May is Teen Self Esteem Month, and there is no better time to examine the sexualization of younger and younger girls that has become a profitable business across America. How do we reconcile the call for and celebration of Teen Self Esteem and idly stand by while we assault young girls with the need to “look hot” and impose adult sexuality on them, depriving them of the opportunity to truly and confidently discover just how intelligent and powerful they can be? How do we sit idly by and allow female Teen Self Esteem to be ambushed?
Jennifer Cowie King, author of the Motherscribe blog, has this to say on the topic.
Over the last 10 years, the sexualizing of younger and younger girls has become a hot ticket item. Overwhelming in its scope, and fueled by retail sales, business is booming, and like it or not…we are assaulted by little girls “looking hot” on a daily basis.
Perhaps most outrageous of all, has been Abercrombie & Fitch with their marketing of thongs to 10 year old girls several years ago, to introducing The Ashley push-up bikini bra this year. Originally marketed to 7 year old girls, The Ashley was upgraded after public outcry, to the 12 year old girl market. “We’ve re-categorized the Ashley swimsuit as padded. We agree with those who say it is best ‘suited’ for girls age 12 and older.” Not to be left behind, is Juicy Couture with the word Juicy cutely emblazoned on the derrieres of little girls’ pants.
Two years ago, I was compelled to write about this topic when my 4-year-old daughter was invited to a Makeover Party. Will they wonder why we didn’t stop the makeovers at 5?…
As a mother of a now 6-year-old little girl, I am alarmed for her, and for all of us. Why are we closing our eyes to this subversive continuum, this backlash to the Women’s Movement that our mothers, and generations of women before us, worked so bloody hard on? Because it is all connected. Just follow the dots…
What better way of putting girls and young women in their place than telling them their entire worth to our society is in their desirability. And… that they better get started on being sexy now: in elementary school.
Fast becoming a malaise of our media driven culture, telling our young girls that they are the sum of their looks, and that their looks better be sexy, is damaging, and reprehensible. The intensity of peer pressure, and the assault of sexualized images in magazines, movies and television is oppressive. Like all children their age, they want to fit in. And, who can blame them. Which is worse? Young girls being victims of our societal apathy, or young girls emulating us? Because we are responsible here, people.
As if that weren’t enough, bring on the “Tramp Stamp,” a lower back tattoo, used “to emphasize sexual attractiveness.” Looking like “a tramp” is fast becoming a rite of passage for many young women.
Girls dress suggestively, because our society’s message is that it gives them POWER. You will have everything if you have the attention of men. But, when girls wrap themselves up in seductive packages, they don’t have The Power. They have given it all away.
Tramp. Whether using the word as an epithet or embracing it (a.k.a., The Tramp Stamp), the word incites an emotional reaction in all of us. Because what we are really saying is that a girl or a woman is only the sum of her body parts. Calling another human being “a tramp” puts a label on that person. An otherness. Because, oh no… we are not like her or them. And, if we are asking parents not to dress their children like tramps, aren’t we really saying… Parents, don’t dress your girls like them?
Perhaps the bigger question is: Can we stop using the word “tramp”? Are we capable of having this conversation without the labels?
Encouraging young women to dress seductively goes much deeper than appearances. We encourage it when we frequent stores that sell these products. And, when we close our own front door, breathing a sigh of relief that our daughter doesn’t look like that other girl, the one across the street.
So, what can we do? Yes, we can stop shopping at stores that sell provocative clothing for girls. We can stop purchasing those items for our daughters. But, we have to dig deeper. We have to talk with our daughters. The onus is on us. And, we better buck up, because it isn’t going to be easy.
When our children ask us to buy pieces of clothing that perpetuate the sexualizing of girls, we not only have to say NO. We have to explain why. “I don’t want you to look like a tramp” is a dead-end. There needs to be a deeper conversation.
Imposing an adult sexuality on young girls deprives them of the opportunity to discover who they really are. We have to stop placing all of a girl’s worth on her body. We have to demonstrate that we value her being and intelligence, because we value our own.
“Tramp” is a provocative 5 letter word. We must be careful how we use it. Whether in slander or owning it, the meaning is the same. A woman is either being devalued or is devaluing herself. And, that is a message that we don’t want to give our daughters, or anyone…