Tot Tarts

by Tina Blue
September 22, 2000

       One thing I have never understood about such girl-acts as Spice Girls, Britney Spears, or Christina Aguilera is why parents would take their pre-teen daughters to watch them perform or encourage them to idolize and emulate these women. I am not commenting on the singers' talent--I have never heard any of them, so I have no idea whether they have talent or not. What I am talking about, quite simply, is image.

       These young women dress like streetwalkers, at least when they are performing. (I see pictures in newspapers, magazines, etc.) Their image is heavily sexualized, to be sure, but it's not the sexuality per se that troubles me. It's the nature of the sexuality being represented: young women's bodies are being offered as if they were consumer products.

       I don't like to see it, but it's a free country, and they have a right to "sell" themselves in whatever way they think necessary to advance their careers. But what troubles me is the all-too-common tendency in our society to sexualize young girls, to commodify their faces and bodies on the flesh market. The ubiquitous image of Jon Benet Ramsey is the most obvious example of what I'm referring to, but that is just an iconographic representation of what is, in fact, pervasive in our culture.

       For example, go to a dance recital for really young girls--I'm talking ages two to ten here--put on by just about any school of dance in virtually any city. Somehow I just can't see it as "cute" when such little girls are all tarted up in sequined costumes modeled on what the average Las Vegas showgirl wears to work. And no matter how little of their dance routine they remember, ALL of them remember the part where they're supposed to turn around and wiggle their little feathered bottoms at the audience, or lean forward and do a suggestive shoulder shimmy.

       Many girls take jazz dance classes all through grade school and into early and mid-adolescence. At every recital they perform in skimpy costumes, and their routines include moves that would do a stripper or a lapdancer proud.

       Recently I read a brief piece in Parade Magazine about how parents should handle the conflicts that inevitably arise as their children reach the ages of about eleven or twelve. One suggestion was that if a twelve-year-old girl insists on dressing like a harlot, the parents should just let it go. That's how all her peers are dressing these days, the article suggested, and it would be too harsh to make the poor kid dress differently when all she wants is to blend in with the crowd.

       Sorry, but that's a crowd I don't think a young girl should be allowed to blend in with. Whether intentionally or not, a girl dressed in the way so many young girls dress these days is sending out signals that draw in exactly the sort of attention--and predators--that they are not mature enough to handle.

       When men look at a little girl, they should not be thinking, "Wow, hot!" But isn't it true that much of what passes for fashion among preteen girls and girls in early adolescence is designed to provoke just such a reaction? Why don't we let little girls be little girls, instead of encouraging them to adopt the poses and styles of sexual availability?
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