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Edited to add a new link (from Kiran’s blog)

We had a discussion in class about the ‘Sexualization of young children’, little girls in particular.

Well about the sexualization of young children….I don’t know where to start. Sexualization in the past used to mean gender typing/stereotyping the role of a woman/body image. But now the problem has moved far beyond this. To give a gist, it talks about how everything under the sun in today’s capitalist world, from clothing to toys to entertainment to movies to magazines, are portraying children as sex objects. It talks about the trend of the present days where the average age for a young girl wanting to start wearing thong underwear is seven. It talks about the dangerous trend where in the name of “cute”, today’s children are dressed in skimpy clothes which is leading to insanely high number incidents involving pedophile.

Sitting at home mulching over what we talked about in class, my mind was filled with nothing but questions. So folks please feel free to help me out.

Why does a seven-year-old child want to wear thong underwear with words ‘cute’ or ‘eye candy’ printed across it? Why does a 9 year old need a push-up bra? What exactly is she trying to push up? What ever is present is consistent with her age, then why push it up? What does a seven-year-old have in her chest or in her rear that she wants to flaunt? Do they do it out of free will/instinct? Do they understand the full impact of the message? Or the do they do it because they are getting noticed only if they give out such a message? If they are doing it for getting noticed, noticed by whom? By another child who is in second grade with her? Or they just want some eyes on them, does not matter if the eyes belong to a seven year old boy or a seventeen year old boy? There is nothing wrong in dressing for attention. But where do we draw the line? How do we tell the difference between positive attention and negative attention?

The professor told us that parents need to start making a stand in this issue. Okay, having said that, where does one start?

Clothing? Look at a young girl’s clothing department – do the parents have a choice?
I have seen t-shirts with phrases like Delicious, Tease, Hot Chick, Good Girls Do Bad things, Hottie…..??! People living in the country like US, where manpower is more expensive and it is cheaper to buy things out of a super market, where is the choice? Some of the clothes I see displayed in malls, have an elastic under the breast area, with a deep V neck. Why do children under ten need to wear clothes like this? Thongs – Is it really fun to walk around with a self imposed wedgie? What if the panty line shows through the pants? Every one knows every one wears underwear…right?!

Toys? Why does a 10 year old need a pole dancing kit?, that too with the wordings ‘unleash that sex kitten in you’. Barbies…..OMG, do not get me started with Barbies. Why does a toy for a three-year-old need to be so well endowed? As if one of this kind wasn’t enough, Barbies are now joined by the Bratz dolls wearing mini skirts/fishnet stockings/garters.

Stationary? Good news folks…. now play boy is selling stationary and school supply, with play boy logo to young children…What?? Why? An attempt to put the play boy logo in to young minds, so that when they grow up they are tuned towards playboy products? I am not a prude. I do not have anything against porn or people viewing porn. But that must be the choice of a mentally mature, stable adult. Seducing children by sending subliminal messages is sick.

Visual Media? I don’t even have to go in to this. By far this has been the widely accused, highly prevalent medium that sends out strong sexual messages. It is not just sexual messages, if you look at movies, there are messages that promote smoking, drinking and violence. I am not talking about the explicit messages in R-rated movies, I am talking about the hidden messages in PG-13 movies. Now, two adults making out in complete nudity is an explicit message. Versus, ‘boy visiting museum, trips on a nude statue, breaking the phallus, trying to stick the phallus back and the phallus keeps falling back’. The later scene might be passed off as comedy, but the message that is conveyed is more dangerous because it portrays sex/sexual image as ‘fun’.

Peers? Now my three-year-old want to wear stockings just like Sara. When she is 10, what do I do if she wants to wear a mini skirt just like Victoria? Peers are by far the most powerful influence on young mind and parents do not have much control over the friends a child chooses.

Adult figures? Who do I talk to? Who do I appeal to? Do I change my entire wardrobe with respect to what might impact my child? Do I ask my child’s preschool teacher not to wear a thong + low rise jeans or low cut blouses? Should schools be imposing dress codes for the teachers? If so, isn’t it interfering in personal freedom?

Magazines? Books? I have seen teen magazines with messages like, ‘Straighten your hair and loose ten pounds to get the man of your dreams’. Publishers can no longer get away with lame excuses like, ‘Oh we target these for 18 year olds’. Don’t extensive marketing and survey show these people that 18 year olds have moved on to reading Cosmo, Vogue kind of magazines and the average age of their readers is 10-12?

Just tell me where I must take a stand as a parent and I will do it. To me it seems that everything that is marketed to young children has a hidden message in it.

What makes this issue even more sensitive + dangerous is the level of understanding. For a teenager or a teenage mom, hung up on looks, such symbols are just ‘fun’. A teenager who can use her brains will argue, ‘Why must I be victimized just because I am a girl? I must have the freedom to dress up the way I want to. i can’t change my way for the sake of perverts’. To a newly married woman, it does not matter as it is not the area of her focus. To a new mom, halter tops, low cut jeans, belly showing clothes are just cute. For a mother with a daughter who is at the verge of puberty it is scary. If you are a mother to male children, you will not realize this till your boys are around 10 years old, getting visual stimulation from girls around them. Based on this, I am sure some of you readers may fail to ‘get’ what I am ranting about. Some of you might think I am over reacting and some of you might empathize with me.

Parents can take a stand – screening friends, constant talking – not just to your kid but also to your kid’s friends, careful monitoring without crossing boundaries, refusing to buy certain types of clothing/music/videos/magazines/books, screening TV…..but there is only so muchone can do.

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