Today’s trends in micro-mini fashion, a term used to describe clothing geared to making kids look like mini-adults, is robbing the souls of adolescent girls in a cruel circle of advertising, sexualization, and the resulting psychological issues that damage these underage victims. Adolescent girls in the United States are over sexualized by the media, which influences what they wear. Adolescent girls have been told by society and the media that their worth is based on their physical appearance and their body, and therefore try to look “womanly” to subconsciously impress boys which perpetuates the ideal that women have to look sexy for men as their role in society. Even parents can fall into the trap of valuing daughters for their beauty and their sons for what they can accomplish which begins at a very young age. Despite the ruthless efforts of advertisers and other media outlets who conspire to trick young girls into buying what they are offering, we as a society have to end the myth that the objectification of women is acceptable and instill this ideal in our youth. Sexual liberation is okay, but there is nothing liberating about over-sexualizing young girls who can be traumatized if they are forced to exist as sexual beings.
The term “sexualization” means “to render something or someone sexual,” which implies that this act is being done without consent or permission of the person being seualized. This is especially true with the shift in clothing for young girls where clothing companies manufacture girl’s clothing that fits the definition many researchers consider sexualized, such as clothing with suggestive writing, or that emphasize certain body parts. Clothing companies are sexualizing young girls without their permission even if the girls do not wear the clothing. Young girls are still being subjected to the images in store windows, clothing ads, the media, and to the idea which is being put out by these types of companies. It could be argued that when a company knowingly creates children’s clothing of a sexual nature they are sending a message that it is acceptable to view female children as sexual objects.
The suffix “ize” means to make something, thereby proving the irrefutable point that children are not sexual beings unless someone or something acts against them to alter that perception. “Sexualize” can also mean to cause someone or something to become aware of their own sexuality. Multiple studies on the subject have concluded that young girls who are sexualized suffer from low self-esteem, do not perform well in school, and often fail to measure up academically compared to boys of the same age. The word sexual when taken at its root means associated with sex. So when you sexualize young girls by marketing suggestive clothing to them and use them in media campaigns, you are literally asking everyone that comes into contact with the end product to view that child wearing the clothes or portrayed in the ad, to associate that child with sex. Having sexual relations with a child is both immoral and illegal, therefore there should be consequences to knowingly, and for profit, offer a child for the purpose of sex ,even if it is just in the mind of potential viewers of the child.
It is not acceptable to exploit the youth of our innocent children by turning them into sexual beings. We have a moral responsibility to our own daughters to choose age-appropriate clothing for them, but we can also object to the trends that encourages younger girls to buy and wear clothes that would be too revealing or too provocative even for much older girls.
Sarah Murnen, a social psychologist who was interviewed for the article, disputes a claim about sexualized clothing, saying that even though parents might have viewed the clothing as sexual, the children themselves did not.
But according to Stephanie Papas, a science blogger, clothing stores like Gymboree and Target tend to manufacture more appropriate clothes for girls which resulted in girls at the top of their age group declining to wear the clothes because they looked juvenile. This would indicate that the modest clothes are considered uncool by young girls and the over sexualized clothes are more desirable. They are also readily available at most children’s clothing stores.
In a study done by time magazine, 30% of clothing that is manufactured and advertised to young girls has “sexualized characteristics”. Sexualized clothing is considered anything revealing that emphasizes a specific body part, has a suggestive saying written on it, or looks like something a mature woman would wear. Women are sexual beings, young girls are not. But the propaganda perpetuated from this new trend could make mature men see these girls in a light they should not viewed be in.
Although blogger Stephanie Papas named target as one of the stores to make modest clothing, The Target chain, one of the largest retail brands for children, was considered one of the biggest offenders in the time magazine article, as well as Abercrombie Kids.
One unnamed blogger, who writes the blog “Binkies Briefcases” wrote an open letter to Target detailing (with photos of her own children) how Target’s girl’s shorts especially sizes 2T-5T are significantly shorter than those made by other brands. In one photo her two year old daughter who the blogger describes as very small for her age, is seen wearing shorts typically worn by a five year old girl. The shorts fit her daughter perfectly, leaving the blogger to question how inappropriately short they would look if worn by someone of their intentional size. In her letter to Target she says, “I know it wasn’t just a mistake with this particular pair of shorts. Don’t you dare try that with me.” The letter has a number of photos which compare and contrast the children’s shorts available at Target along with other brands and the letter has since gone viral on the internet.
The problem of girls being offered sexualized clothing is growing and the demand for micro-mini fashions is squeezing out the more modest options due to the fact they are no longer in demand. Sarah Murnen, a professor of psychology at Kenyon College, along with her team of researchers, found that on only 15 online stores in the united states there was a total of 5,666 items of girls clothing that were classified as sexualized. Murnen concluded that wearing the clothing could possibly contribute to the development of self-esteem issues and other psychological problems. The APA Task Force has the following to say:
Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression or depressed mood. Several studies (on both teenage and adult women) have found associations between exposure to narrow representations of female beauty (e.g., the “thin ideal”) and disordered eating attitudes and symptoms. Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women. In addition to mental health consequences of sexualization, research suggests that girls’ and women’s physical health may also be negatively affected, albeit indirectly.
Self-esteem issues due to short clothing can stem from the fact that girls do not like the way they look, and therefore use this sexualized clothing as a way to get attention and to make themselves feel better.
Taking away the Bratz dolls and even then barbies and replacing them with traditionally dressed dolls will not solve the problem. Monitoring the shows watched by children will stop them from being exposed to come but not all of the messages, but will not stop the influence from their peers, or other means of corruption that will still seep through. The real solution is to teach these young girls to see these sexual messages for what they are which is nothing more than a trap to run out and buy what is being solicited to them. But it is not enough. Refusing to buy the product, watch the show, or put up with a misogynistic media cuts down on the profits being made at the expense of these young girls and sends a clear message to people that we as a society are no longer willing to tolerate the digression of our women regardless of their age.
This will also help young girls start to realize that if they start engulfing themselves with an obsession of how they look on the outside, they will never be happy with themselves. Mothers of boys should do their part to end the stigma as well, by educating their sons that the objectification of women is wrong. Many people young and old go through life without ever realizing that they have been buying into this misogynistic marketing message. Exposing people to it is the first step towards getting people to boycott the companies, TV stations, and clothing stores that are responsible for creating and profiting from the objectification of women.
Taylor, Dr. Jim. “The Disturbing Sexualization of Really Young Girls.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/the-disturbing-sexualization_b_1948451.html>.
“30% of Girls’ Clothing Is Sexualized in Major Sales Trend.” LiveScience.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://m.livescience.com/14249-girls-clothing-sexualized.html>.
N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/>.
“‘Porn Music’, Slow Motion and ‘too Many Close-ups’: NBC Sparks Anger from Viewers over Sexualized Footage of Female Athletes at the Olympics.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 10 Aug. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2015. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2186262/Olympics-2012-NBC-viewers-angry-sexualized-footage-female-athletes-porn-music.html>.
“Hypersexualization of Young Girls: What Are the Issues? Should We Be Worried?” Hypersexualization of Young Girls: What Are the Issues? Should We Be Worried? N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <http://www.cwhn.ca/en/hypersexualizationprimer2>.