Really, thongs for 3-year-olds?

Posted on: October 26th, 2011 by Karen No Comments

Really, thongs for little girls – say it’s not true! Sadly, it is true.

I was at a the OJJDP conference a couple of weeks ago and heard Dr. Sharon Cooper give an excellent, though alarming presentation on the impact of the media and fashion on young people. I spent most of the time shocked with my mouth open wondering why I didn’t know the information she was sharing. Everyone at my table had the same reaction and we all work with girls and teen women. Be prepared to be scared and Google mirror neurons or watch this short PBS video and then think about the images of girls, young women and women with which we are all bombarded each day in the media.

Now, I’m old enough to have been part of the women’s movement and say what you will about what it did and didn’t achieve, and who, it did and didn’t include but this sort of sexualization of girls did not happen under the watchful eye of the feminists of those days and I include myself here. Question is, how did we get from there to where we are today? Were we asleep, silent, too busy enjoying our newly won opportunities, or overwhelmed struggling to make ends meet, or all of the above? Whatever the cause, we’re in bad shape now and our girls and young women are paying the price.

The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls released an excellent report in 2007 and 2008 . The following excerpt is from the report.

There are many examples of the sexualization of girls and girlhood in U.S. culture. Toy manufacturers produce dolls wearing black leather miniskirts, feather boas, and thigh-high boots and market them to 8- to 12- year-old girls (LaFerla, 2003). Clothing stores sell thongs sized for 7– to 10-year-old girls (R. Brooks, 2006; Cook & Kaiser, 2004), some printed with slogans such as “eye candy” or “wink wink” (Cook & Kaiser, 2004; Haynes, 2005; Levy, 2005a; Merskin, 2004). In the world of child beauty pageants, 5-year-old girls wear fake teeth, hair extensions, and makeup and are encouraged to “flirt” onstage by batting their long, false eyelashes (Cookson, 2001).

And these are just a few examples. Many of you will recall that recently J.C. Penney and Forever 21 came under serious public scrutiny for the marketing and sale of sexist slogans on T-shirts for girls and teens. But really, the sexualization of females of all ages is everywhere not just in products marketed to females but in ads to sell everything from beer to men’s cologne to cars. There will be people who argue that sexuality is a normal part of a healthy life and I agree with that but sexualization is not. Again from the APA report:

Sexualization occurs when: 1) a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics; 2) a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy; 3) a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; 4) and/or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization.

Let’s end where we began, can you imagine buying a thong for your 7-year old? You retort (in your head) “hell no.” Okay so you answer no but in households across the country there are plenty of parents answering yes. Children don’t buy these items parents do…so it’s us, the adults, who need to say no.

So, HELLO women and men it’s time to get serious about shutting this down and being outraged and vocal about it. Sexualizing women is demeaning and degrading but sexualizing little girls should be a crime. What kind of life and self-image are we setting the girls in our lives up for if we allow this to continue? Time to take a stand…for the girls!–Jeannette

 

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