SEXUALIZING OUR DAUGHTERS--
DOES MONEY TRUMP SOCIAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE?
By Michelle Simonsen
In the 2004 teen movie, “Mean Girls”, Lindsay Lohan’s character describes Halloween as the time of the year “where any girl can dress like a total slut and no one can say anything.”
Words of wisdom from Lindsay Lohan?
Early this fall I received a child’s Halloween costume catalog in the mail. Plastered on every other page were little girls dressed in provocative costumes. I’d seen outfits like this, but they were made for adults, not children. I was completely shocked. Do parents ACTUALLY buy this stuff for their kids? Is anyone seriously stupid enough to let their daughter parade around like that?
I’m no prude— and don’t tell me that pedophilia is the “new” sexual fetish and that I should accept how our world is today. I knew without having to think that those little girls’ costumes were sick and wrong. It brought me back to how disgusted I felt when I saw pictures of Jon Benet Ramsey. And I remember most of the country was outraged as well.
Where is the outrage now?
THE BLAME GAME—MEDIA, ADVERTISING, MARKETING OR PARENTING?
“Sorry, don’t take offense…it’s just business…”
Businesses are formed for the sole purpose of making a profit. Do you remember the famous quote from the movie “Wall Street” where Michael Douglas proclaimed, “Greed is good”? Yuppies may be a thing of the past, but business practices have stayed the same, some for the worse.
A business is designed to cater to consumer needs. By providing a product that will guarantee a sale and profit, many businesses are guilty of stooping to despicable levels in order to sell that product, no matter how wrong or harmful. As long as they make money--“that’s the bottom line.”
In today’s business world, people will sell their souls for $50 million, plus a mansion, boat, and three mistresses. It’s the “new style” of business right along the lines of certain Enron executives and Bernie Madoff.
The media, advertisers and marketers act as the fuel that fires this kind of consumerism. And folks, some of you are drinking up that propaganda like a “biggie-sized” cup of kool-aid.
After I received that Halloween costume catalog, I wrote an article outraged that Halloween is a way to cash in for some companies by making and selling costumes that sexualize little girls. A woman who read my post was just as incensed as I was, and took advantage of the company’s email I provided.
By reading the company’s “customer service” response alone you would think that no one out there cares—that we should mind our own business, and “different strokes for different folks”. Get over it.
I hope that his “view” is not the majority. I’m hoping he’s just a really good employee doing his job by defending the company that pays his mortgage. I’m hoping his rudeness comes out of exasperation of having to reply to mounting complaints.
I could be wrong. He might just be a desensitized scumbag all by himself.
5915 S. Mooreland Rd.
New Berlin, WI 53151
While we value all our customer's opinions, I must elaborate on the idea of equality. Not everyone shares your opinions, many of our customers find the costumes we sell to be cute and more than acceptable for their children. You no more have the right to tell these people what to buy or allow their children to wear than they would you for yours. We provide a wide range of product choices for a wide audience of customer. Our goal is to ensure that all of our costumes have options when it comes to product choice.
STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH
I was sick of hearing things from an adult point of view. I wanted to talk directly to a young girl and listen to what she had to say. I wanted to hear her “truth” about what is really going on with kids today; and how she felt about the companies who sell inappropriate clothing to girls her age.
Would she be just another typical pre-teen following the crowd? Do all the images from television, magazines and movies really shape her thoughts and beliefs?
I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to “Katherine”, a 7th grader from Indianapolis. I am 36. She is 12. We spoke as if we were the same age. This young girl actually has more common sense and intelligence than some adults.
Compared to most girls her age, she is incredibly mature, savvy and grounded. She is more interested in track and tennis, writing in her journal, hanging out with her girlfriends, reading, listening to music, and the world around her. She likes Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, and looks up to Hillary Clinton. “I like Hillary Clinton because she ran for president and she didn’t care what people thought about her.”
She is happy with her body image, but notes that other girls her age are not of the same attitude. A beautiful girl with brains to boot!
I showed her the pictures from the Halloween catalog and she expressed her disapproval and found them “absolutely inappropriate.” She told me about the other girls from her middle school and how things have changed over the last couple of years. Some girls who used to be her friends have turned into what her and her friends call “slocks”…a combination of a jock and a slut.
“From 6th to 7th grade there has been a major change in some of the girls in my school. At cheer practice some girls wear shorts that barely cover their butt. I’ve been noticing a lot of girls that will wear low v-neck T-shirts with a bright bra underneath…so you can see right through it.” She continued, “There is no dress code at my school, so many of the girls will wear see-through tank tops with black padded bras their mom’s bought them from Victoria Secret.”
If I remember correctly, my mom bought my clothes at that age, and it wasn’t from Victoria Secret.
“Katherine” told me about a girl in her school that has her belly button pierced. She is only 13. I asked her how this girl could get a piercing without parental consent? She stated, “Her mom is a hairdresser, so she pierced it for her.”
"Katherine" does not look up to anyone in the media, and specifically mentioned her contempt for the show, “The Girls Next Door”. She even fell off the addictive media/marketing bandwagon for Disney teen queen, Hannah Montana.
“I used to like Hannah Montana…when Miley was 14 she wore appropriate clothes and now Hannah Montana is wearing strapless dresses that barely cover her butt and tiny leggings that go to fingertip length just so she looks like she’s wearing appropriate clothes, but she’s not!”
ADVERTISING & MARKETING = AN EVIL POISON?
In the book Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketing Schemes, authors Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., and Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., note that the industry used to push cereal and toys to this age group but that today, this has changed. “…The marketers’ goal above and beyond everything else is to get kids to part with their money. So parents of preteen should ‘be aware of the ways marketers, through the media, are channeling their daughters’ desires…not only are they encouraging girls to be older (sexier, hotter) at younger ages, but they’re introducing girls to a very narrow image of what it means to be a girl.” (Cite)
“Katherine” told me, “It’s hard to buy regular clothes because most stores sell outfits you aren’t even allowed to wear at school.”
This book reiterates Katherine’s problem. “In many retail stores you’ll find things such as tight hip-huggers for five-year olds; faux black-leather jackets for second-graders; low-rise flared jeans for middle-schoolers; and thongs, camisoles and lace panties for preteens. And you’ll even find little girls’ dolls wearing these same fashion items. “
In the article, “So Sexy, So Soon: The Sexualization of Childhood in Commercial Culture” it states, “According to the American Psychological Association, in their Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, girls as young as 4 and 5 years old are no longer wearing “old-fashioned” clothing styles but are now wearing push up bras, thongs, mini or micro-mini skirts, sequined crop tops and other hooker-style “fashionable” outfits.”
The Association also reported “fashion trends in clothing for boys depict disrespectful, violent themes with sayings on T-shirts such as, “Mr. Pimp”, “Mr. Well Hung” and similar disgusting messages.” (Cite)
DARE TO BLAME FEMINISTS!?
“Population Research Institute” published an article in March 2007 entitled, “Feminism, Consumerism & the Sexualization of Girls” in which the author and Vice President of The Population Research Institute, Joseph A. D’Agostino stated that it is the fault of feminists that there is a problem.
D’Agostino argues, “The politically correct view is that the sexualization of girls and feminism are opposing forces, but in fact they have gone hand-in-hand.”
He continues, “Feminists have taught girls and women that chastity is oppressive, that they should liberate themselves. They have also taught that there are no natural limits to sexuality. Witness their enthusiastic embrace of homosexuality. So, based on feminist principles, why shouldn’t little girls sexualize themselves?”
I have a huge problem with this author’s weak argument claiming feminists have taught girls that they should “liberate themselves”. Throughout feminist history, pressure was placed on the government and society to accept women as equals in the world and work-place. There was no mention that feminism encouraged the sexualization of women or girls.
I believe this author has mistaken true feminists with women who believed in “free love”, were “experimental hippies” of the 60’s, or those who participated in the 70’s and 80's sexual excess. Note: These individuals were all adults, not children.
“NOW”—The National Organization of Women, was founded in 1966 with its main focus placed on discrimination in the workplace proclaiming, “…NOW is a public voice for equal rights for women. It has been extremely effective in enacting rhetorical strategies that have brought about concrete changes in laws and policies that enlarge women’s opportunities and protect their rights.” (Cite)
I don’t read anything about the act of sex, or women’s sexuality in that mission statement, do you?
If this author would have done some research before blasting Gloria Steinem he should have read her biography, and then he would have known that it was Steinem who in 1963 wrote a groundbreaking investigative report of how the women of Playboy were treated. Steinem has also “been a vehement critic of pornography, which she distinguishes from erotica:
"Erotica is different from pornography as love is from rape, as dignity is from humiliation, as partnership is from slavery, as pleasure is from pain.” Steinem also argues, “Blatant or subtle, pornography involves no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating the other.” (Cite)
Without citing this source, D’Agostino claims, “Up to 40% rape allegations are completely bogus. There are just as many morally reprehensible women out there as men…they have a degraded mentality.” (Cite)
What is the difference between the parents of yesterday and the parents of today?
“Parents think it’s clever or “cute” to allow their young girls to wear tight T-shirts that say, “So many boys, so little time”, or smiling as their young daughter sings, “Dont’cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”, but they won’t be so amused when their child becomes sexually active or pregnant by the time they turn 12.” (Cite)
There are plenty of parents that don’t even see their kids off to school, let alone see what they are wearing. Why were parents more involved and protective of their children in past decades than they are now?
I’m not suggesting that every parent is of this nature, but it is obvious that plenty are.
Dressing up and trying to be sexy is not a new phenomenon. In the old days, some girls wore skimpy clothes underneath their school clothes so their parents wouldn’t see what they were wearing when they walked out the door.
“Katherine” expressed that she feels parents today don’t take enough active interest their children. “Some parents really don’t care what their kids do. Like my ex-boyfriend went over to his girlfriend’s house and he didn’t get home until midnight. I know her mom wasn’t home…I was like, ‘what were they doing over there?’”
She also stated, “Some moms…I hate to say are the skanky type, but they are. They are thinking, ‘I didn’t get to live this way, so you should’. I think some moms live vicariously through their daughters. My mom used to…and I was like “Mom! I don’t like that!” I’ve started to stand up to my mom, but I’m scared of what she’ll think of me. I don’t want her to think I’m trying to run against her, like I don’t love her anymore.”
Parents: Your child does not own you. You are there as a teacher of life, not a friend. Are we as parents too afraid to do our jobs by giving in and purchasing or allowing whatever your child wants just so you don’t have to participate or be bothered?
It’s not ok.
Educate yourself about the consequences of dangerous consumerism and use that knowledge to protect your child. Educate fellow parents. Don’t go with the pack and allow these atrocities. Stand up, say something. You’d be surprised how many would be right behind you because they are too weak, naïve, cowardly, or apathetic to make the first move.
It only takes one person to start the locomotion. Notice how long that train gets when we are together for the greater good? Kill the apathy this country consumes by getting opinionated and vocal. You don’t have to quit your job and start a non-profit organization to make your point. As an individual, communicate. Educate. Elicit awareness.
We can’t accept and believe that society will thrive and maintain itself if we continue to turn a blind eye to long term social and psychological abuse towards our children. A downfall of civilization doesn’t happen with one rock falling; rather, it’s the hundreds of other rocks that chip away at our “American Foundation”.
Without the dollars and demand, these companies wouldn’t produce and market these clothes.
So I ask, who is to blame? If you answered “parents”, then you get a gold star. Congratulations. Now stand up and do something about it.
Michelle Simonsen is a victim's rights advocate, crime analyst and blogger for "Michelle Says So", founder of the grassroots consumer boycott, "Boycott Aruba--Justice for Natalee Holloway", an advisory board member of "Survivors in Action", and is a contributing writer for "Now Public", and "True Crime Talk".