Submarine Swimwear Sexualization Post Brings Police To My Kitchen Table

On June 22nd I wrote a post in the form of an open letter to Deborah Soriano, CEO of Submarine Kids, a swimwear company from Miami. The post had over 14,000 views, 220-some comments, and I couldn’t keep track of how many of you told me that you had contacted Submarine to express your disgust.

I never heard much from Deborah, just a vague threat about “hearing from her attorney”. I was never contacted by her attorney, but was emailed three separate times by her business partner and the company’s social media manager, Charlene Friedrichs, to address such issues as my hair, my weight, my ugliness, my daughter’s ugliness, my bitchiness, my ugly website, and my poor husband who she hoped was blind.

My ugliness aside, Submarine didn’t seem to be understanding the issue — the sexualized images of the young girls they were using to aide them in the selling of their swimwear. Deborah Soriano spoke to CNN reporter Richelle Carey when they ran this piece from my original blog post, and Deborah went on public record to say she didn’t realize the images were offensive, and that they were just little girls playing dress up. I quote, “…girls having fun, playing ‘grown-up’ with wigs and make-up and nothing more.”

Hey Deb? When little girls play dress up, they don’t elicit comments from pedophiles about how their pursed lips are so sexy they just jerked off, and that the child would be good at oral sex and then desired for anal rape. Because that comment? That comment came in to the blog over the weekend because of the image below. And yesterday I had a police officer at my kitchen table, reviewing my blog, a screen shot of the unpublished and profane comment and IP address it came from, and  your website for Submarine Kids.

Image on homepage of Submarine Kids

Now, Debbie, I don’t know how y’all at Submarine Kids do business, but if that were my company getting that kind of response from men who want to rape little girls because of the photos on my website turned them on? Well, I’d feel like a real shithead. Of course Submarine Kids has no legal liability or responsibility over the perverted creep who wrote the comment….or do they?

When will we start to take corporate pedophilia seriously?

How is the sexualized marketing of our children and childhood products blurring that line of taboo between kids and sex? 

Candies or Abercrombie, want to weigh in? Mattel, do any of your Monster High characters have anything to say? What was that, Bratz? No? Nothing?

Huh.

Well, Debbo, if it were me, I’d sell my bathing suits this way. And I’d sleep at night, knowing I didn’t put children in danger or disgrace the beauty of childhood while trying to make a buck.

This is how Pigtail Pals would advertise swimsuits for girls.

My swimsuit marketing photos would show little girls playing, not vamped up with pursed lips and Lolita eyes.

Submarine Pop Quiz!

Grab your magic markers! It is time for a Pop Quiz!

I was told my Deborah Soriano of Submarine Kids yesterday that she did not have the time to respond to our concerns. She also said I would be hearing from her attorney. I have yet to hear from her attorney, so to pass the time….

One of these these really truly SHOULD NOT be like the other ones, but it really truly is. It isn’t the suit, it is the sultry facial expressions and pose, the “Come hither” body language that has no business on an eight year old. This particular suit itself is age appropriate. Very unfortunately, the model is being sexualized in order to sell it.

Please circle the model you think is marketing Submarine Kids swimwear. There is only one correct answer.

Okay, I know it is tricky, so I’ll give you a hint: The images are from Victoria Secrets, Playboy, Submarine Kids, and Maxim.

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.