equally sexual message. It made me feel really sad for her. The thing that t-shirt said most loudly to me was that on first impression wearing something like that at that age, she didn’t have a lot of respect for herself. Why would you present yourself that way at a public event? If she were grown it would be a little different, but she looked like a child trying to be a woman. It was really disturbing, really out of place.What kind of guy is going to approach a twelve year old and hit on her so that she can ask ‘Your place or mine?’ Either one who is a predator or one who won’t respect her. Shouldn’t she be running around having fun with her friends and giggling about a cute boy or first kiss or something? Instead of offering one night stands with a t-shirt? It made me think of Amelia, five or six years from now, hanging out with her friends at the fair. That is just a few years away, but this group of girls made it feel like another world away,you know? It was shocking to see such young girls dressed like that. I think most of all, I just wanted to hug her and tell her she was worth more….I hope all this time you spend on the business, your book, I really hope parents wake up and take better care of their girls. That shirt seemed dangerous in a way…” -Mr. PP trailed off, and watched his little girl wearing a “Full of Awesome” tee dumping buckets of corn kernels on her little brother.

7yo Amelia playing in the corn pit, just five years younger than the girl wearing the "Your place or mine" t-shirt.

Are girls ready to leverage a “Your place or mine” comment at someone when they are in junior high? Do they have the social skills needed to navigate the world of sexual come ons and sexual experiences? Or are they biting off more than they can chew? At that age, isn’t “my place” their parent’s house? Would they have the means to obtain birth control, or even the knowledge to require their partner to use it? Are they wearing that kind of tee to be rebellious and a bad ass, or because they are desperate for external validation? Both? Is it an expression of sexual empowerment or self objectification? Is that shirt an expression of authentic, youthful sexuality or corporate sexualization?

When I was her age, I was hoping a boy would kiss my cheek at the top of the Ferris wheel and hold my hand. But that was during a time when young girls were allowed to stay young girls and not rushed into a faux version of adulthood in order to pad some corporation’s bottom line.

Wrong Pitch, Wrong Lady

When I started blogging about gender stereotypes and sexualization in childhood, I really didn’t understand how deeply I’d be diving into Raunch Culture. I never thought in my life I’d be exposed to this much porn, but I feel like in order to understand this pestilence, I have to get to the root of the source. Because I write about corporate pedophilia, there are post tags on my blog like “kiddie lingerie”, “g-strings”, “crotchless panties”, “pornography”, etc. all relating to products made for and sold to children. That alone should make your head explode.

But those keywords cause companies disinterested in doing any marketing research to send me pitches like this:

Sexy clothes are still rage of the for today’s young generation. No matter where you are sex appeal stays in constant demand.
Our site provides a huge selection of sexy wear uniquely suited for readers in search of erotic attire. A review of our product line may offer subject matter that could be of interest to your readers.
We could work out a affiliate agreement that would give your site a percentage of the sales your link generates.
Eddie Fowlks,
www.polethongs.com

I have no problem with grown women celebrating and enjoying their sexuality, and I have no problem with adult lingerie or erotica. I do have a problem when it sounds like a company is trying to sexualize the “young generation” with their adult products. Sex appeal stays in constant demand because that is the marker with which our culture measures women. But when that marker trickles down into girlhood, when we blur that line of taboo by rushing our girls to be sexy and infantilizing our women to look like prepubescent girls, there becomes this continuum that sends girls and women the message that their only job is to be hot, young, and fuckable.

I think we are worth so. much. more.

Maybe Polethongs.com should do some research before they gob up my Inbox with a product that clearly has no fit on my blog. I do not support the commercial sex industry. I don’t do reviews of stripper wear. And I don’t have any problem publicly exposing companies that try to sexualize, exploit, and harm our children.

Wrong pitch, wrong lady.

 

Kiddie Crotchless Panties

Yeah, you read that correctly. They really exist. 

I know, my head exploded, too. If ever three words did not belong together, they would be it.

Here’s the back story, in case you haven’t heard: A new store named Kids N Teen opened a couple of weeks ago in the Greeley Mall in Colorado. A mom and her 7 year old daughter were shopping there when they came upon crotchless and thong panties, in children’s sizes. Nick McGurk from Channel 9 has a great report here.

We’re going to hear directly from the mom and her little girl in a bit, specifically about the moment when one of the store owners, a man around 40 years old, told the 7 year old girl the price of the crotchless panties and asked if she wanted a pair. Yes, you read that correctly. I know, my head exploded, too.

I was told about two conversations had by two different people with one of the owners of the shop, who justified the selling of crotchless panties in children’s sizes with this:

1. Approximately 25% of their inventory is dedicated to teens.

2. Parents take their teens shopping at Victoria’s Secret, and Victoria’s Secret carries them.

Putting aside the argument that crotchless panties are not appropriate for teens shopping at Kids N Teen, and the small detail that the legal age for consent is 18 years old….I wanted to check up on the Victoria’s Secret claim, because crotchless panties are usually considered an adult bedroom novelty and NOT sold at places like Victoria’s Secret. They are sold in sex shops. And, apparently, Kids N Teen.

So I called my local Victoria’s Secret — nope, they do not carry crotchless panties and never have.

Next I called the Victoria’s Secret in the Greeley Mall, just down the way from Kids N Teen. (Also, I told a little white lie…)

Victoria’s Secret salesperson: “Hello, Victoria’s Secret. Can I help you?”

Me: “Hi, I have a bachelorette party this weekend, and I’m in charge of buying the bride some racy panties. Do you carry anything like, um, crotchless panties?”

VS: “No. We don’t carry items like that. We have lingerie and thongs, but those are usually found at a place like Spencer’s Gifts, or maybe like a novelty shop. Usually the really racy things like crotchless panties or edible panties are at the novelty shops.”

Me: “Oh, I see. ‘Novelty shop’, do you mean like a sex shop? But nowhere in the mall would carrystuff like that?”

VS: “No, probably not. Usually you have to go to a novelty shop for those kind of racier items.”

Me: “Huh. Okay, this is the weirdest phone call I’ve ever made. Thanks so much for your help.”

I’m not really in the market for crotchless panties, but now I know I can get them at sex shops. Or, Kids N Teen, right across from the toddler play space, if I live in Greeley Colorado.

I am sending someone to the store today to confirm the crotchless panties are gone. I hear they are still selling the thongs. They are hanging next to the animal-print strappy heels in children’s sizes, and the slinky bathrobes.

If the owners of Kids N Teen ever answer their phone, I’ve got a list of questions for them, including who manufactures kiddie crotchless panties, why Kids N Teen purchased and stocked them, and why Kids N Teen is attempting to sell them to minors.

I’m going to go scrub my eyeballs now.