My nine-year-old is an early bloomer. While she’s not the only girl in her third grade class wearing a bra, she’s the only one who actually needs one. She uses deodorant, Stridex and a disposable razor to banish the occasional armpit hair. But while her grooming routine may resemble that of a teenager’s, there is one area in which she remains a little girl: Her legs.
Like all of her classmates, she has hair on her legs. And while she has expressed an interest in shaving, she accepts my decision that at her age, it is unnecessary and premature. But some parents clearly feel differently about leg hair and not only allow their little girls to rid themselves of it, they actually encourage them to.
Encourage is my word. An article in Australia’s Sunday Telegraph reports that leg-waxing for nine-year-olds has become increasingly common and that parents are forcing the painful procedure upon their daughters. Whether parents are allowing it, encouraging it, or forcing it, experts agree that it is just another example of the early sexualization of young girls.
I wholeheartedly agree that little girls are being encouraged to grow up too fast. Padded bras, high heels and smooth legs are not appropriate for grade-schoolers. But I disagree somewhat on just who is to blame for this phenomenon. While the media plays a huge part in sending the message, I see mothers buying into it just as much as their daughters.
As adult women, we’ve learned that looks matter. We go to great lengths to be pretty, thin and hairless. We buy beauty magazines, worry about our weight and make catty comments about other women who don’t measure up. And while we point our fingers at the television shows, gossip magazines and retailers who want sell inappropriate ideas and products to our children, we continue to open our wallets to them. And when our daughters cry because they feel unattractive, we give in and buy them what they think they need to be accepted. Even if that acceptance involves hot wax and tears.
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