I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye.
Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie "10" (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her "Xtina" phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.
You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word "Juicy" was written on her backside.
Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see alright [sic] ... I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she's not even in middle school yet.This is a CNN columnist, LZ Granderson, attempting to shame parents for the fact that he looked at their prepubescent daughter and found her sexually attractive. Oh wait, he didn't find her sexually attractive...he's just pointing out that some other adult might, and therefore they shouldn't dress their daughter like a "tramp." That's the take-home lesson-- it is the responsibility of parents not to allow their daughters to dress in a way that connotes sexual attractiveness in adults, because...adults apparently can't handle themselves? The sight of an eight-year-old's midriff is just too much to take? Really?
Strange how uncannily that sounds like the comments that residents of Cleveland, Texas made only recently about an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped: "she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s." Ergo, we can dance right up to the edge of saying She was asking to be raped, that little whore without actually doing so.
Hypothesis: The general resistance to the idea of young girls dressing "sexy" is almost entirely an attempt to protect adults, not children. And it is done by transferring the blame of adults finding themselves attracted to children, to the children themselves and to their parents. Don't dress in a way that might cause me to look at you inappropriately, little girl, and I (probably) won't. But if you do and I do, it's your fault. That's how we get a grown man reacting with horror to the fact that a little girl is dressed in a way that almost certainly isn't remotely sexual to her. She thinks she looks pretty and is dressed comfortably. That's it.
The column goes on:
Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire this spring for introducing the "Ashley," a push-up bra for girls who normally are too young to have anything to push up. Originally it was marketed for girls as young as 7, but after public outcry, it raised its intended audience to the wise old age of 12. I wonder how do people initiate a conversation in the office about the undeveloped chest of elementary school girls without someone nearby thinking they're pedophiles?Answer: they don't. Someone like you will always think it, without any sense of irony.
A push-up bra on a twelve-year-old is silly. It is not a threat to society, the psychology of the girl in question, or that of everyone around her. I started wearing a bra of necessity when I was in the fourth grade, about age ten. That should tell you that I had no need of a push-up bra at that age or any other, but it's not like millions of girls that age don't experience anxiety regarding the size of their chests. Although honestly, being caught using a push-up bra sounds like a liability as much as being caught stuffing your bra was when I was in school. You accepted your fate, or you got mocked...but most likely it was a certain amount of both. It's hard to imagine that ever changing.
The way I see it, my son can go to therapy later if my strict rules have scarred him. But I have peace knowing he'll be able to afford therapy as an adult because I didn't allow him to wear or do whatever he wanted as a kid.
Maybe I'm a Tiger Dad.
Maybe I should mind my own business.
Or maybe I'm just a concerned parent worried about little girls like the one I saw at the airport.In 2007, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report linking early sexualization with three of the most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. There's nothing inherently wrong with parents wanting to appease their daughters by buying them the latest fashions. But is getting cool points today worth the harm dressing little girls like prostitutes could cause tomorrow?
And dressing little girls "like prostitutes" means..what? And the harm it causes is...what? I'm not willing to daydream the answers to those questions into existence. A few points:
- You can suggest that certain things are for adults but not children without suggesting that they are nasty, tawdry, or otherwise disreputable. A high-end prostitute (not that there's anything wrong with being one) dresses similarly to any other attractive well-to-do woman going out on a date. There is no guaranteed way to distinguish between the two.
- If you're concerned about your daughter becoming a low-end prostitute, a street walker (my mother's favorite term for what I was emulating when my skirt was a bit high or shirt too tight for her liking), her apparel is probably the last thing that should dominate your attention. Try focusing on her grades. Or her general sense of well-being. A good way to prevent other people from defining your daughter by her appearance is not to do so yourself, don't you think?
- An eight-year-old only understands that there is something wrong with going topless because her parents tell her so. And there is nothing inherently wrong with going topless; it's simply a social convention. Sooner or later every woman-- every human being, if they have a spark of intellect and creativity-- will come to challenge social conventions, and it doesn't mean he or she is less of a person. Quite the opposite, actually.
Full disclosure: I'm not a parent, and don't intend to ever become one. To a lot of people that renders my opinion of anything at all related to children invalid. But I am a female, have been a girl child, and have experienced the complete bewilderment that comes when people insist that you're doing something wrong, that there is something wrong with you, simply because of how you've chosen to dress. When you grow up you realize that there is actually something wrong with them. They want you to dress a certain way because otherwise they will be unable to refrain from judging you, raping you, or both.
I realize that there is such a thing as propriety. The little girl described in this column probably shouldn't show up at a funeral in her halter top and Juicy sweatpants. There is also such a thing as legitimate concern about your child's sexual choices-- nobody wants their daughter to become accidentally pregnant, or their son to accidentally impregnate someone's daughter. But clothing styles and sexual practices are two different things. Really, it's true. If we insist on pretending otherwise, we are giving credence to the victim-blamers and feeding the pervasive bias that suggests someone's personal worth can be determined by how she dresses. Prostitutes and promiscuous women are lesser, the thinking goes, therefore people who dress like prostitutes and promiscuous women (or more accurately, how I imagine such people dress) are lesser by association. That is how a grown man writing for CNN gets to apply the word "tramp" to a little girl.