Friday, July 22, 2011

"proper swimwear:" why sexualize and discriminate against little girls?

Why can't this be "proper swimwear"?
Mail Online
I've been pretty worked up this week since we were told at the city pool last Sunday that Lilly, who just turned three, had to put a top on. The pool manager has since clarified that "proper swimwear" requires a top for girls from when they are at least of school age, which I'm still not happy about. I asked her to bring it up with her supervisor and City Council, and am working on a letter to our local newspaper.

I am also working on a longer article about this for the Sexy Mama column at Good Vibrations Magazine; stay tune for that. In the meantime, I'd like to hear what you think about this. -- What message is this giving young girls? Does it seem reasonable to you to require girls as young as five to cover up? Or might you consider this sexualizing girls as young as five or six. A gender discriminating issue, in fact, allowing boys--and men--to swim, play, and roam naked from the waist up while the female sex, be they five or fifty, are asked to cover up their breasts, -- be they there or not.

Also, feel free to contribute to the discussion about this on Facebook, here or here.

Update Sat. July 23: My article on this at Good Vibrations Magazine: "Proper Swimwear" for a Toddler Girl Includes a Top?! 

Update Wed. July 27: After today's publication of my letter about this incident to our local newspaper, the pool manager's supervisor, which would be the head of the Park and Recreation Advisory Board, finally called. She told me the board had discussed the "pool attire" incident at last week's meeting and concluded that for girls, "proper swimwear" implies tops for girls age five and up. I am not done pursuing this matter. Please; I'd like to hear from more of you what you think about this.


  1. How can they even tell she's a girl? About half of strangers (maybe more) assume confidently that my five-year-old is a girl because he has longish hair--should he cover up on top too? It's all totally nonsensical: men and women aren't THAT different, but girls and boys at that age are freakin' indistinguishable except for people's bizarre projections.

    Did he tell you that in her hearing? God that would have pissed me off.

  2. Ha, exactly a point I make in my article at Good Vibrations Magazine, "Proper Swimwear" for a Toddler Girl Includes a Top?!. Lilly is often mistaken for a boy, despite her longish blond locks, and because of her boyish hand-me-downs. And as a fellow mom at the pool said, had we swapped my daughter's bikini bottoms with the bottoms of her three-year old boy (who has the same curly, blond locks), the pool staff would probably have picked on them instead. So this is about gender discrimination in that way too. And the gender stereotyping enforced by manufacturers of children’s attire. Because had I dressed my daughter in a rare to come by pair of gender neutral bottoms as opposed to the frilly pink bikini bottom she got from her grandma, the pool staff wouldn’t have said anything, because they wouldn’t have been able to tell if she's a boy or a girl.

    Lilly was in the pool with Leighton when the lifeguard approached me about this, so she thankfully did not hear what was said. But I was so mad when I spoke with the staff about this in the back office, my body was shaking so much I could barely sign my name and number to have the manager call me.

  3. This is very interesting. Recently, I am learning about how children "discover" bodies as my son is showing his curiosity. I sickens me that people sexualize that for children so young. I have changed alot and held very repressive thoughts long ago. We are a very twisted society in this way. I support your efforts and we have along way to go. That is outrageous. 

  4. Thank you! I appreciate your support.

  5. I would be very interested in knowing the logic behind the board's decision.  I wonder what they are really concerned about - overall, I think it's a strange policy, and I just can't make sense of it.

  6. The head of the board told me the board had expressed concerns Lilly would be teased by other children if not wearing a top and that she would be vulnerable to male predators. To which I responded that we ought to be able to trust the parent's judgment and the level of the child's comfort. Pool staff should worry about pool safety; I will make sure my child feels and is safe in other ways.

  7. Hello,
    As the president of, an organization claiming women's constitutional right to go topless in public on the basis of gender equality, I am appalled though not surprised by this incident.  It is time that we finally stand up and say no to this constant gender discrimination against our female chest be.
    Please join us on National Gotopless Day, Aug 21 (in Honor of Women's Equality Day).  See our website for an event near you and if there is not one, you are welcome to organize one!  Enough is enough


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