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Little Girls, Big Influences

Short of living in a bubble with no television, magazines, music or toy dolls and having all your girls' friends live in that same bubble, the sexualization of girls has been continually moving earlier and earlier. What once were considered bad influences on teenagers now translate into girls as young as 5.

The American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report on Monday declaring that women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner throughout our culture, particularly in the media.

Report contributor and psychologist Sharon Lamb told reporter Stacy Weiner: "I don't think because we don't have the research yet on the younger girls that we can ignore that it's [sexualization] of harm to them. Common sense would say that."

So, what's a parent of a girl to do? Both the APA and The Post (via author Deborah Roffman) give some useful tips, such as:

* Listen to/read the same things as your kids and talk with them about the content.

* Question choices and say no. After all, you ARE the parent.

* Understand the peer and media pressures your child is under, and then help her make wise choices.

Clearly, this report is not a shocker to parents of any girl who's asked for a Bratz doll or been invited to Club Libby Lu for a birthday party, or seen an assortment of magazines and television shows. What do you parents of girls struggle with these days? What media presences/toys have surprised you?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 20, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Tweens
Previous: The Debate: When to Start Kindergarten | Next: A True Miracle

Comments


Great topic. As the mother of a 2-year old, and the stepmother to a 19-year old, I'm fully aware of the struggle parents face in trying to limit their daughter's exposure to harmful media. I read an article in Time magazine about "Girls Gone Wild" recently that started out with the author talking about how her 6-year old loves Lindsay Lohan. My first thought was "how on earth does her 6-year old even know who Lindsay Lohan IS?" Maybe I'm naive. We've made a conscious effort to shield our children from commercials, marketing via Happy Meals, etc. I realize that most of this will go out the window once they start school.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 20, 2007 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Stop parking your kids in front of the TV. Ditch the TV and avoid its bad influnece. It's bad for kids; we've known it for many, many years.

Don't buy the crap. How hard is that?

Is your kid's peer group in charge in your house?

Sounds like the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 8:15 AM | Report abuse

My neighbor's daughter was working at Abercrobmie & Fitch and I came in to visit her for a second with the kids while I was at the mall. She was folding shirts, one of which said "Who needs brains when you've got these?" I was FURIOUS and spoke to the manager about moving them away from the window where they could be seen by all who walked by. The manager was an early 20s, barely functioning woman/girl who appeared to have difficulty understanding why I would be so upset by the shirt. She told me she thought it was "cute". I wrote to the company, never got a response.

It makes me sick that these companies are trying to turn our children -- particularly our girls -- into sex objects. I wish I knew what to do about it on a larger scale. Other than boycotting their products myself, which I've got no reason to buy because I have young children, I don't know what to do.

Posted by: OtherMother | February 20, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

This is a really hard one -- because there seem to actually be a lot of parents who are in a hurry to have their kids grow up and who don't get why you would find that upsetting. I remember turning down a birthday invite that my daughter received in kindergarten. The birthday party was a "dance party" -- and high school girls had been invited to teach our kindergarteners dances and apply make-up and do their hair. Several other moms also made excuses about how their daughters were busy -- and the mom with the invites was apparently really insulted by the number of no's she received.

I think the problem is that it's really hard to say: "I'm afraid we have different viewpoints about how to raise our children" without it sounding like
"Actually, I think you're a bad mother."

For example, whenever anyone calls us and asks what our kids would like for a birthday gift, I do usually say something along the lines "I'd rather she not receive any Brats dolls." Sometimes I'll try to make it like a joke and comment that I don't allow dolls with better bodies than me in the house or something like that -- but I do wonder if others are insulted when we specify something like 'no brats dolls' for gifts.

I remember being at a McDonald's where they included one in the happy meal and my daughters threw the Brats Dolls away, and both my dad and my sister thought they were just being wasteful. (Obviously, if mcdonald's includes the toy in the happy meal, then it must be acceptable, right?)

Posted by: Armchair mom | February 20, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse

This report made me thankful that I have a boy (though I know they aren't completely immune to these issues either). Don't know how I'll approach this if/when I have a daughter. I will say this though - the solution is not as simple as "don't let your child watch tv or read magazines or [blank]". You can cut that stuff out at your home but it doesn't stop your child from going to school and looking at magazines with friends and going to slumber parties, etc. You can't shelter your child from all "bad" things forever.

I didn't watch much tv growing up, didn't wear all the fashionable clothes, etc., didn't have my ears pierced and all the rest when I was a young girl, but I definitely knew it was out there! I think the fact that my friends had these things and I didn't made it all the worse!

I think a better approach is to have open communication with your child about the messages that the media is sending out. Sure, you don't have to buy a Bratz doll for your child, but if your DD is the only one among her peers that doesn't have one, you definitely need to explain why.

Posted by: londonmom | February 20, 2007 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm finding it easier to avoid the toys than to clothe my 4-year-old properly. She has now entered that stage where clothing manufacturers design for 13 year-olds, then just shrink the pattern for the younger kids.

Why would I put a preschooler in ultra low-rise jeans and T-shirts with suggestive messages printed on them? Don't we have enough problems with sexual predators out there?

Posted by: VAmom | February 20, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

It's shocking to me how early you have to start worrying about this stuff. My daughter isn't even 2 yet and I've seen spaghetti-strapped, one-shouldered, bias-cut sundresses for 12-month-olds and a 2T shirt that read Single and Available. Who on Earth thinks that's even remotely cute or funny? I don't want anybody thinking that my toddler is "available" or reading messages on her fanny when she's in grade school.

The answer is simple: parents who are bugged by this stuff need to say no and need to do what the earlier poster did and complain to the companies that push this stuff. Companies only offer these things because somebody's buying them...those of us who take issue with these items need to make our voices heard as well. We're not being prudes-- little girls do not need be "sexy." Ugh.

I think the trick is also to make sure that our daughters are just as repulsed by this stuff as we are by raising them to value themselves as people, allowing them to just be kids and to be individuals with minds and personalities, rather than just good-looking dolls. My daughter's playmates are mostly boys, and their moms and I have discovered that while people generally comment on how "smart" the boys are, my daughter only merits how "cute" she is. We need to make sure that our daughters know that we value their brains as much as their faces.

A girl who has a sense of self-worth isn't going to look and Lindsay Lohan and think she's admirable.

Posted by: NeedsCoffeeStat | February 20, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

It's shocking to me how early you have to start worrying about this stuff. My daughter isn't even 2 yet and I've seen spaghetti-strapped, one-shouldered, bias-cut sundresses for 12-month-olds and a 2T shirt that read Single and Available. Who on Earth thinks that's even remotely cute or funny? I don't want anybody thinking that my toddler is "available" or reading messages on her fanny when she's in grade school.

The answer is simple: parents who are bugged by this stuff need to say no and need to do what the earlier poster did and complain to the companies that push this stuff. Companies only offer these things because somebody's buying them...those of us who take issue with these items need to make our voices heard as well. We're not being prudes-- little girls do not need be "sexy." Ugh.

I think the trick is also to make sure that our daughters are just as repulsed by this stuff as we are by raising them to value themselves as people, allowing them to just be kids and to be individuals with minds and personalities, rather than just good-looking dolls. My daughter's playmates are mostly boys, and their moms and I have discovered that while people generally comment on how "smart" the boys are, my daughter only merits how "cute" she is. We need to make sure that our daughters know that we value their brains as much as their faces.

A girl who has a sense of self-worth isn't going to look at Lindsay Lohan and think she's admirable.

Posted by: NeedsCoffeeStat | February 20, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

VA Mom, I've found the same thing with girls' clothing. My solution is to buy clothes from a couple of companies that seem to make children's clothing in good taste: Gymboree, Hanna Andersson, and Mini Boden. Unfortunately, they're a bit more expensive, but they wear much better than the cheaper (tackier) stuff, and you can get great deals on gently used clothing on eBay.

I also find it weird that the lines between teenage clothing and women's clothing have blurred so much. What's wrong with dressing your age?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 20, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm shocked at the clothing girls are wearing today. You can blame the companies but the fault lies with the parents. Sure, the kids will whine and beg for them but I surely won't be buying them for my daughter.

Posted by: Father of 2 | February 20, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

No Bratz dolls, no Britney Spears belly bearing clothes. When my 6-year-old daughter asks, I explain to her that Mommy and Daddy don't approve and that it is not appropriate for her. For now, it is working. An additional challenge, as mentioned above, is clothing. My daughter wears a size 8 or 10...clothes for an average 9 or 10 year old. Needless to say, we shop a lot at Gymboree, Lands End, Children's Place, and Old Navy (selective). Those who cater to children will get my business; others will get passed by.

Posted by: A Hobbit Mother | February 20, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

No Bratz dolls, no Britney Spears belly bearing clothes. When my 6-year-old daughter asks, I explain to her that Mommy and Daddy don't approve and that it is not appropriate for her. For now, it is working. An additional challenge, as mentioned above, is clothing. My daughter wears a size 8 or 10...clothes for an average 9 or 10 year old. Needless to say, we shop a lot at Gymboree, Lands End, Children's Place, and Old Navy (selective). Those who cater to children will get my business; others will get passed by.

Posted by: A Hobbit Mother | February 20, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

No Bratz dolls, no Britney Spears belly bearing clothes. When my 6-year-old daughter asks, I explain to her that Mommy and Daddy don't approve and that it is not appropriate for her. For now, it is working. An additional challenge, as mentioned above, is clothing. My daughter wears a size 8 or 10...clothes for an average 9 or 10 year old. Needless to say, we shop a lot at Gymboree, Lands End, Children's Place, and Old Navy (selective). Those who cater to children will get my business; others will get passed by.

Posted by: A Hobbit Mother | February 20, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I have blogged about this and there is a blog ring "Mothers for Modesty." It's a tough one at our house, but I am the parent--not my 10 year old daughter. We try to compromise as much as possible, but some styles just don't make it at our house. My daughter wears normal jeans, cool shoes [not as tough to pick since school has rules], tshirts that are LONG enough and BIG enough!! It helps that our Church encourages this--no one comes in dowdy jumpers, just decently modest clothes. The other "help" is being too broke for cable tv!! We barely watch any. The Limited Too catalog is a great conversation starting point. Look at it, and others, with your daughter.

Posted by: hopewell | February 20, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Re: Abercrombie, next time you see that shirt, say very loudly in front of an employee, "Oh she must really love fondling herself." Once I worked in a mall, and one day as I walked past and Abercrombie that had a huge picture of a man with his hand near is unbuttoned jeans, I said to my friend very loudly, "Dude, look, he's totally masturbating!" An employee was standing out front as a greeter and gave me a look and the picture a double take. The next day there was a giant plant hiding the crotch area.

Also, I don't think we should teach any of our kids that sexualization is disgusting, because it isn't - it's just inappropriate at ages of emotional immaturity...and when it's dominated by only one gender.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I have blogged about this and there is a blog ring "Mothers for Modesty." It's a tough one at our house, but I am the parent--not my 10 year old daughter. We try to compromise as much as possible, but some styles just don't make it at our house. My daughter wears normal jeans, cool shoes [not as tough to pick since school has rules], tshirts that are LONG enough and BIG enough!! It helps that our Church encourages this--no one comes in dowdy jumpers, just decently modest clothes. The other "help" is being too broke for cable tv!! We barely watch any. The Limited Too catalog is a great conversation starting point. Look at it, and others, with your daughter.

Posted by: hopewell | February 20, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

OK, this is so true. I like to shop the sales a year in advance for my DD. She is currently going into 4T this spring. So next spring/summer, she will wear 5T/5. I was literally appalled at the clothing styles in the 4-6X sizes at JcPenny. For the last 3 years, we have adored the Okie Dokie brand at JcPenny. 5T is the last size they make it in and it is hard to find. But there is no way my kid is going to dress like a mini Mary Kate and Ashley. She will be 4 for goodness sake. AS far as doll alternatives and positive role models, look for American Girl or the Canadian Maplelea dolls. Positive dolls for positive images. They are pricey. I think $88 a doll. But well worth the investment. I will NEVER buy my daughter a Bratz doll. Even some of the Barbie stuff tips the edge. But here is my question, where can I find reasonable priced clothing that is age appropriate in the 4-6X sizes. Gymboree and Lands End are a little out of our price range.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

As the mother of a 13 year old girl, I struggle with this a lot. Fortunately, my daughter looks at the "role models" and feels pity for them that they don't have the self-respect to do better for themselves.

I think the best thing you can do for your girls is to listen to them and be there for them. I have provided my daughter with a lot of positive role models in our circle of friends. She sees many women in her personal life that are successful at whatever they have chosen to do. She knows that she is loved by all of them too!

She reads the fashion magazines but she also reads Newsweek and National Geographic. She dresses fashionably without spending a fortune or showing too much skin.

You have to find the right balance. Make sure the girls know that they have a safe haven to come back to.

Posted by: MD Mom | February 20, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome, we get almost all of our clothes (currently girls' 4-6X) off Ebay. They are usually very nice and just pennies on the dollar. Once upon a Child also often has nice used kids' clothes. Maybe one day my kids will care about having used clothes, but for now they like it, since they get such variety in each package that arrives at our door.

Posted by: Neighbor | February 20, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I say if a girl has it, go ahead and flaunt it. What they find important will be reflected in how they dress.

As far as boys go, some can get by on good looks, but we know for the most part that our female counterparts are more attracted to our minds than the clothes we wear.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 20, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

One other thing...

Offer to drive your daughters and their friends and just listen to the conversations. It is amazing what they will talk about in the car even when you are there. One of my daughter's friends was asking the other girls when they planned on taking their first drink of beer. The other girls reacted by saying that it was gross. After the girls got out of the car, it was a good starting point for a talk with my daughter.

Posted by: MD Mom | February 20, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Foamgnome, can you swing Lands End overstocks? Carters sells more conservative girls clothes, and goes up to 6x-- there's a store in the Leesburg outlet mall, and they tend to have at least one good sale a season.

I find decent things at Target too. Not high quality, and I have to buy shirts a size too big to allow for shrinking, but it's not all trashy.

I went to the mall with my sister last weekend, and she saw her first Club Libby Lu party-- she's no prude, and she was appalled. I would love to know what the parents who shell out for the parties are thinking. If its just dress-up to the girls, why can't they wear something age appropriate?

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | February 20, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm sitting here at home on maternity leave. Just gave birth Thursday to a wonderful baby girl. Believe it or not, with all this Anna Nicole and Britney non-sense, alot of these same issues have been on my mind.
Right now, my baby is wearing a cotton onesie and gown. But I know this peace won't last forever. I live just minutes from the Limited/Victoria Secret/Abercrombie/Limited, Too headquarters.
This discussion offers strong insight and suggestions. Keep it up.

Posted by: NOVA Native Now in OH | February 20, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

We can probably swing the Lands End overstock. The problem is they are not always in complete sets. I am going to check them out for next winter. I will also check out Sears. I hear they have sales on Lands End there. I will check out the Carters stuff at the Leesburg store. I don't like the Target too much either. They just don't wash real well. I have never heard of Libby Lu. Maybe that is for slightly older girls. DD is just 3 now.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I have a son, but find this topic very interesting, as a daughter may be in our future.

My cousins have daughters who are all quite young (elementary and younger), plus I have a 14-year-old cousin. She currently dresses and looks about 22 (streaked hair, done nails, etc.). She's also an athlete (gymnastics).

One of my cousins (6th grade) is really into Bratz dolls and her parents buy her Abercrombie and Fitch clothing. She has younger sisters who are soaking up these "wants" as appropriate as well. They sent out a picture of their daughters for Christmas, and the oldest is posing like a model. She is a great soccer player.

So, these girls are athletes, but also highly focused on these weird "girls are sexual" trends. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Ultimately, I find it sad. These girls are missing out on so much by focusing so intensely on their looks and sexuality. I have to wonder what their mothers and fathers gain from encouraging this.

Posted by: Rebecca | February 20, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

MD Mom, if you let your daughter read National Geographic, just be careful. She could be led to believe that going completely topless is fashionable. :-)

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 20, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I think a lot of parents are way to excited for their kids to grow up and that's why they indulge in this stuff. Mom's can't wait to bond with their dds over hair and make-up that's why 6 year olds are at Libby Lu. Dad's can't wait to bond over Star Wars so 6 year olds are watching the whole series. It will all come in due time, no need to rush things.

I think the girls are hypersexualized (Brats and My Scene barbies, clothes that are way inappropriate) as well as being drawn out of childhood too quickly. We have a 5 year old at school who has declared that she doesn't like princesses anymore and only likes Cheetah girls. I told my 4 yr old dd that there's nothing wrong with Cheetah Girls but that she is too young for them. She certainly doesn't need messages about boys/hair and make up at 4. I think that boys are being exposed to way too much violence at a young age. I can't believe how many 5 and 6 year old routinely watch PG and PG-13 movies. My 6 yr. old still enjoys the Backyardigans why would I want to rush his exposure to the violence of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings when he's got plenty of time for that? What's wrong with telling them that they can't watch PG movies until they are older. Who is teaching these kids that sometimes we have to wait for things, to grow into things?

I honestly feel, that my biggest challenge as a parent is raising two decent people in this society. It feels as if everything outside of my home is working against me.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Foamgnome

I don't have a daughter yet, but I have good luck buying gifts for my friends' girls at Kohls. The sales are almost constant, and I get pretty good deals that way. There are a few "out there" outfits, but also a lot of age appropriate jeans, shirts, sweaters, etc.

Posted by: Corey | February 20, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

OK, I just checked out libby lu and cheetah girls. No thank you. One thing is we only let DD watch pbs sprout and the developmental baby show or DVDs that we have purchased. There will be no toon disney or disney shows at our house till at least elementary school. Moxiemom, I feel for you. I don't know what I would do about that.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

OK, I just checked out libby lu and cheetah girls. No thank you. One thing is we only let DD watch pbs sprout and the developmental baby show or DVDs that we have purchased. There will be no toon disney or disney shows at our house till at least elementary school. Moxiemom, I feel for you. I don't know what I would do about that.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

FYI -- American Girl-sized outfits can be found at Michael's (and maybe other 'craft' stores) for a fraction of the price.

My friend and I have issues with Libby Lu and those sneakers with the wheels and neither one of us have kids!

Getting back to clothing, why or why do parents insist are putting their chubby kids in close that don't fit? It's bad enough adults walk around with their rolls hanging out! I don't want to see it on a little kid either. Buy the next size up. End of season and clearance sales are good for those who can't afford the retail price. In fact, every summer I buy outfits on "summer clearance" for my friend's twins' January birthday since they live in Florida.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | February 20, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

The irony is that parents will buy this stuff for their kids, but they won't allow the schools to show a film that has gay parents in it or want the schools to ban a book that won the Newbery Medal because it contains the word scrotum. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/books/18newb.html)

So you can show off your body, but we won't let you talk about it OR use the appropriate terminology for it! Crazy.

Finally, there is a singing group called Two of A Kind that sings a terrific song called "Girls Who Rock the World" its all about Marie Curie, Anna Dickinson (1st woman to speak before Congress), etc... really a neat song whic my dd LOVES and we always talk about how the song talks about WHO these women were and what they did, not how pretty they were or whether they showed their bellies. You can get it at CD Baby I think.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

For us, avoiding ads is the big thing. Our kids watch DVDs but hardly ever see any ads. I think ads are set up to make kids feel inadequate or incomplete without whatever product they are selling.

While my 2.5 and 5 year-old girls are into generic princess/dressup stuff, they also have a healthy body image. In fact, my 5-year-old daughter told me this morning that she's growing so well because she eats SO MUCH FOOD!

Posted by: Neighbor | February 20, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Last Christmas, my three-year-old daughter asked for a Bratz doll. Luckily, I was able to look at the age limit on the box and tell her she was too young for it. Problem solved, for now. I did get her some underwear with the Bratz' faces on them. I'm also lucky that she's not into dolls that much. She likes the My Little Pony. But she's into clothes. She wants skirts for the spring/summer, and I'm trying to buy capris and shorts. This winter, she is into embellished jeans and tops, and she likes beads and pretty barrettes in her hair. I make sure no pants are riding low, and tops are long. But I was disturbed by a hip-swinging pose she struck the other day, and I told her to stop. Her father made the mistake of buying her a Bratz DVD. Luckily (I'm just full of blessings here), she broke it.

I try hard not to panic about sexualization; I just want to be sure that it's not OVERsexualization.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | February 20, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I think the problem has always been NOT viewing them as sexual beings. Thus that lie has led to repression which has led to resurgence. Instead of building up their character, understanding perspectives, their place in the world- everyone simply takes an "all or nothing" approach which leaves no one in any solid place.

Posted by: Liz D | February 20, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

The irony here is that people will allow their children to dreess like hookers but then they won't allow them to see a movie at schools celebrating all kinds of families because there are gay parents in it or they will try to ban a Newbery award winning book because it contains the word scrotum.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/books/18newb.html

I guess its o.k. for kids to show their bodies, but not to know the proper terms for them.

Also, for moms of girls there is a singing group called Two of A Kind that sings great songs are getting along and fairness and other requisite kids stuff (folksie music) but they also have a terrific song called "Girls Who Rock the World" which is a groovy song about Marie Curie, Anna Dickinson (1st woman to speak before Congress) and a long list of other notable women including many of color. It is a very empowering song that my 4 yr.old dd loves. After we listen we always talk about these women being important because of what they did and who they were not what they looked like. I'm looking forward to really learning about these women with my dd when she is older. I think you can get the CD on CD Baby.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

FYI -- American Girl-sized outfits can be found at Michael's (and maybe other 'craft' stores) for a fraction of the price

I wished I knew this earlier. DD has AG dolls and we started collecting their outfits. We have since stopped because the dolls have just too much clothes. So we only got enough for her to enjoy. She will receive one or two outfits a year when she reaches the target age. She did recieve a non AG dress with matching girl dress. The brand was Polly Pockets and it was purchased at TJMaxx. It may be a rare find but it is an adorable dress with matching doll dress for a little more then the price of the AG doll dress. I think the whole ensemble was $30. Not sure because it was a gift.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

"I say if a girl has it, go ahead and flaunt it. What they find important will be reflected in how they dress."

Uhh, Father of 4, we're talking "girls as young as 5" here. They certainly don't "have it" -- there is absolutely nothing to flaunt.

They are also not attempting to attract members of the opposite sex.

Posted by: Bob | February 20, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

LL Bean is another "conservative" clothing option. The have a couple of stores in the area (Columbia and I think Tysons), but generally have good sales and their stuff lasts forever. If you go to the store and they don't have what you're looking for, you can place a direct order (from a human no less) and your shipping is FREE.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | February 20, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I think the problem has always been NOT viewing them as sexual beings. Thus that lie has led to repression which has led to resurgence. Instead of building up their character, understanding perspectives, their place in the world- everyone simply takes an "all or nothing" approach which leaves no one in any solid place.

Posted by: Liz D | February 20, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I meant Polly and Friends brand dress.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Another option for clothing, at least for young girls, is to look in the boys section of stores. It seems much easier to find just plain old shirts, jeans and shorts in the boys section. Not a perfect solution, but it's something.

Posted by: Robert in Austin | February 20, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"I think the problem has always been NOT viewing them as sexual beings."

I think, Liz D, that you are going to have difficulty explaining why "girls as young as 5" should be viewed as sexual beings.

Posted by: Bob | February 20, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: 18 inch doll clothes | February 20, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the doll link. We will check it out. Liz D- I don't get why you think 5 year olds should be viewed as sexual images. Can you explain it?

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Father of 4: were you joking about "If you've got it, flaunt it?"

What happened to respect for our bodies, and teaching our children that our bodies are gifts?

I hope you were joking? If not, that is a bit scary, coming from someone who is all over this blog and On Balance.

Posted by: was that a joke? | February 20, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

You can also check out the Osh Kosh outlets. They seem to have cute and not too obnoxious clothes. Overalls, sweats in fun colors and such.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Re Liz and Bob,

There is a significant difference between a sexual being and a sexualized being. We are all sexual beings, and the historical issue Liz refered to was denying that reality. A sexualized being is a totally different issue, and that is the problem here.

Posted by: web brat | February 20, 2007 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Ok, can someone please tell me what DD means? something daughter?

Posted by: Newbie | February 20, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I like the topic of the blog. However, I have to say one thing about clothes for teens. If you don't like what a t shirt says, then don't buy it, but don't try to make a store manager put it away or stop selling it. I hate censorship. Your children are your responsibility. Just like my daughter is my responsibility. If you don't like something don't let them have it, wear it, or be exposed to it. I do think that the world that kids are growing up in today is more sexual than before. That just means that you have to b extra diligent about what you teach them and how you watch them. However, I don't think that just because the trend among teens is to have low rise jeans and a belly baring shirt makes them overly sexual. I wouldn't let my three year old wear them, but I am not sure I would tell her when she is 16 that she can't.

I have known preacher's daughters who were all buttoned up who were wilder than me and my mini skirt wearing counterparts.

Moximom I can't believe that the school banned a book about gay families. That is really sad. Also, isn't scrotum a medical term?


Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

DD=darling daughter
DS=darling son
DH=darling husband
DW=darling wife=aka queen bee.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I have a feeling parents and teenagers who buy clothes that are highly sexualized (I can't believe the A&F t-shirt that said who needs brains when you've got these) have never had rape or pedophilia touch their lives.

Or perhaps they confuse this type of display with "power". I think that is an interesting area to explore. How do parents feel it confers power on them and/or their children? Perhaps they think "we are 'in the know'; we are hip; we are 'untouchable'"??

Most may live in upper middle class "bubbles" where they feel nothing bad can happen to them. This is excusable for teenagers (they have weird brain wiring) but for parents, it is absolutely not.

Should one of these elementary or middle school girls wearing sexy clothes start to get excessive comments/looks from adult men, or weird emails after they post their pic onto their myspace page...will their parents have a clue?

Posted by: Rebecca | February 20, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

You said "I hate censorship" and also "If you don't like something don't let them have it, wear it, or be exposed to it."

You can't have it both ways. What are you going to do, gouge her eyes out so she doesn't see all the t-shirts that indicate she's just a sex object? It's easy when they can't read. How do you handle those disgusting little stickers on cars that show Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes) peeing on things. GROSS.

Here are a few of my "favorites"

Future MILF (thank you, Britney Spears)

Spit or swallow?

Don't call me a cowboy until you see how I ride

I taught your boyfriend that thing you like

Dirty little sex kitten

Guess where else I'm pierced

Posted by: To scarry | February 20, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Scarry - It actually was a school in NJ that banned the family video

http://www.womedia.org/thatsafamily.htm

I agree with you that we have the responsibility not to buy it, but I think a lot of parents feel like salmon constantly swimming upstream with this stuff so there is a lot of frustration. It doesn't seem like there is a lot in our culture that supports raising people who understand restraint and limits on anything (spending, behavior, sexuality etc...). The absence of these attributes generally leads to a great deal of unhappiness (bankruptcy, infidelity, hurt feelings etc...). Its not just that I want my dd to be a responsible teen, I'm also hopeful that she will be a responsible adult who will not cheat (sexually) because it is wrong and hurtful, who will value her body and sexuality as something to be shared with someone who values her, someone who knows that every desire (sexual or otherwise) does not need immediate fulfillment. I want the same for my son too. Anyway, I'm getting a little too wordy here - clearly I feel strongly about this.

DD means Dear daughter.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Thank you!

Posted by: Newbie | February 20, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, the shirt was

"Don't call me a cowGIRL until you see how I ride"

Note that all of these shirts objectify females.

Posted by: To Scarry | February 20, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom,I would like to view the film but don't want to pay $30 for it. I will see if I can get it from the library.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 20, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Foagnome and others: my daughter is almost ten and we have found a lot of nice, age appropriate clothes at Target. Some quality is pretty good and other items only last a season but since the prices are low and she is growing, it's OK.
I have been amazed at what other girls her age are wearing: mini skirts, high boots etc. knowing that pedophiles are out there in any community, why draw attention to your 9-10 year old that way?
I am blessed that my daughter is not in any hurry to grow up. In some ways, I feel that we are raising her in an alternative culture by shielding her from much of the crass commercialism targeted at girls her age but how else to let her be a child for all of her childhood?
I am a nutritionist and did my masters' thesis on eating disorders so I am very very focused on health body image etc. I always tell my daughter that she is perfect the way she is. She eats a lot of healthy foods and is very active and yet... I am starting to hear: mom, is my stomach too big? Do you think I am chubby? I have pulled out growth charts and showed her that she is at a perfect weight for her height and she is growing up just fine. That has helped and yet, I wonder where these questions come from.
Moms, one very important item: try to project to your daughters a health body image yourselves. Part of my research was on the influence of moms' attitudes towards dieting and their own bodies: moms who were known to be dieting and/or made statements about being too fat had girls that were more prone to poor self image and eating disorders. Our kids watch what we do and hear what we say. Even if we feel that we could stand to loose a few pounds, we should focus on healthy eating and excercise rather then having our kids see us in constant diet mode.

Posted by: FCmom | February 20, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I made perfect sense when I said that I hate censorship. I have no plan to try and shield my kid from the world. Do you think that if she wears low rise jeans and a belly baring shirt that that is an indication she would like to be raped? Do you think that if she sees a shirt that says "Dirty little sex kitten" that means she will become one?

Also notice that I said you not I or me. I said "you" in the sense that parents are the ones responsible for their children and if you don't want them to wear the stuff just don't buy it.

I think that self esteem comes from within and is taught from parents. I don't think that she will feel like a sex object just because someone wears a shirt that says so. I also don't think someone can "objectify females" unless they let them.

"If you don't like something don't let them have it, wear it, or be exposed to it."

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Come on. It is not that difficult to find modest clothes. Today, my 5-yo DD wore pink pants and a white long sleeve shirt with puppies playing soccer. They were purchased at JC Penney and were 2 for $12.

Guess what. I also let her buy an outfit at Limited Too that matched her older cousin's. Orange sweatpants and a yellow shirt - also modest. Price was significantly higher, but the cousins look so cute matching.

You can't judge the clothing by the store because you can find modest clothes in a lot of stores that also sell clothes that aren't quite so modest. These stores sell variety because they . . . make money by selling clothes. Not everyone has the same taste.

I also do not allow my DD to play with Bratz; however, someone gave her one for her birthday. I think the mother of the playmate bought it for her because DD tells people her mommy won't buy them for her. It will disappear. I tell DD that I think Bratz are ugly. I ask her if she knows anyone who wears makeup like that? (And, I wear my share of well-applied makeup, BTW.)

And, I let DD play with Bonnie Bell lip gloss and some of my makeup at times. I liked to do the same when I was her age. She likes to pretend that she is me, that she is the mom. I pretend that I am her daughter. Pretending is part of growing up. This is different than letting her go out in public dressed like she's 25 instead of 5.

Posted by: Mom of 2 in PA | February 20, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Do you think that if she sees a shirt that says "Dirty little sex kitten" that means she will become one?

No, but if she sees a popular girl wearing the shirt it might make your daughter think that's what she needs to do if she wants to be popular.

Obviously, seeing or even wearing these shirts is not going to make anyone do anything. But it certainly leaves a negative impression about the girl wearing them, and it's just part of the problem with our culture that these shirts are even available -- never mind that some idiot parents out there let their daughters wear them.

Posted by: To scarry | February 20, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"What happened to respect for our bodies, and teaching our children that our bodies are gifts?"

Having being denied the sense of sight for over 17 years, I am amused how the perception of beauty has changed. As far as I am concerned, the way we decorate our bodies, whether it be by the clothes we wear, the color we paint our fingernails, a necklace, anckle bracelet, nose or tongue piercing, has nothing to do with sexuality. Sexuality comes into play by the way we act / treat one another and I suppose the way we portray ourselves in a visual sense is part of that, but taken to extremes, we could go back to the days where women covered their ankles in public to show respect for their bodies.

Where do we draw the line between beauty and what people are describing today as sexualization? 2 inches below the neck? Kneel down and the skirt touch the floor?

I understand that a large population of women on this planet wear veils to hide their beauty.

So I think the big question is what is the difference between beauty and sexualization? I have a strange feeling this is mostly determined by culture and will continue to change.

Maybe we can get back to the Garden of Eden. How many generations do you think that will take?

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 20, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

scary,
It is pretty scary that you don't have the common sense to realize that our environment affects us and influences us. Messages to your mind affect how you will behave. Ask a person who is with a verbal abuser if they don't feel depressed because of this. I fear for the future of this nation when I hear some moron expouse the so called virtues of noncensorship. Society is based on a common understanding of what is constructive and healthy and what isn't. Censorship has it's place in healthy societies.

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

scary,
It is pretty scary that you don't have the common sense to realize that our environment affects us and influences us. Messages to your mind affect how you will behave. Ask a person who is with a verbal abuser if they don't feel depressed because of this. I fear for the future of this nation when I hear some moron expouse the so called virtues of noncensorship. Society is based on a common understanding of what is constructive and healthy and what isn't. Censorship has it's place in healthy societies.

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

scary,
It is pretty scary that you don't have the common sense to realize that our environment affects us and influences us. Messages to your mind affect how you will behave. Ask a person who is with a verbal abuser if they don't feel depressed because of this. I fear for the future of this nation when I hear some moron expouse the so called virtues of noncensorship. Society is based on a common understanding of what is constructive and healthy and what isn't. Censorship has it's place in healthy societies.

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 1:32 PM | Report abuse

scary,
It is pretty scary that you don't have the common sense to realize that our environment affects us and influences us. Messages to your mind affect how you will behave. Ask a person who is with a verbal abuser if they don't feel depressed because of this. I fear for the future of this nation when I hear some moron expouse the so called virtues of noncensorship. Society is based on a common understanding of what is constructive and healthy and what isn't. Censorship has it's place in healthy societies.

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"If you don't like what a t shirt says, then don't buy it, but don't try to make a store manager put it away or stop selling it. I hate censorship."

I disagree that this would be censorship. Censorship is done by people in power-- the government, libraries, etc. A parent expressing their dislike of a company's practices is not censorship, even if the dislike means that the company chooses to stop selling it in response to those concerns.

Posted by: Neighbor | February 20, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I think that what is really troubling about a lot of the message t-shirts is that many of the younger girls really don't get the message they are sending and how that might be interpreted by boys, men or others they meet.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Re: Neighbor's comments on censorship

I understand what you're saying, but extrapolating from that, it then becomes ok for parents to object to certain books in libraries and for libraries to remove books based on that objection. That, I believe, does constitute censorship.

Not that I approve of the oversexualizing of kids, I'm just commenting on the issue of censorship.

Posted by: shouldbeworking | February 20, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

father of 4,
I don't think you are a father. A father is one who provides protection and guidance to thier children, not just makes them. It is always the argument of the weak minded to compare normal behavior with some extreme. You compare modesty with the extreme of being totally covered. Most people have a brain and use it and can understand when something is going to an extreme, on either end. Showing your body off with short skirts and low cut blouses not only sends a clear message but also degrades the wearer, this is the other extreme of the spectrum. Modesty is simple - something that doesn't draw attraction away from your face and your speech. I hope this nation steers back into the direction that made it great - common sense.

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Your post was very interesting and I don't disagree. However, telling children (let alone teenagers) "If they got it, then flaunt it," delves into the ugliness of innapropriate sexuality. Kids and teenagers do not understand the power of 'flaunting it' and what that means. Nor do teenage boys for that matter.
Did you really mean to tell us parents that if our kids have got it then they should flaunt it?

Posted by: To Father of Four | February 20, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom - if the child doesn't understand the message explain it to them -if they are to young to have it explained to them then they are to young for the shirt and to young to be doing their own shopping - so don't buy it.
I know we can only fight culture so much, but figure out where you stand and try your best.
The most important thing I have found is open communication (age appropriate) - they may not agree, but at least they know why you feel what you do and that the clothes are not in your opinion age appropriate, it sends the wrong message etc.


Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | February 20, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

concerned I got the point the first time you posted it. Life is about choices and you should not get to decide what everyone wears or what everyone buys. I geuss I don't get why people think just because they don't want to see or buy a shirt or whatever that they have the right to take it away from people who do.

Just because someone has a differnt view than you doesn't mean you have to attack them.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

My daughter told her friends prior to her 6th birthday party not to buy her Barbies because she was too young for them. I told her (and I tell others) that little girls don't need dolls with breasts.

I had been saving a Mulan Barbie that someone gave her when she was 11 months old, and my younger daughter was given an Adoption Barbie in China when I adopted her (Mattel gives these dolls to all newly adoptive children staying at the main adoption hotel in Guangzhou). I gave them to them last summer (they were 5 and 7), and they played with them for at least 5 minutes. Later I put them away, and they haven't noticed it since. They are much more into their baby dolls, stuffed animals, ponies, and some other little girl doll (4-5 inches high) that came with a playground.

My now eight year old got a Bratz doll for Christmas from her best friend (no doubt because she told the friend that I wouldn't buy it). It made a nice opportunity to talk about clothing, and I notice that she hasn't played with it in over a month.

As for clothes, my daughters are content with second hand store clothes, and I select clothes without offensive slogans. My sister shops a lot at second hand stores, and she is always looking for appropriate clothes for little girls.
Sometimes she gets something that doesn't work, but there are plenty out there that do.

Posted by: single mother by choice | February 20, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

By the way, OtherMother didn't ask the store to stop selling them, she only asked that the less appropriate slogans be removed from the display window, where kids walking by can read it.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

By the way, OtherMother didn't ask the store to stop selling them, she only asked that the less appropriate slogans be removed from the display window, where kids walking by can read it.

It doesn't matter. The world doesn't revolve around her kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Concerned, you can try to fight the cultural norm of short skirts, low cut blouses, or 2 piece bathing suits and rant about modesty, but you are going to lose on this one. So you can either be a loser, or teach your kids what is appropriate to wear and do your best to impress upon your kids your concept of beauty. If they have respect for you, everything will turn out fine.

As far as "flaunting" goes, yes, if your child can sing, I want to hear her/him do their best. If your child is graceful, flexible sign them up for gymnastics, even though you know they will be exploiting their bodies in front of a panel of judges. If your child is beautiful, dress them up to excentuate their best attributes and sign them up for a pageant. I don't think any parent ever disapproved of their daughter being crowned Miss America.

Having said that, the behavior of acting sleazy is a different matter entirely and completely different than flaunting one talents or beauty.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 20, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

scary,
I am tolerant. You must understand that you and I both occupy the same society and your choices influence the environment we cohabit. No one is an island. When you or I purchases things that are degrading we are giving our vote on that issue. If everyone had the license to do anything they wanted - corporations, artists, etc, this society would self destruct. This society has the perfect balance - lets leave it that way. When money mongers start selling things that morally affect how people think and send messages that devalue a human and degrade them, we should make a stand.

The way we dress is part of the way we act. Don't you think the way an actor is dressed in a movie makes up what his character is like?

When someone has the congnitive ability to judge what effects their clothes will have on others then they can make that choice. Children do not possess this power.

They should not be market targeted in this manner.

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Scarry,
I understand your point of free speech, but this is a major retailer. Where do you draw the line, is what I guess, I would wonder (not "you" personally).

If A&F sold a shirt saying "Muslims suck" or "Christians suck" should we also shrug and defend their right to sell it? How about a shirt that said "Bring guns to school"? I guess we could come up with all kinds of inappropriate slogans, so this may be taking the point to an extreme.

It's one thing if it's a tiny little t-shirt store somewhere; but this is a national, so-called trendy retailer. I think that brings with it a certain responsibility. It's a tough call though.

Posted by: Rebecca | February 20, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I didn't say she did. In fact, I was talking on a broader scale about people who think just because they don't like something it should be put out of their sight or not sold at all.

If I don't like guns does that mean that people can't own them?

If I don't like Fox news does that mean that they shouldn't broadcast the news anymore to anyone? I hate mullets, so does that mean that I should be able to shave people's heads at will? I mean sooner or later you have to take responsibility for yourself and your children.

I just don't think that society influences me like "concerned" thinks it does.

Since we are all so influenced by what other people do and say I am going to start wearing a shirt that says "give me all your money." Because people have no free will.
Rebecca I see your point. However, I could wear a shirt with a shamrock on it that says "rub me for luck" and someone would be offended, probably concerned. That doesn't mean that I don't have the right to wear it. If someone wears a shirt that says they hate Christians, well that is sad, but I think it is their right under our constitution.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

WRT offensive T-shirts at Abercrombie & Fitch:

A group of teenagers from the Pittsburgh, PA., area called Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers organized and spoke out publicly against the messages on these shirts, which got them lots of local news coverage, and eventually a meeting with A&F executives at their HQ in Ohio. The girls received so much positive recognition for their efforts, while A&F suffered so much adverse publicity for their offensively-message shirts, that A&F pulled the shirts from their stores.

'Girlcott' organizers meet with Abercrombie & Fitch execs over T-shirts:
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05340/617917.stm

Posted by: In da 'Burgh | February 20, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

father of 4,
Sorry but we aren't talking about pageants. This discussion is about kids being marketed material that is appropriate for adults only. This is clearly wrong as the sun shining and warming our planet.

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

OK, concerned, tell me the exact spects on what is appropriate for adults only.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 20, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Just a side thought on all this buying girls' clothing, but does anyone sew or encourage their daughters to? I'm not talking about all hand-made clothing, but there's lots of stuff a girl can do to basic clothing to make it yours. It's amazing what a pair of scissors can do for a tshirt or jeans or a skirt. There's some great books on altering clothes and making simple things that are new and hip(the Sew - (what, cool) line is fun). Skirts are super fun and really easy and can be as modest as you want. It's a great way of encouraging creativity and individuality (and spacial visualization), plus it allows you to really think about clothing. Honestly, a sewing class could be a great answer to alot of these problems.

Posted by: running | February 20, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

My daughter is only two and I have returned several outfits that my brother's girlfriend has bought for her that were just too sexy. When the store asks why I am returning the item, I let them know why. Unfortunately, I usually can't get money back so I have to buy something else at the same store.

foangnome-

Check out Gymboree at sale time. Once I started shopping there, I started receiving coupons which are good on sale items too. Before Christmas, I was able to purchase 6 complete outfits (2 for each of my children) for about $100 and I earned "gymbucks" which got me $50 off of a purchase of $100 or more during the redemption period. Again, I bought sale items. I have good luck at Children's Place also. They send coupons for 10 to 20% off several times a year. I have found that the clothes from these stores are up to the roungh handling that young children put them through (knees don't get worn out, doesn't shrink, can be washed a hundred times) and can almost always be handed down to another child.

Posted by: Mom2LED | February 20, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

My daughter is only two and I have returned several outfits that my brother's girlfriend has bought for her that were just too sexy. When the store asks why I am returning the item, I let them know why. Unfortunately, I usually can't get money back so I have to buy something else at the same store.

foangnome-

Check out Gymboree at sale time. Once I started shopping there, I started receiving coupons which are good on sale items too. Before Christmas, I was able to purchase 6 complete outfits (2 for each of my children) for about $100 and I earned "gymbucks" which got me $50 off of a purchase of $100 or more during the redemption period. Again, I bought sale items. I have good luck at Children's Place also. They send coupons for 10 to 20% off several times a year. I have found that the clothes from these stores are up to the roungh handling that young children put them through (knees don't get worn out, doesn't shrink, can be washed a hundred times) and can almost always be handed down to another child.

Posted by: Mom2LED | February 20, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"The irony here is that people will allow their children to dreess like hookers but then they won't allow them to see a movie at schools celebrating all kinds of families because there are gay parents in it or they will try to ban a Newbery award winning bOok because it contains the word scrotum."

That is little disingenous, what about the people who don't dress their children like hookers and STILL don't want the homosexual agenda forced onto them. It is not one or the other.

Posted by: pATRICK | February 20, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I didn't say she did. In fact, I was talking on a broader scale about people who think just because they don't like something it should be put out of their sight or not sold at all.

If I don't like guns does that mean that people can't own them?

If I don't like Fox news does that mean that they shouldn't broadcast the news anymore to anyone? I hate mullets, so does that mean that I should be able to shave people's heads at will? I mean sooner or later you have to take responsibility for yourself and your children.

I just don't think that society influences me like "concerned" thinks it does.

Since we are all so influenced by what other people do and say I am going to start wearing a shirt that says "give me all your money." Because people have no free will.
Rebecca I see your point. However, I could wear a shirt with a shamrock on it that says "rub me for luck" and someone would be offended, probably concerned. That doesn't mean that I don't have the right to wear it. If someone wears a shirt that says they hate Christians, well that is sad, but I think it is their right under our constitution.

This is the attitude that got us into this mess. Look the other way, don't make waves, everyone has the right to vulgar expression etc etc. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD and stand up for what is right. That is the american way.

Posted by: pATRICK | February 20, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

what about the people who don't dress their children like hookers and STILL don't want the homosexual agenda forced onto them. It is not one or the other.

Patrick - point taken. I don't want to get into a discussion about "the homosexual agenda" but I'm guessing that a lot of Bratz purchasers also are in the group protesting the movie - statistically it has to be so - though the dress of your children and your discomfort with the "homesexual agenda" are duly noted.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Patrick I like my attitude because it is one that allows me to make my own choices and not be mindlessly led down the road by other people. However, somtimes it is tough when things go wrong because I have no one to blame but myself. Maybe I should just give in and say "the T-shirt made me do it." Or the gay parent's at my daughter's school made me gay. :)

I thought that freedom of speech and expression were the American way? Maybe I am in the wrong country. Is this Iran or Saudi Arabia?


Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I thought that freedom of speech and expression were the American way?

Of course it is. But that doesn't mean that free speech is only for those who want to wear T-shirts with hoochie messages on them. Free speech is also for the Pittsburgh girls who took their protest against them to A&F HQs.

Posted by: In da 'Burgh | February 20, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

What about A&F making and marketing thong underwear in pre-teen sizes? I'll whisper about VPLs (visibile panty lines) on an adult passer-by, but not a kid!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

This blog actually addresses a question taken up frequently on the balance blog.

A week or so ago, posters were up in arms (yet again) about the question of breastfeeding in public.

Several people demanded to know why adults are incapable of looking at a bare breast as simply a food-delivery device. "It's natural! That's what breasts were intended for!"

Well, folks, here's your answer.

We have permitted women in our society to be sexualized to unprecedented degrees in the service of commercialism. What we've reaped is what you're discussing here.

If you wonder why it is that advertisers target 5-yr-olds with sexy dolls and clothing, or why a woman can't sit quietly and BF her child in a public place, or why teenage boys seem to have less respect for women (and teenage girls have less respect for themselves) than ever before, you have only to look at what we permit corporate America to sell us -- and the ways in which we permit it to do so.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

In da 'Burgh

I never said that free speech was for t-shirt wearers only. Good for those girls for getting what they wanted. However, they just helped to make decisions for other people. I mean all they had to do it not buy the shirt. How can it hurt them if they aren't wearing it?

I went to the site and there are no offensive t shirts for girls to wear. However, the ones for the boys are still there.

I find shirts that degrade Irish Americans offensive, but I can't tell people not to wear them.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I agree with In da 'Burgh that free speech and censorship cuts both ways. If stores have the freedom to display smutty t-shirts, then parents and others have the right to protest the display. Beyond that, should the stores remove the smutty T-shirts from display? If they do so, that may or may not constitute censorship. But removal may also consitute good business sense, since loud, persistent offended people can certainly impact your bottom line.

If I see something smutty in the store window, will I complain about it? Perhaps. Will I suggest that the store remove it? I don't think so, unless it's excessively over the top; I prefer to use my spending power and boycott.

As for freedom of speech, it's a wonderful thing. It's also not absolute. Child pornography comes to mind as an example. Think about it.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | February 20, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Ok, so you watch what your kids look at when you're with them in the mall.

But what about when they're at home on the computer, checking out Cafe Press, where they can get t-shirts that say pretty much anything?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Child pornography comes to mind as an example. Think about it.

I don't think that free speech includes child porn. I never even consider that part of the discussion of free speech.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Ok, so you watch what your kids look at when you're with them in the mall.

But what about when they're at home on the computer, checking out Cafe Press, where they can get t-shirts that say pretty much anything?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: | February 20, 2007 03:38 PM

Well said.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

But what about when they're at home on the computer, checking out Cafe Press, where they can get t-shirts that say pretty much anything?

Shut it down!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

LOL!!! When have you ever seen a shirt degrading Irish Americans?

Please give me a huge break. It's not as if you're from an oppressed race.

Posted by: to Scarry | February 20, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I think there is a definite freedom of speech, however there is also the free market. If enough people said that they found these things to be offensive and did not patronize those organizations that sell them, they would not exist. The problem is that there are more people who aren't very thoughtful about how they raise their children than those who are.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

LOL!!! When have you ever seen a shirt degrading Irish Americans?

Please give me a huge break. It's not as if you're from an oppressed race.

I see shirts all the time that say "let's get ready to stumble" or showing us as a bunch of drunks.

I didn't say we were oppressed. I said they were offensive. Just like you.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 4:00 PM | Report abuse

SCARRY, I think if someone had a shirt that said 'IRISH men have small drunken penises" it is a little different than Kiss me I'm Irish'. The difference is REASONABLENESS. That is what I think is the discussion here. Is it REASONABLE to market sexual themes to small children and the answer is no

Posted by: pATRICK | February 20, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

But those T-shirts are all being worn by Irish-Americans!!!!!!!

Posted by: To 4:00 PM | February 20, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"It's not as if you're from an oppressed race."

People can only be offended if they are from an oppressed race? Someone better tell the little white A&F girls to suck it up then.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't talking about the kiss me shirts and no not all Irish Americans wear those shirts, so go ahead and show your ignorance and your sterotypes!

The point is that anything can offend anyone.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I am IRISH and I don't get offended because I don't stumble about and two, I am an american not an irishman.

Posted by: pATRICK | February 20, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

That is what I think is the discussion here. Is it REASONABLE to market sexual themes to small children and the answer is no.

Patrick, I never said it was, but feel free to try and label me anyway.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I am IRISH and I don't get offended because I don't stumble about and two, I am an american not an irishman.

Good for you because of free speech you can label yourself anything you want. However, you are missing my point that anything can offend anyone.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"By the way, I am IRISH and I don't get offended because I don't stumble about and two, I am an american not an irishman."

pATRICK--

You say here, "I am IRISH" but also "I am...not an irishman."

Are you being intentionally dense? Or is there some clue to your meaning in your use of capitalization (a technique you seem to favor)?

I think you're just ranting b/c you enjoy having an audience.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

No SCARRY but your theme was don't complain, don't shop there, they have a right to express themselves etc.. My position is that it is reasonable to complain, speak to the manager, write a letter and don't accept vulgarity.

Posted by: pATRICK | February 20, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

No SCARRY but your theme was don't complain, don't shop there, they have a right to express themselves etc.. My position is that it is reasonable to complain, speak to the manager, write a letter and don't accept vulgarity.

No my point was that you can't stop people from wearing something just because you don't like it. Go complain, but they still have the right to wear it or buy it.

I guess we are going to have to disagree.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Scarry, my point was that I see myself as an american not as a member of the irish race (for lack of a better word). Just because somebody jumped on a ship somewhere back does not make me leap to the defense of irishmen at a moment's notice to defend Irish honor.

Posted by: pATRICK | February 20, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"irish race"?

That's a new one.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

One thing that hasn't come up here in regard to managing these influences is the people with whom you and your family associate. We have tried to find and nurture relationships with people who share values that are similar (not exactly the same) as ours and encourage friendships with those children as well. This does not mean that we don't allow them to play with other kids, but in terms of what we encourage and how far we are willing to go to facilitate the relationships there are differences. We also do not allow either children to play in homes where there are guns. We also seek out families who are not into overscheduling and let their kids play outside and like going to the state park. It is certainly not just on the issue of sexuality. I realize that when they are older we will not have this same kind of control but we are hopeful that in developing these friendships early some of them might stick. When a child is different it is always helpful to have someone to be different with. I have one neighbor who doesn't let her son watch PG movies either and our sons are good friends. We take comfort in the fact that as they get older they won't be the "only" one and they can bemoan their strict mothers together. I think having some kind of solidarity amongst the parents and children helps.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Scarry, and Patty - Stop it. The argument has escalated to the point of absurdity.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Scarry, and Patty - Stop it. The argument has escalated to the point of absurdity.

And my point is that even though I can complain, I realize that it may not make you stop your stupid bickering.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree that choosing good playmates can help manage influences. Also, building self-esteem, through activities, hobbies, accentuating talents, etc. helps immensely. I think parents who schedule a lot do mean well and are trying their own brand of influence-managing. I personally don't believe in scheduling too much, at least for now. When my kids are older, they may been more activity to avoid being bored and idle, and prone to mischief or bad influences.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | February 20, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Father of 4,
If you want the exact spec as to what is adult only and what isn't than look no further than to our english language. We use the word adult to describe a human who has come to the age of being able to some extent to judge the effects of his/her actions. In our society we let them drive cars, drink alchohol, buy guns, and view movies which our society hopes they will have the intelligence and maturity to use in a way that does not harm anyone. If a women (adult) wears a shirt showing her cleavage or a short skirt she can reasonably expect what is going to happen - some people will look or stare, she might get cat calls, maybe even a stalker, etc. She is an adult and has the ability to make the decision understanding how her environment will react, she has this cognitive power - thats why we call her an adult and let her dress herself. In our language we also have a word to describe humans who do not have the power to understand the effects of what they wear or what they watch or even what they eat will have on them. They cannot understand that a shirt or skirt may put them at risk of a predator or that it could cause twisted people to fantasize. That is why we the parents guide the children and protect the children until they come of age and decide what they want to do, until they gain the power to make the decisions that a full grown adult can. Our society has determined that this is at the age of 18 for some things and 21 for pretty much everything (legal).

Kids are kids, not adults. We should let them be kids. Innocence will prevail! The day this society loses the common sense that sex is for adults and not for kids will be the day this nation perishes. Our technology will not save us from our own self destruction. Morality and decency is the spinal cord of every society that endures!

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

moxiemom, It sounds like by the time your kids are old enough that you can't always be supervising them in person, the values you're teaching them now will still be with them.

Posted by: In da 'Burgh | February 20, 2007 4:47 PM | Report abuse


Father of 4,
If you want the exact spec as to what is adult only and what isn't than look no further than to our english language. We use the word adult to describe a human who has come to the age of being able to some extent to judge the effects of his/her actions. In our society we let them drive cars, drink alchohol, buy guns, and view movies which our society hopes they will have the intelligence and maturity to use in a way that does not harm anyone. If a women (adult) wears a shirt showing her cleavage or a short skirt she can reasonably expect what is going to happen - some people will look or stare, she might get cat calls, maybe even a stalker, etc. She is an adult and has the ability to make the decision understanding how her environment will react, she has this cognitive power - thats why we call her an adult and let her dress herself.

In our language we also have a word to describe humans who do not have the power to understand the effects of what they wear or what they watch or even what they eat will have on them - CHILDREN. They cannot understand that a shirt or skirt may put them at risk of a predator or that it could cause twisted people to fantasize. That is why we the parents guide the children and protect the children until they come of age and decide what they want to do, until they gain the power to make the decisions that a full grown adult can. Our society has determined that this is at the age of 18 for some things and 21 for pretty much everything (legal).

Kids are kids, not adults. We should let them be kids. Innocence will prevail! The day this society loses the common sense that sex is for adults and not for kids will be the day this nation perishes. Our technology will not save us from our own self destruction. Morality and decency is the spinal cord of every society that endures!

Posted by: concerned | February 20, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

"I think parents who schedule a lot do mean well and are trying their own brand of influence-managing."

Momof 2 - I'm not trying to say that people who schedule a lot are bad parents, I'm saying that that's not something we believe in. My kids spend the summer pretty much mucking around the yard, the state park and the YMCA not in camps. I value the idleness some don't. Its just helpful to me to have someone else who also sees the value in kids mucking around so my kids have someone to muck around with. I hope it didn't seem like I was making too much of a judgement. I think someone said it earlier that it is hard to say that you have different rules than another parent without it sounding like you think you are better. We've chosen Montessori school for our kids for myriad reasons and a lot of the neighbors ask around about it like we don't like the public school. We just think the Montessori school is a better school for OUR kids. Its hard to communicate.

In da 'Burgh - thanks for the virtual pat on the back. Knowing my luck they'll both end up in prison.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom, I didn't think you were being judgmental at all. I agree with you totally (except my kids may have seen a PG movie or two in my supervision :>). I find myself agreeing with you most of the time here and in On Balance.

I'm just saying that it's possible the "overschedulers" have the same desires as those of us who don't really schedule. But their method is different. I don't know if that makes them good or bad parents, however.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | February 20, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

One of the points generally overlooked in this discussion so far is that the little girls are mimicking the way the big girls, often the mothers, dress. I volunteer in the nursery of a large, very conservative, Southern Baptist church here, and I am amazed at the dresses that the mommies wear on Sunday morning. I am often afraid that their "dinners" are going to flop out from their low-cut dresses. Sometimes it is very difficult for me, a confirmed heterosexual lady, not to be distracted when talking to someone who has a shirt cut so low that you can almost see nipple. Couldja put a shirt on, already! People who wring their hands about the sexualization of girls should sometimes take a look in the mirror and check out what they are projecting. (And before you get started on me about breastfeeding and how these dresses are calculated to make it easier to whip out the milk goods, I have been there and done that -- had three children, nursed exclusively for over a year with each child -- and you can do it without embarassing yourself or making married men blush with embarassment for you.)

I do not take my children to the mall. I do not shop for entertainment, and I do not take my 10 year old daughter shopping unless I can't help it. I buy her clothes on line, for the most part. She also attends a private school with a very modest uniform, so we don't have to dress her for school. I teach 8th grade part-time at her school, and from what I can tell a lot of a girl's path in these areas has to do with her access to cash and whether she has a big sister. Parents who want to protect their daughters from sexualization have to learn to say "no" to a lot of things: the clothes, the TV programs, the magazines, the movies, the music. Also you have to nurture their relationships with like-minded families. My daughter is not allowed to watch TV after 7:00 pm, and before then is only allowed to watch PBS, Nick Jr., or the Wiggles. Of course she does not have a TV in her room. None of her friends do.

Posted by: Mom in South Carolina | February 20, 2007 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"embarrass" -- to cause to feel self-conscious or ill at ease.

"embarass" -- to dress so that, oh never mind

Posted by: Mom in South Carolina | February 20, 2007 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Mom in South Carolina - you go girl! I read today that have of 6 yr. olds have t.v.s in their rooms. What on earth for? My ds comes home from school @ 3:00, has a snack, gets changed, spends 45 min. with me, plays while I fix dinner or helps fix dinner, eats dinner, takes a shower, goofs off a little reads stories and is in bed by 8 pm. He doesn't have time to watch t.v during the week let alone in his room.

Origmomof2 - thanks for your kind words. Its nice to know someone likes me even if I'm a SAHM who shops at Kohls and Target. (joke from On Balance).

Stacey - good topic today. I'd love a discussion re: the book with scrotum in it. What do we tell our kids about sexuality and their bodies and when. Should be a lot of differeing opinions.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 20, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

If this clothing is really as objectionable as you all say it is, parents will not buy it. If parents stop buying it, the stores will stop selling it!

A lot of kids have their own money to shop, but young girls alone as a demographic don't have the buying power to keep a particular line of clothing in stores -- their parents do.

This is not a free speech issue -- it's an economic one. If there is no demand, supply will dry up. Market forces will take care of it if it's a problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I think it is a given that all parents choose for their childrent that which they think is best/what they value. I value "mucking around" as well, and other than swimming lessons until I was satisfied that they could keep themselves reasonably safe in the pool, our summers are relatively unscheduled. Same thing with our school year schedule. Brownies and church and that's about it. But we have friends who have two sports each season, take off from school to go to out of state swim meets. They even wrote on their six page long Christmas letter about the time their six or seven year old son fell asleep during a swim meet because he was tired from swimming in so many races the day before. They clearly think that what they are doing is best for their children, but I couldn't disagree more.

We don't get channels on our TV, so its only movies we bought or checked out. They have a lot of free time to do art projects, and create their own fun.

And Father of 4, I can't imagine putting any age child in a beauty pageant. If, when my children are legal adults, they want to enter pageants, that is their choice. Until then, they won't enter any. I don't believe in flaunting anything about my children, including their intelligence, beauty, creativity, or other desirable qualities. Neither do I believe in accentuating their not so desirable qualities. I just believe in letting them be children.

Posted by: single mother by choice | February 20, 2007 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Last time I swear! Patrick my point was not that I was an Irish American, although I am proud to be one. My point, my very large point that you missed is that no matter what someone wears, someone else may be offended. I also don't care if you are Irish, American or Blue for that matter. I just used that as an example because I really don't pay to much attention to what other people wear.

I usually like your posts, but even people who see eye to eye on most things will disagree sometimes, so I will catch you on onbalance tomorrow.

Posted by: scarry | February 20, 2007 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Parents of girls and boys need to pay attention. Boys date girls, grow up and marry women, have sisters, mothers, etc., and are effected by anything that effects girls/women.

Please read Reviving Ophelia
Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. Piper, Ph.D. and check out www.mediaed.org. Click on the
video link to check out other resources for how the media influences our children. e.g. Killing Us Softly, Dreamworld,& What a Girl Wants.

Posted by: oldermom | February 20, 2007 8:08 PM | Report abuse

This has really been troubling me lately. I took my 2 year old to play at a local kids' gym today, and there was a 6-ish year old girl wearing a t-shirt that said "Laffy Taffy" in big, sparkly letters. I just about passed out. Her parents must be totally out of touch, or just not care at all (I suspect they really don't know... I just can't fathom the alternative). I actually considered mentioning something to the mother, but didn't see her present.

What is really sick is that people make and buy shirts like this for young children, yet so many of the people I know are horrified because my 2 year old knows the word "vulva." Why is knowing the proper anatomical word for genetalia gross, but using slang for it and then printing it on a tshirt okay??

Posted by: RestonMom | February 20, 2007 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Wait, isn't Laffy Taffy the candy? I remember eating it all the time as a kid. It's slang for vulva? Since when?

Posted by: MplsMama | February 20, 2007 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, I must be totally out of touch because I don't know what is wrong with Laffy Taffy either. I also thought it was candy.

However, my daughter once received a Special K t-shirt as a birthday gift. She was about 12,13, or 14 at the time. It looked to be the same logo as the cereal, and I thought it was cute since her name begins with a K and she was always special to us. Someone later told me it was slang for some drug that was popular.

No matter how vigilant and protective you are, there are ever changing names and meanings to things that may be inappropriate. We cannot keep up with everything.

My girls are too old for Bratz, but they did have Barbies. I never thought it was a big deal. I didn't have a Barbie growing up, and as soon as my daughter showed interest, I got her one. She and her friends dressed them and were quite imaginative in their play. Their Barbies were able to be anything - doctor, veterinarian, shopper, mother, teacher, fireman, you name it.

I found name-brand materialism to be more of a problem than inappropriate clothing. My daughters teenage friends had clothing and possessions that cost more than things I would buy for myself. I don't see any reason that teenage girls need $200 designer bags and sunglasses. I found many parents thought these things were important also. I actually thought that many of the families were wonderful but definitely had different values.

It is very hard to be true to your values in the face of a lot of pressure. I thought that the girls should do their own nails and hair for homecoming dances (proms were different), but when all the girlfriends are planning to get manicures and pedicures and professional hair styling and meet for dinner, it's harder to say no. Especially when the other mothers actually say that the girls "deserve" it, and "every girl should feel like a princess" on those days. I believe that we are the parents, but when the children are older, the outside influences are stronger than you may realize.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 20, 2007 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Another book you should read is 'Queen Bees and Wannabes' by Rosalind Wiseman. She points out how really mean girls, and their mothers, can be. After all, children and teens are only imitating the adult role models they see around them.

I used to babysit two little tarts, aged 6 and 9, and their parents would come home staggering drunk at 2:00 am. Anybody can see clearly where these girls are headed.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 21, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

There's a song (couple years old) called "Shake Your Laffy Taffy." I daresay they weren't talking about a vulva!

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | February 21, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

"There's a song (couple years old) called "Shake Your Laffy Taffy." I daresay they weren't talking about a vulva!"

Actually, that is EXACTLY what that song is about. Look up the lyrics... it's a *really* raunchy song.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 21, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks webcat- you explained it better than I could have.

The question is how to find a healthy balance and path for a person who is innately sexual (we all are and always have been) and who will turn into someone who is sexualized (which they all will and we all did). They must be educated, celebrated, welcomed- not ignored, shamed, guilted or feared.

Too many people treat it as an all or nothing thing, when that's not what life and growth is IMO- it's a progression, small steps. They will inevitably decide what their level is for themselves, we have to prepare them with the self-esteem and good judgement to make INFORMED choices. Just like in every other aspect of life.

I did find it amusing that one person didn't let her girl get barbie's because they have breasts- doesn't she know mommy has breasts and so does almost every woman? What exactly is wrong with dolls with breasts?

Posted by: Liz D | February 21, 2007 5:36 PM | Report abuse

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