Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Padded Bras for 5-year-olds Appropriate for Christmas?

I have blogged a bit on sexualisation of culture previously (click the tag at the bottom of this post and it will take you to all the posts), and this is an example how it can affect first hand. Not even childhood is left alone anymore. Parents tell of being "bombarded" with padded bras, lap dancing kits and t-shirts with "Porn star" written over the chest - all for 5-year-olds. But if that wasn't early enough to be introduced to such things, I will never forget when I saw a t-shirt for an infant with the text "I did my mommy a number" printed with stitches painted next to it, implying that this baby had torn open his mother's vagina, and that it should be something worthy bragging about! Now I know children wearing this t-shirt would be completely unknowing of this, but what message does it send to all the men out there?

Sexualisation of culture is inescapable today. Not even children are free of it, and when the patterns are being reproduced, it grows up to be the norm. For those thinking this is all exaggerated and that people don't buy these kinds of things, not really - obviously they do. Otherwise there wouldn't be a business built up around it. The sexualised clothing and toys are all mirroring the adult society, because if you really think about it, there is not much reaction when an adult woman buys a lap dancing kit or wears a t-shirt saying "Porn Star."

Yes, the difference lies in the fact that they are adults and they can decide for themselves, and they rightly should, but at some level these women, too, are affected by the message society sends us. What is worrying is not necessarily the 'sexy' culture as I've heard people describe it, what is worrying is that this has become the norm to the extent where it is accepted for toddlers to buy into it. It is an attitude that has been extended to children, by their role models.

I heard a story, not too long ago, that a woman told me about. She had been out wanting to buy a regular black t-shirt for her daughter who was around six at the time. She went to one of the major stores and she could not find a t-shirt that did not show the shoulder. Remember, she was shopping for a six-year-old, and she could not find a t-shirt that did not show some skin.

Now, showing skin is not bad in itself, neither is sex (for consenting adults), but the problem lies in that there is so much value attached to it. There is still a double standard regarding women. To be accepted, they have to follow the norm; the norm being the increasingly body-focused, superficial, sexy society, but if they in any way insinuate that they might have had "too many" sexual partners (where is the limit for "too many" anyway?) they are immediately stigmatised or used solely as a sexual object to be used and abused according to one's wishes. A woman's value is still very much tied to her sexuality and how she approaches it, but it is a fine line to thread. Wear too many turtle-necks and you are "frigid" or "boring", wear clothes that expose too much and you are a "slut" or perhaps even a "whore." Finding that golden line in the middle where one will be accepted is an increasingly hard task, and unfortunately it does not give you a lot of room to manoeuvre any sort of personality lest you should be ostracised again.

Clearly, when padded bras have become an accepted Christmas present for a 5-year-old, when her older sister runs around in a t-shirt spelling "future trophy wife" and the infant brother unknowingly brags about violently exiting his mother, we have to start thinking about the implications of where this sexualisation is taking us.

This is a Halloween costume, clearly for children. Watch and weep.


  1. I have had an enormous amount of trouble finding bras that are suitable for my 10 year old daughter. She is in legitimate need for one and the only ones I can find in any major or minor store in the area are padded and under-wired. The only exceptions are sports bras which are really not meant to be worn as your only bra.

    It wasn't this difficult even 8 years ago when my older daughter was an early bloomer. I had no trouble finding cute (not sexy, CUTE) little underwear sets for her in any number of stores. Then, gradually, the underwear sets disappeared and were replaced by padded and under-wired bras for *children*.

    I live in a very conservative area. I am very liberal about nearly everything. How is it even possible that I am more conservative about how children should dress than the people who laid claim to the title of "decency"?

    If other people want to dress their children like tiny little sex toys, I'm willing to shake my head in silence about that, but I should have the choice to put my kids in sensibly attractive clothes that are suitable for *children* without having to resort to hiring a seamstress. (I haven't, but I may have to before my youngest is 18)

  2. Thank you, Harriet, for sharing your story about how hard it is to find clothing for children. I have heard other women share similar stories and it horrifies me. It makes me fear that once (if) I decide to have children, they will be forced to dress in a way that I would never even choose for myself. I don't ever remember wearing really sexy underwear and other clothes when I was young at all. All I remember was cute things, such as Minnie Mouse, Snoopy, I think even Winnie the Pooh bear, and otherwise one-coloured, non-padded bras. I'm only 24, so I was 10 only 14 years ago.
    I'm also very liberal, and I don't like too many restrictions, but the damage on children and society in general is potentially really great in these cases, and to me it is clear something needs to be done.

    The irony of it all with conservative areas and the people's disposition to sexy children's clothing was also really interesting. It seems strange to me too.

    I've heard of a campaign called "Let Girls be Girls" started by Mumsnet as a protest against the increasingly sexualised culture. I don't know if you've heard of it? I think it's fairly UK-centric and I don't know where you are from, but if you're interested in checking it out, their web page can be found here.
    Also, it's great British MPs have lifted this debate and are now considering restrictions on these types of children's clothing. Let's hope the parliament(s) actually does something about it!