Sexy Strawberry Ice Cream

This was sent to me by Jennifer Cohen, a PPBB Community member:

I only know you through your wonderful facebook page, but if I knew you in person, you’d be the friend I would tell this to…

My 7 year old daughter used the word sexy yesterday. I asked her if she knew what it meant. She said “fancy and glamorous”. I said, “Kind of, but can I tell you how I would describe it?”

After a little while of realizing I wasn’t making much sense to her, and without going on and on about things like I usually do, I thought about something I thought she could relate to.

I asked her if she liked strawberry ice cream. She joyfully said “sure!” I said, “Ok, strawberry ice cream is pretty awesome just the way it is, right? Now imagine hot fudge poured over it…whipped cream piled high…rainbow and chocolate sprinkles…and a sweet cherry on top…” By this time my daughter’s eyes were coming out of her head, her tongue sticking out, she was drooling and staring off into space.

I said, “There…that face right now…those thoughts…that wanting that ice cream so badly; that is sexy ice cream! You don’t want someone looking at you the way you were looking at that imaginary ice cream sundae. Kids aren’t sexy, they and strawberry ice cream are awesome just the way they are.

Thank you, Jennifer!!

 

Hungry for ice cream? Image from:http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/07/23/fresh-strawberry-ice-cream-recipe/

Bikini Babies, Outrage, and Making Change

Bon Bebe infant onesie being sold at Gordman's.

Folks by the dozen are sending me this, but I haven’t posted on it and won’t be starting the requested petition because I’m more interested in changing the conversation than leading one that goes “OMG this is so wrong. Who would buy this!?”

I have no idea why stores carry nor who would buy a sexy t-shirt for their baby. If it is supposed to be a joke, I guess it is as funny as racism and sexism are….not at all. I don’t see the funny in parents being willfully ignorant when it comes to the sexualization of their children. And I’m tired of doing blog posts that contain stories that get picked up by national news media with no mention or credit to me or the work Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies is doing.

The conversation needs to shift to the companies that are doing it right. PPBB carries over THIRTY designs that lift up and empower kids. The conversation needs to shift to experts telling parents the why’s and how’s of the harms of sexualization. Maybe if we start talking about healthier choices and the folks like us who are doing it right, the companies in the wrong will stick out to parents that much more. At the end of the day, are we just complaining and expressing faux outrage, or are we educating and making change?

Make change.

Educate people about Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, our apparel and our advocacy.

And when you see something damaging to childhood, use what you know about sexualization and body image to move off social media and contact the players involved in the making and selling of this constant stream of garbage.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Be the game changer our kids need you to be.

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Fifteen minutes of internet research found that this onesie is part of Bon Bebe’s “Wild Child” line, described as “outrageously funny” and “some are cute, some have attitude”. And many are sexualizing and make the unknowing child the butt of the joke. Aren’t some parents clever?

Bon Bebe has removed their contact info from their website, save but this phone number 1-877-3BONBEBE. Ask for Elan Rofe, the president or Michael Levine, the national sales manager.

Their address is 112 W 34th St, #1908  New York, New York 10120.

While I’m sure other store’s carry this tee and its offensive cousins from the Wild Child line, Gordmans is the one at the center of this controversy.
Gordmans, Inc.
12100 W. Center Rd.
Omaha, NE 68144
Ph: (402) 691-4000

An Open Letter to the Medical Community: Be. Smarter.

Dear Pediatricians of America –

I bring my children to you so that I may utilize your medical knowledge and training for the safe keeping and well being of their tiny, precious bodies with which I have been gracefully entrusted. My boy and my girl are unique, creative, whole beings with a hunger for learning and a dynamic approach to life that leaves me simultaneously invigorated and exhausted .

My children are perhaps no more amazing than my neighbor’s children, but I find them remarkable. Which is why I need you to be smarter when you talk to them. I need you to think creatively and spontaneously and like a little person would. You are, after all, in the business of little people. I’m sure somewhere along the years of your extensive education, you would have dedicated a few hours of study to the social and emotional development of children, specifically preschoolers. You would then understand what is age appropriate, and what is not.

You would understand why my head exploded when my four year old daughter was greeted in this manner by a doctor today:

“Hi, I’m Doctor Blahblah. Are you in school? Do you have a boyfriend?”

She looks at him stunned, but does not answer.

“Do you at least have an ugly boyfriend?” the Doctor asks.

“No, I go to school to learn.” Stated articulately and matter of factly by a four year old to a doctor in his sixties.

I bit my tongue. My preschooler said what needed to be said, in that moment. Now I have something to say.

A girl has more to offer this world than her beauty. A girl has greater things to achieve than the status of having a boyfriend. Even if it is just an ugly boy (at least should she be able to manage that, right?).  A GIRL’S WORTH DOES NOT COME FROM MEN. A girl has greater, more fantastical dreams than that of becoming someone’s girlfriend. A girl should be allowed to spend her girlhood unconcerned about boys and romance. Certainly, at the preschool age, developmentally this is not even on my child’s radar, as she is sent to school to learn and make friends and figure out how scissors work. She goes to school not to attract members of the opposite sex, but to build the foundation of what will become her learning career and foster an intellect I can surmise will be greater than your own. When speaking to a girl, as an educated adult, you have the social responsibility to build her UP. Aside from the remark being sexist, sexualized, irreverant, it undermined all of the amazing things my daughter is capable of and interested in. But she wasn’t asked about any of that. She was asked if anyone had found her attractive enough to make her their girlfriend. At the age of four.

As a doctor, you hold a position of trust and respect from both the parent and the child. You are the keeper of their health, a vested partner in their growth and healthy development. This includes my daughter’s sexuality, which I don’t need you messing with. Whether she is four of fourteen, the first question you ask her should not be her current status of boyfriend/no boyfriend, because then you make her an object. Someone else’s possession. You place upon her heteronormative stereotypes, social pressures, and pieces of the beauty myth. You ask her to think about things she is not developmentally ready for, thus sexualizing her. You’ve asked her nothing of herself. Her amazing, vibrant, shining, talented self. I find ALL of this unacceptable.

So next time you speak to my daughter – my wild creature with light in her eyes, who is obsessed with science and loves the color blue and will break down every gender stereotype you throw her way – next time use your damn head. Ask her something about herself – How old are you? Know any good jokes? What is your favorite color? Why is blue your favorite color? Why do you think your baby brother is using his head to push the stool across the room? Did you see the funny poster of the babies in the flower pots? What did you do today? How high can you jump? What is your favorite toy to play with? Did you make an art project in school today? What kind of silly things do you do with your family? What things do you do with your friends? Can I hear you count to 25? Can you touch your nose and rub your tummy? What is the funniest thing you saw today? Have you been growing? How fast can you hop on one foot? What is your favorite animal?

See, that wasn’t hard. You’re a doctor, afterall. Be smarter than my four year old.

Respectfully,

Melissa A. Wardy

Tube Tops For Your Tot

 
M Fredric store – an option in the Children’s section. From the brand Riley.

There’s a bothersome trend these days to dress our children like mini-adults. The concept is a rip current in this year’s back-to-school fashion. Toddler skinny jeans, Material Girl lace bustiers for tweens, and tube tops for tots. The thing is, although these items might work on thin, edgy hipster adults, they don’t work in childhood. Garments like skinny jeans and tube tops don’t allow for the movement that a child should be doing during their day of play and exploration. This is all aside from the fact that very few toddlers have the body frame to pull off skinny jeans, nor the breast developement and flat abs to fill in a tube top.  

My personal opinion is that skinny jeans don’t really fall into the category of sexualized garments. Skinny jeans are for people with skinny legs and who probably don’t wear diapers. I suppose one could take issue with the word “skinny” and the whole “Fat is Bad” thing, but at the end of the day it is just a pair of jeans with slim cut legs that will leave your toddler rather cranky.  A tube top is different. It is adult. The tube top/bandeau top flatter a woman’s shoulders and breasts, and often look very sexy. For women, I say more power to ‘ya. For kids? I say no way. Google “tube top photos” and tell me if you’d like a snapshot of your seven year old there. I wore bandeau tops like the one above in college on nights out dancing at clubs or at the bar. I wore them because I felt sexy in them and I turned heads, which leaves me questioning if a seven year old should be wearing them.  

Last week I had two moms from different coasts contact me about tube tops/bandeau tops they saw marketed to young girls. The concern was that children don’t need to be mini-adults. They need to be children.  

I couldn’t agree more. These moms sent me pictures of what they had found in the stores, each with an email saying how wrong they felt it was to dress a young girl in a top that essentially limited her ability to be a child and move the way a child should during a day full of play.  

The tops at M. Fredric seemed to be a case of shrinking adult apparel onto kids. I thought I’d give a call over to M. Fredric to discuss their position on selling a top that may not be appropriate for a child to wear. Afterall, their website states they are Southern California’s “retailer with a heart” and that they cater to the mom looking to “avoid the cookie cutter sameness of children’s apparel stores.” That made me chuckle, as the garments I see in these photos look exactly like everything else this season for tweens and girls — big girl fashion in itty bitty sizes. Same old same old. Mardi Fox is the sister of the owner of M. Fredric and the Kids Buyer and Division Head. On the website she says she created the childrens’ side of the store to carry “hip and practical” children’s apparel. Where I get lost is the idea over the practicality of a seven year old continuously having to pull up her strapless bandeau top over her nonexisistent boobies.  

I feel pretty strongly that the women’s department shouldn’t spill over into the children’s. I don’t think M. Fredric should be selling the Riley line of tops in small Girls sizes. The good news is that the conversation I had with their Children’s Marketing Manager was much more productive and cordial than say, that of Kohl’s, when I was told (on the record) they would continue selling racy underwear to preteens because it met their bottom line. Yes, really.  

M Fredric bandeau and tube top, both Child Smalls

 This post isn’t meant to pick on M. Fredric. They are one of many stores offering this look to girls and tweens. But when you see the tops to the left, you can’t blame a mom for raising her eyebrows. A sales clerk at the M. Fredric store these pictures were taken at said she was surprised these tops came in young girls sizes and that they had not been selling well. Last weekend I asked the Pigtail Pals Facebook community what they thought they were looking at, and guesses ranged from a headband to a garter belt for feminine products.  When I finally revealed it was a children’s top, the answers were not complimentary to the garment.  

When I spoke with M. Fredric’s marketing department, Karen was very nice in explaining that M. Fredric looks for “edgy” apparel that “may not be for everyone”. (That’s fine, but why does “edgy” for kids equal sexy?) She assured me several times over that the tube tops weren’t meant to be a stand alone item and that they are for layering under tanks “to make sure everything is covered.” If we need to make sure everything is covered, shouldn’t we just put the kid in a t-shirt? She said, as a mom herself, she understand the concerns about the top’s coverage and keeping kids decent. I asked about the ability for a child to move while wearing one, and she said that the garment had thin, sticky elastic bands on the inside to keep it in place. Sounds comfy. So finally I ask, “I just don’t feel they are appropriate for little girls to wear. That kind of top is more suitable for a college-aged young woman. I don’t feel gradschoolers should wear them.”  The reply was polite but very telling, and why so much stays the same when it comes to retailers and the merchandise they carry:  

“Well, we carry the Riley line which is similar to the number one selling children’s line in the US (Flowers by Zoe) and you’ll see this in all the stores, like Macy’s and Nordstroms. You see this all over and if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to buy it.”  

So, I guess if all the other kids are doing it…..  

Karen is right, if I or any other parent doesn’t like it, we don’t have to buy it. This isn’t just about me, my daughter, or my family. There is a bigger issue here – the early sexualization of young girls. I know most parents have the sense that they want to protect their daughters and not have them grow up too fast. We want to allow our daughters their natural right to a girlhood. This becomes harder and harder to do, however, when retailers blur the line between adulthood and childhood. When I feel an item is inappropriate or harmful for my children, I do not purchase it. But it is still out there, and other people do purchase it and it lends to a bigger sense of our children losing their childhood because marketers age compress them in order to turn a profit.  

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Recreation of the mesh tube tops for babies sold at a North Carolina tutu store.

Next up is a meshy tube top sold at a North Carolina tutu store. This is all the rage for baby photos, but is it appropriate? Read one mom’s reaction when she was shopping for her toddler girl:  

1. Can you tell me about your recent shopping trip at a local store when you found the bandeau tops for toddlers?
We were in a local store called “My Fairy Godmother”.  This store is over the top “girly” but they do have some cute items (tutus, butterfly wings, headbands, etc.).  I saw something that sent me over the edge- they were selling stretchy tube tops for size 0-18 months. They had one on display with a tutu for a complete outfit. I was immediately disgusted.
 
2. Your initial reaction was pretty strong. What about the garment upset you so much?
Tube tops just seem like the ultimate sexy item of clothing and I really can’t understand why someone would want to objectify their baby.  Yes, babies’ bodies are cute, but not SEXY!
 
3. Your husband didn’t have the same response that you did. Why do you think his attitude was different?
He’s a calm, passive, reasonable guy for the most part.  He told me just not to buy it and walk away.  He doesn’t like to make big deals out of issues.  I KNOW he wouldn’t want our daughter wearing that, but I think he knows that those tube tops are actually selling and the business is just that, a business.
 
4. As a mom to a young girl, how does the sexualization of girls make you feel?
I’ll admit, I kind of pushed the “Disney Princesses” on my daughter around her 1st birthday.  She wanted NOTHING to do with them.  I became okay with that and now I am THRILLED that she sees herself as
more.  She tells me she wants to be “everything” when she grows up.  I love that!
Society has tried to tell my daughter to like pink, be a princess, and to be “pretty”.  That really rubs me the wrong way.  She is SO much more than a beautiful face.  She has a brain and a strong body! It makes me smile that she has rebelled without even knowing it- and definitely opened my eyes in the process! The sexualization of young girls makes me feel as if we are short-changing our daughters.  Let’s push them to make the world a better and place and use their brains!
 
5. What kinds of questions would you like parents to be asking themselves when they are shopping and see things like this?
I would like parents to be aware of the messages they send their daughters.  Sure, a baby won’t understand, but an older child will. What if a 4 year old saw her baby sister in a tube top?  The implications are that one has to show off her body to get attention. Not only is this not good, but it’s untrue!
Parents, ask yourself “What kind of attention will my child receive dressed like this?” “Who will be giving my child attention when she is dressed like this?” (It’s sad but true that there are not-nice people out there who aim to harm children and see them as little adults.  While I’m not saying we should live in fear, I am saying I think parents need to be aware.)
“If I dress my infant in a tube top, when she’s a pre-teen and wants to wear one, will I let her?”
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Our children are at risk of losing their childhood to marketers who age compress them in order to turn a profit.

Our children are not for sale.