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Let Our Little Girls Stay Little

By Sierra Black |

The bumping, grinding little girls in the now infamous “Single Ladies” dance recital routine caught our attention with their slutty costumes and very adult dance moves, but they weren’t doing (or wearing) anything their Bratz dolls don’t do every day.

Our kids are surrounded by a hyper-sexual culture all the time. Little girls in particular are being trained to be not only pretty but hot as soon as they learn to dress themselves. Just try finding a plain t-shirt and comfortable jeans for your 5-year-old; one that hasn’t been attacked by a Bedazzler before being offered up for sale.

In a thoughtful piece in this weekend’s New York Times, Peggy Orenstein explores this phenomenon from an interesting perspective: what does marketing “sexiness” to little girls do to their developing sexuality when they grow up?

The sight of little girls dancing like strippers is disturbing no matter how you slice it. But are the girls getting something out of it? Does an early awareness of desire make them more assertive with their future partners, more able to ask for and receive their own pleasure?

Not so much, research says. Orenstein focuses on this disconnect between the performance of desire and the feeling of it. Girls growing up in a world where the cultural imperative is to be desired don’t get enough opportunity to explore their own desires, she worries.

By learning to make themselves desirable before they understand what the desire might be, they don’t get a chance to organically discover what they want and grow into it.

I have received, and thrown out, an endless parade of sexy hand-me-downs for my kids. There were toddler-size halter tops with suggestive darts where they’ll grow breasts a decade from now. String bikinis in size 3T. Most recently, my 6-year-old and I are tousling over a pair of high heels she picked out of a friend’s giveaway box. She’s attached to them, but has skinned her knee more than once running in the things.

With my little girls, I’m clear that I want them to stay little until they have their own desires to express. It’s easy to throw away the trashy fashions and uphold a ban on Bratz. I’m less sure what I’ll do when they hit puberty, and it becomes less clear where their own emerging sexuality meets the marketing of “sexiness”.

Like Peggy, I want my kids to grow into a strong, passionate sexuality all their own. Putting on the moves and clothes of a pole dancer at age 6 is not the path to that.

Photo: quinn.anya

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Let Our Little Girls Stay Little

  1. Heather says:

    I am with you on the clothes, I am actually considering making my daughters clothes this year, since I have such a hard time finding anything in her size that I want her to wear. It wasn’t so bad at Target and Wallmart when she was in the toddler section, but now that she has moved on to the big kid section, I just cringe when I look at the clothes, particularly dresses. I am having a horrible time finding something appropriate that she can wear to church.

  2. alison says:

    You can find plain clothes (i.e. no pictures or images of any sort) that fit children of either gender in the boys department. They are cut on the baggier side and don’t have any of the flourishes one sees on girls’ clothes, but there is no reason girls cannot wear them.

  3. Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) says:

    (Lands End/L.L. Bean also have some nice, age-appropriate options if you want something more feminine.)

    This growing-up too fast has been the reason for my from-go ban on Barbie et. al.

    Problem is when BRATZ-type hyper-sexualized dolls make barbie look tame in comparison.

    That is also why it is hard to explain (to a pre-sexual child) why we have a ban. I’ve settled on a v. lame, “healthy humans don’t look like that” which has recently been countered (half-heartedly, she knows she can’t win) with, “Can we get them anyway? I know I won’t look like that when I grow up!”

    I’m looking/wishing for a more child-centric dress-up-doll option. Any suggestions?

  4. Shallelerilla says:

    To Amy Jane: The Liv dolls have looked pretty okay to me. They all seem to be like many pre-teen girls and rocking leggings with their skirts and such. Also, I personally grew up on American Girl dolls which offers not only some awesome interest in history but cool dress up clothes for the dolls that are age appropriate.

  5. Heather says:

    Amy, we really like the fisher price little mommy dolls. You can get clothes that the children can change and play with. I also don’t mind the princess dolls. They are not nearly as bad as the barbies. I know some people don’t like the princess either, but I personally don’t see a problem with them. We were lucky enough that my grandmother saved a ton of my old baribies, from when I was a kid. They are not perfect since the body shape is still unrealistic, but at least the clothes cover more.
    As for clothes for girls, I like LL Bean and Lands End, unfortunately they are a little too expensive for us. We are on a pretty tight budget. I do like Carters though, and Children’s place isn’t too bad.

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