Shouting out loud

I don’t want my kid to grow up in a culture so pornified that tweens are buying adult-style lingerie and wearing it as outer wear. I’m angry that when I went to buy my two year old daughter jeans at Target, the only ones I could find were ‘skinny jeans’, so I bought her a boy pair instead (let’s not get started on why there must be gendered jeans for two year olds in the first place). I’m sad that my pre-pubescent sister-in-law obsesses about her waist and whether she looks fashionable enough and fashionably thin enough. It enrages me that everything from brazillian waxing to Playboy branded pencil cases is being marketed to children as desirable. Being desirable themselves is the ultimate goal that we’re peddling to our tweens and teenagers. Magazines and other media, clothes and cosmetic sellers are teaching girls as young as eight to pursue sexual attractiveness as a life choice. And if girls are the tantalisers, the bait, the holders of only Pussy Power, then where does that leave boys? The inevitable role is predator. Be sucked into the vortex of body image fears and feel obligated to spend on cosmetics and other external image enhancers, like girls, or heap scorn on all that by playing Grand Theft Auto and learning how to be violent instead. It’s not a great choice. In online games, in advertising – in the cultural script – girls are speaking the lines of prostitutes and boys are swaggering like pimps.

You think I’m exaggerating and overreacting? I wish it were so. Welcome to The Rape Culture, now showing on screens inside children’s bedrooms next door to you.

I’m not a wowser, I’m not a prude. I’m not a moraliser. I’m not even particularly interested in being sentimental about ‘natural’ or ‘simple’ childhood. But negotiating gender roles and boundaries and learning to adhere to these or in fact to blur and change them; developing awareness of sexuality, consent, attraction, pleasure, orientation; exploring the edges of the adult world in a to-and-fro dance between the sandpit and the grown-up sphere — these are all things which take time. These are things which children should be free to do on their own terms and within the safe boundaries of their family and community values.

Sexual commerce has no place in childhood. Objectification of women and the promotion of sexual violence as titillating is bad enough without adding younger and younger girls into the mix. When we remove the boundaries of child/adult, when an eight year old wears a padded bra and a t-shirt that says I put out for shoes, we have a problem. Fuckability should never be sold to kids because kids aren’t available to be fucked. End of.

So what are we going to do about it?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a meeting about this issue, organised by Barefoot Magazine. It was inspiring as well as depressing: Melinda Tankard Reist and Julie Gale of KidsFree2BKids have both made great progress in battling retailers and advertisers. But there is more work to be done, and I couldn’t help but notice the hundred or so people sitting around me were not exactly a diverse bunch. Most of us were mothers (a good portion came with breastfeeding or homebirthing parenting groups) and presumably, most of us were feminists or sympathetic to feminist causes. Most of us were white. And the number of men who came along? Exactly two.

The attendees of last night’s function are probably not a an accurate reflection of the people in the community who are concerned – or could potentially be concerned – about the sexualisation of children and young girls in particular. (Being a Barefoot magazine event held in a relatively affluent suburb is obviously heavily self-selecting). But even so, it is clear that when academics and social justice advocates (and feminist bloggers) address this issue they/we are largely preaching to the choir.

So we’ve got to make the choir bigger, and a whole lot louder. One way to do that is to support organisations like Collective Shout, who are

a new grassroots campaigns movement mobilising and equipping individuals and groups to target corporations, advertisers, marketers and media which objectify women and sexualise girls to sell products and services.

Collective Shout exposes corporations, advertisers, marketers and media engaging in practices which are offensive and harmful especially to women and girls, but also to men and boys.

Collective Shout is for anyone concerned about the increasing pornification of culture and the way its messages have become entrenched in mainstream society, presenting distorted and dishonest ideas about women and girls, sexuality and relationships.

I urge you to sign up – they will help you be an activist from your own keyboard.

And the other thing we can do is simply that – shout. I’m using my voice quite literally here (and figuratively at home when I am choosing what I buy for my daughter and what media she sees). How will you use your voice?


Filed under Body Image/Fat Acceptance, Feminism, Motherhood and Parenting

16 responses to “Shouting out loud

  1. “Fuckability should never be sold to kids because kids aren’t available to be fucked.”
    Can I have this on a t-shirt NOW please.

  2. Thank you for this article. Very good points.

    One thing that worries me is a tendency for discussions around the pornification of our culture – and the infantilization of womens/girls’ sexualities – to descend into slut-shaming language. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around this and how to handle it. Like, I don’t want to point out the social problems with, say, skinny jeans for 2 year old girls and make it sound like I think any individual woman/teen who wears skinny jeans (or something deemed even more provocative) is wrong or whorish or anti-feminist.

    I’m not sure if this concern makes sense or if I’m articulating it well; it’s something that’s on my mind.

    Thank you so much for this article; I re-tweeted it, and I really appreciate it!

  3. Thanks Kelly.
    I do share your ambivalence. Previously, railing against the pornification of our culture was the domain of far-right religious types, although that is changing. There is a big difference between slut-shaming girls for sexual development and behaviour (which I am against), and shaming elements of society for allowing the commodification of children’s and women’s bodies. The former is about squashing sexual expression but the latter is about protesting sexually based oppression.

  4. Thank you for the clarification – excellent last sentence, there!

    As a woman who was a girl who developed normally – and sexually – I still bridle at slut-shaminz, you know? Now I’m a mother – a boy and a girl – and the sexual-based oppression thing has become more important.

  5. Great article. I’ve been ranting about this for years but especially since I had my daughter. Even the fact that stores sell string bikinis for infants, it just creeps me out and make’s no sense. String bikini’s say to me, “this is where the boobs go” and the only boobs in my infant daughter’s life are providing her lunch.

    I honestly feel like I don’t know where to start with this but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to lay enough groundwork with my daughter that she won’t get sucked in when she gets to that age (which apparently is 7 these days). I’ll definitely be retweeting your article.

  6. Great article! While reading your post i remember my mom who kept on telling me about this stuffs, I even told her that she was just over reacting. I didn’t mind her at first but when i became a parent i realized that my mom was right. I don’t like watching teenagers walking on the streets almost wearing bikini’s.

  7. This was eye opening. Skinny jeans for two year olds? Brazilian waxes aimed at kids? We live in a different world, for which i am very thankful.

    “Fuckability should never be sold to kids because kids aren’t available to be fucked.”

    Is possibly the best line ever! I’m, with Muliercula – I want this on a t-shirt!

  8. Totally agree. I rant about this all the time.

    Thanks for the link. Signing up now

  9. Ok if you make the f*ability shirt I want one!!
    I applaud this as the mom of 3 SONS. I find it appalling to pick my 5 and 6 year old up from school and see little girls in their age group in belly shirts and hot pants. And my best friend and I totally disagree on this because she is telling her lil girl to act/look HOT. OMG they are 6.
    I am thankful that so far my boys still seem pretty oblivious to all things sexual.
    It does seem as if things are more and more sexualized every year and for younger and younger kids.
    I keep seeing on Twitter how Miley Cyrus’ lil sister is starting a lingerie line for kids…my big question is why the hell do they think they need it and WHO is encouraging this crap?
    Where are the girls parents who think this is ok???

    • The Fireman


      You ask:
      “…WHO is encouraging this crap?”
      The answer is: The People who stand to profit from it. How does that saying go again? “Money makes the works go around”. Unfortunately.

      The Fireman

  10. Steffj: It’s not Noah Cyrus, but a friend of hers; and it’s not lingerie, it’s tutu dresses.

  11. This is absolutely dead on target. I have three small daughters (almost 7, almost 5 and 1) and I am constantly enraged by this sick cultural trend towards sexualising younger and younger children. My kids, like yours, do not own one single item of clothing that suggests they are in any sense pubescent, let alone adult. The very notion of little girls looking “hot” is repellent. (I have RTed this article too!)

  12. Deb

    Thanks for the link. I complained to a chain store a few years ago about size 2 bras and their response was:
    – We’re selling increasing numbers, so there can’t be too many people upset about it.
    – Little girls say they like them and they are more comfortable.

    WTF? And how exactly did they get that answer from the barely verbal children? On the other hand – parents, lift your game. There’s definitely a choir on this one, but how do we talk to the people who are buying this crap?

  13. Pingback: 22nd Down Under Feminists Carnival « Fuck Politeness

  14. I’ve been thinking about this topic since WAY before I was a mother. I love the way you worded it.

  15. Pingback: The ordinary girl « Spilt Milk

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