Friday, April 20, 2012

look at these two girls' swimwear and tell me which one is "improper"

What Lilly wears in the below picture is what was judged "improper swimwear" at our city pool last summer:

Lilly flanked by her grandpa and papa

This, on the other hand, would have passed as "proper:"

An advertisement from Submarine Kids

Clearly, placing "sex" where there is none negatively sexualizes both these girls. The bottom is featured in a commercial from Submarine Kids, "a swimwear line with a questionable marketing campaign," as Avital Nathman (aka The Mamafesto) puts it at Gender Across Borders. Continues Nathman:
My issue revolves around the sexualization of these young girls in order to sell these particular bathing suits. There is healthy sexuality, and then there is sexualization, which is something entirely different.

According to the APA, sexualization occurs when:
  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of of other characteristics;
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
The marketing campaign that greets you when visiting Submarine Kids falls right into the above, with little regard for the potential affect it might have on their target audience.

There is no need to dress up young girls in a manner that clearly brings to mind older, sexual women. Vampish wigs, thick make up and poses that show off body parts that are years from even being developed comes across as not only vulgar but almost predatory.

To place overt sexuality upon these girls to sell swimwear is both out of place and damaging on many levels. It not only encourages the idea that it is okay to sexualize little girls, but it attempts to normalize it, when it is anything but normal.

While the rules for swimwear at our local pool does not state that a top is required for young girls, it was the pool manager's practice to require one for school-age girls and up to wear one. "Girls under four or five," added the pool manager, could be exempted from wearing a top. FOUR?! FIVE?! A completely undeveloped girl?!

I have written a lot about my issues with this (see here and here for a start). This week, the issue came up again as the pool rules have been revised by the pool manager's supervisor and the pool manager in time for yesterday's Park and Rec board meeting. The rules are still in draft version, but I am hopeful that the voice of reason will come through. An upper age limit for girls to be top-free has not been imposed, and a report was given in which the board was informed that "the rules on attire are focused on safety. We will work with the pool staff to be sensitive to parental rights to determine appropriate swimwear for small children.”

Visit Locally Grown Northfield to read all the powerful comments in favor of not negatively sexualizing and discriminating against young girls; powerful ammunition to have at hand should any unreasoning come up again (heaven forbid).


  1. Ugh.  I found a triangle bikini in a size 12 months while shopping for my daughter today.  To me, dressing young girls in wildly inappropriate clothing styles is way more offensive than seeing a little girl dressed the way your daughter was. 

  2. Good work Anne! And Lilly is so so adorable in that photo!

  3.  Thank you, Nancy!

  4. A most eloquent examination of the issues. May they just be understood in Northfield.

  5. Yes! Thank you, Paul.

  6.  Yes; thank you, Janel. And ugh indeed.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...