Parenting in a sex-saturated society can be tough. That’s something I think we can all agree on.
We want to keep our kids innocent as long as we can. That’s why a group of moms are outraged at Maidenform, and its parent company Hanes, for designing and marketing a type of bra to little girls that they believe is too sexy. The size 4-6x bras in question have a thin layer of padding that Amy Yates, a San Diego mom, thinks is wholly inappropriate for little girls.
She told NBC 7 San Diego, “It’s hard enough being a young girl developing early, maybe before you’re emotionally ready for it and then dealing with seeing things like padded bras.”
She believes these bras are sexualizing girls way too young, saying, “My girls are very interested in things like origami and Pokémon at their age, they’re 9. They don’t need to go to the store and see bras that are lacy and sexy and marketed toward them because they’re going to think, Gee, is this what I’m supposed to be into right now?”
Amy’s concern is natural. The sexualization of women’s bodies is a huge problem in our society. As a feminist, I agree with her that we need to stop telling girls that their value lies in their beauty and their sex appeal, and I love the work that so many parents are doing to shift the focus from being attractive to being talented, powerful, and good citizens.
But the truth is, at some point your child is going to need a bra. And suddenly your mission to keep your baby a baby will be forced to a screeching halt. For many parents, buying their daughter a bra is a reminder that these girls are no longer chubby little lumps in their diapers and onesies. It forces us to face the fact that our kids are going to become teenagers, grow up, and eventually have sex.
That fact can be terrifying. One of the amazing things about childhood is not having to worry about romance and sex and body hair and periods and boobs. It’s the one time in life that you get to truly just enjoy the world around you, with limited responsibilities and a life focused primarily on learning and fun. Childhood is glorious because it’s a time, hopefully, when we get to be innocent.
But what if our girls didn’t have to choose between being innocent and growing up? What if, while they grew up, our girls felt like they could be proud of how their bodies are changing, while still enjoying life as a little kid?
We don’t need to force our kids to choose either way. There is no reason Amy Yates’s girls can’t play Pokemon and wear a bra with some padding. Especially considering the fact that not all padding is meant to be sexy. In fact, Maidenform said in a statement that the foam lining in the bras is intended for modesty. Remember, the first part of the breast that often develops is the nipple, and some girls are sensitive about this change to their appearance.
Personally, even at a size 32DD, I only wear bras that are lightly lined with padding. Not because I think my breasts need to look bigger (thank you very much!), but because I hate it when the whole world can tell when I’m cold — if you catch my drift. The smooth silhouette makes me feel more comfortable, and I can imagine that many little girls probably feel the same way.
But the bigger message here is that an item of clothing, even if it’s a little padded bra, will not take away your child’s innocence. A bra is just a bra. It’s a piece of fabric, and if it helps your child feel more confident or secure, it can have great value for her.
But what can hurt your child is if you make her feel ashamed of wanting to wear a bra. This is what happened to me as a little girl, so I know how it feels. When I first asked my mom to get me a bra, she told me no, and said that I wouldn’t get one until I was 10 years old.
Her rejection made me feel deeply ashamed of having asked, which only added to my sense of discomfort with my changing body. By the time I finally got a training bra, I’d taken to crossing my arms over my chest all day long, not only to hide my breast buds, but also to stop the chafing feeling that happened when my shirt moved across my skin.
I know why she wanted to me to wait, and I know why parents worry about getting their child a bra too young. But in the long run, I believe it is healthier for our kids to learn early that growing up is something to be proud of, not something to be pushed away.
Society will try to objectify our girls and force them to grow up too fast, but the best way to help your child resist this is to teach her to be proud of her body and to never, ever shame her or embarrass her for growing up. After all, a bra is just a piece of fabric. It cannot change who she is as a person. Even if it has a little padding.