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 And yesterday I had a police officer at my kitchen table, reviewing my blog, a screen shot of the unpublished and profane comment and IP address it came from, and  your website for Submarine Kids.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.

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.