Selling Sex Appeal To Girls

Swimsuit season is here! You’re at the beach, casually doing some people-watching and then, suddenly, you do a double take – are 8-year-old girls going through puberty already? Nope, they’re just wearing padded bikini tops.

Wait, what? Eight-year-olds wearing padded bikini tops? Have we somehow woken up in a different galaxy?

Nope, we’re still here. But society has slowly been changing; now, Abercrombie Kids has come out with new bikini tops for little girls, and they are all generously padded with thick stuffing. Abercrombie Kids, an offshoot of popular teenage fashion brand Abercrombie & Fitch, focuses on 8 to 14-year-olds. It is amazing how the company can think an 8-year-old girl’s chest needs some enhancement, because apparently, nowadays it is just embarrassing for an 8-year-old to admit that her chest is just too flat.

The padding for these push-up bikinis is practically equivalent to the thickness of the Victoria’s Secret push-up Bombshell bras. If you’re a frequent Victoria’s Secret shopper, or just savvy about the Victoria’s Secret products, you’ll know what I’m talking about. For those who aren’t that familiar with this, just think of tiny pillows. As bikini tops. For little girls. What sort of message is the world trying to send to little girls?

Naturally, the showcase of these new bikini trends has gotten some mothers roaring with disgust and indignation. One mother at Babble.com calls the new bras a “sex tool” and asks, “How is this okay for a second grader?”

Abercrombie is not the first to be selling such things. Last year, British department store Primark was forced to pull padded bikini tops for little girls from its shelves after countless complaints and criticism from parents and child protection groups. In an effort to make things right, the store donated all money made from the bikini sales to charity.

Even so, it is just unbelievable that society is pushing girls who have not yet gone through puberty to enhance their sexuality, and not all parents seem to think padded bikinis for little girls are wrong. In a poll on Huffington Post that addressed this topic, 20.37 percent of respondents seemed to think padded bikini lines for 8-year-olds are harmless and trivial, 73.88 percent agreed it is horrible and atrocious, and 5.75 percent were unsure.

However, most mothers and child development experts are in agreement that this particular fashion trend for children can prove to be dangerously damaging for young girls. Children are brainwashed to convey their sexuality at an early age, and such early emphasis and exposure on body image can lead to eating disorders, promiscuity and low self-esteem. Simply put, emphasis on body image and superficial beauty qualities, which is what these push-up bikini tops are doing, can make children feel even more inadequate with their pre-adolescent bodies.

Overenthusiastic mothers who value appearance too much smear layers of thick makeup on their daughters’ faces, teach them how to walk and instruct the poor youngsters how to dress up in frou-frou costumes that emphasize their non-existent curves. Naturally, it disturbs many people how unnatural these little girls appear after all that intensity. They’re almost comparable to mini-prostitutes. Some psychologists argue that this may lead to excessive sexual promiscuity for these girls in the future.

As much as fashion-loving mothers may want to argue otherwise, there is definite truth in that, since this new fashion trend is just like an open invitation for predators to do what they do best – be creepy. This new uproar cannot be blamed solely on the fashion industry, but it can also be attributed to the parents too. Indeed, because society favors beauty and is full of superficiality and sexist ideals, people just go along with it, seeing it as the social norm.

Girls accept it to ensure their survival in today’s world. They look up to beauty queens, advertisements, models and, in many cases, their own mothers in an attempt to forge an appearance for themselves that would be deemed socially acceptable and desirable. Hence, on come the painstakingly applied makeup, hair extensions, false eyelashes and plastic surgeries. Most women in general, not just little girls, will think of themselves as incompetent unless they look as flawless as celebrities and models in pageants. The world has become so corrupted that a way for a female to easily reach success in life is to be “beautiful,” since a woman’s value is apparently determined by how attractive she appears.

Society provides females with guidelines on how to look, how to act and how to impress others. There’s no denying it, because honestly, people will base first impressions on physical appearance. Personality, talents and all that inner beauty come second.

What is even worse is that nowadays, many parents push their children to participate in children beauty pageants. Frankly, there is enough focus on superficial images in this society without forcing youngsters to be pitted against each other in beauty competitions and exposing them, however inadvertently, to future body insecurities.

So really, stop trying to force an 8-year-old to oomph up her chest before she’s ready. You could save her from numerous problems in the long run. There’s no point in being a real-life Barbie doll, unless you were just naturally born that way. It’s not embarrassing that a pre-adolescent girl doesn’t have curves; it’s more embarrassing when mothers buy such garments to decorate their daughters as if they’re trimming a Christmas tree.

Josephine Ho is a third-year English major. She can be reached at jeho@uci.edu.