Do you ever read something and feel kind of indifferent about it, but then, as you start to write your response or comment on the matter, you realize that it really bothers you? That happened to me today when I was reading Jezebel’s post “Kids' "Lingerie" Line Causes Panic Over Noah Cyrus's Virtue.”
Obviously I am not cool with sexualizing girls. I even have a problem with the fetishizing of young girls by dressing grown women up to look prepubescent. (This is also why I’m uncomfortable with age-play. Even though I realize the people involved are consenting adults and it has more to do with testing societal boundaries then any desire to have sex with a child, I can’t help but feel like it still reinforces these kinds of ideas.) Even the Lolita obsession we seem to have makes me a little uncomfortable.
But that being said, I am a little bothered by how quick some people are to harp all over the behavior of these young girls. It just reeks of sexism to me and it’s completely hypocritical. For one, the idea that only girls should be judged* for acting in a manner that is “inappropriate” is grossly gender biased in my opinion. There is essentially zero criticism towards boys who act out sexually but if a girl wears fishnet stockings then the country takes a collective moment to berate her and her parents. It’s pretty fucked up and I don’t see how this is supposed to help anything.
I also think it’s pretty short-sighted to criticize girls for conforming to the very message society tells them; that women are essentially sexual commodities and their value lies in their ability to be sexual (by withholding it or using it to their advantage). The reason so many people find these girls behavior offensive is because it runs counter to the idea that girls are “pure” and therefore worth being valued. (And not so ironically, that very idea is one of the things that reinforce this very type of behavior.) So to bash them for behaving in a way that reflects our society’s obsession with the sexuality of women is disingenuous at best. (Why doesn’t society prove how much it cares for girls by giving them proper sex education or equal wages for equal work? That’d be a good place to start.)
I also have to say I find the fact that people can’t look at a child wearing a tutu dress in animal print without insinuating that the child is sexually available (or pretending to be sexually available) to be pretty friggin disturbing.
The problem is not these young girls or their (albeit probably misguided) parents. If anything, this behavior is just a symptom of how we treat women in our society. You want to stop the sexualizing of little girls? Then we need to start treating women like more than something to fuck. I also think it is completely natural for young girls to act out in this sort of manner as a way of testing out their own budding sexuality. To hold them responsible for testing those boundaries is completely misguided and smacks a little of victim blaming.
I watched an interesting movie called Hard Candy about a 14 year-old girl who meets a 32 year-old man on the internet. One of the things she says in the movie is, “Just because a girl knows how to imitate a woman, does NOT mean she's ready to do what a woman does...I mean, you're the grown up here. If a kid is experimenting and says something flirtatious, you ignore it, you don't encourage it!” I wish more people would take that to heart.
Some past posts:
Youth: a fountain of stress, wrinkly creams, and hyper sexuality.
The Purity Myth
Fetishizing Little Girls
*Though I'm not saying we should just start judging boys to make it even. I think we should hold off on the judgement all together and remind our children that we love them no matter what decisions they make regarding their bodies.