Every now and then my adventures in channel-surfing take me past what I think is one of the creepiest shows on TV – Toddlers and Tiaras. You know. . . it’s the show where obnoxious parents of pre-schoolers – who live vicariously through their kids – have nothing better to do than gather with other like-minded obnoxious parents in an attempt to re-live their own lives by paying thousands of dollars to be a part of a pageant circuit that exploits children by having them parade around looking like middle-aged street-walkers. Wow! That was a long sentence. . . but it doesn’t even begin to capture how dangerous these things really are, nor does it adequately express what I really think.

I thought of the show this morning when I read L.Z. Granderson’s piece at CNN.com, “Parents, don’t dress your girls like tramps.” Granderson starts with these words:

I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye.

Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie “10” (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her “Xtina” phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.

You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word “Juicy” was written on her backside.

Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see alright. … I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she’s not even in middle school yet.

I’m guess that like me, you’re not at all surpised. We’ve all seen it. . . over and over and over again. Which means that it’s become normalized in our culture. So much so, that we’re getting to the point where we probably won’t even notice it anymore. That’s what desensitization and normalization are.

What’s the antidote? Granderson ends his piece with this:

“Maybe I should mind my own business.

Or maybe I’m just a concerned parent worried about little girls like the one I saw at the airport.

In 2007, the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report linking early sexualization with three of the most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. There’s nothing inherently wrong with parents wanting to appease their daughters by buying them the latest fashions. But is getting cool points today worth the harm dressing little girls like prostitutes could cause tomorrow?

A line needs to be drawn, but not by Abercrombie. Not by Britney Spears. And not by these little girls who don’t know better and desperately need their parents to be parents and not 40-year-old BFFs.”

I agree. Parents are the people who are primarily responsible for their kids. But don’t our culture-makers have a responsibility too? It’s difficult to raise a child. It’s even more difficult to raise a child when “the village” screams competing messages that send our kids in the opposite direction than we’re sending them. Shouldn’t the culture-makers take some responsibility and do the right thing, rather than the dollar-generating thing? I think so. But when the culture-makers capture the hearts and minds of kids and their parents. . . well, that’s when we get to the point that we’re at now.

Wake up everybody! In the words of Bill Cosby, “Come on people!” Get a clue. Do the right thing.

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Little Tramps. . . Whose Fault? . . .

  1. Ultimately, I don’t know how anyone can be blamed for this other than parents. Parents are supposed to be responsible for providing/being/doing what is best for their child. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of parents’ view of “what is best” is horribly skewed.

    I saw the article on CNN.com, and had the same reaction you did. And I share the same reaction to ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’… I almost got in a huge fight with my wife, her mom, and her sister one Christmas because they wanted to watch an all-day marathon of it…

  2. Wow, Walt – you hit the nail on the head here. As the mother of a 10 year old girl I am appalled at the new standards of attire, most especially the amount of undress that is offered for our children. I have struggled for years to properly attire my daughter in fun clothes befitting a girl of her age. I look at the clothing available and I wonder where the rest of it has gone? Why are the shorts missing the bottom 2 inches of fabric so that my daughter’s butt cheeks are in danger of hanging out? Why must they be so short that the pockets are longer than they are and thus hang out the bottom? Why are all of the tanks and tees skin tight/ribbed/spandex/holey? It really is a struggle to find appropriate clothes, much less get my daughter to wear them when all she wants to do is fit in. There is an inherent danger in this new attitude of dressing our little girls – we must take responsibility for our part of the blame for pedophilia. Dressing up our little girls as though they are women and placing them in a world already tainted with a sexual bent and trying to keep the pedophiles away is like placing an alcoholic in a room full of alcohol or a starving dog in a room full of raw meat and telling them not to touch.
    Walt, my heart breaks for all the girls around the world who are forced into sexual activity at far too young an age. Child sex trafficking is real and growing- anyone who doesn’t believe that should read the following (http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=35036&ref=BPNews-RSSFeed0412). And whether we like to believe it or not, any parent who chooses to dress their son or daughter as though that child is an adult needs to understand and accept their own responsibility in this matter. The sexualization of children has got to be stopped and I think it is up to parents to get the ball rolling so to speak. If the clothing doesn’t get purchased the companies will be forced to reconsider what they are selling. We CAN make a difference but we have to stop letting society and culture dictate how we care for our children.

  3. Several years ago while observing this very trend, Bill Maher coined the term “prostitots,” and made the point that the way things are going in fashion, there will soon be nothing left for hookers to wear. It rarely happens, but I think I’m in agreement with him on that one!

  4. Yes, and…

    In my opinion, this is a much more complicated issue than either the original article or the blog post make it out to be.

    Until we’re treating girls like they are more than their bodies, boyfriends, and clothes, we’re passively reinforcing these ideas. Are we discussing the disgusting Hardee’s Turkey Burger commercial with young girls? Are we challenging them to think and act as strong, confident, independent daughter of God? Are we fighting back against the misogyny apparent in almost every sector of marketing?

    Until we’re engaging in all of these conversations, we’re “slut-shaming” eight year olds. And now we’re blaming victims (and yes, I think parents are victims here too) for pedophilia? There’s enough victim-blaming in the legal system. Let’s be the church of healing.

  5. I also agree with Jennifer. Not only does misogyny have its roots in the Bible, the very FIRST story in the Bible blames a woman for Adam disobeying God. How misogynist is that?

  6. I too saw Granderson’s opinion piece, and while it is a complicated issue, never forget that as Christians, we are called to standards that the world rejects. If corporations seek the bottom line, then that’s what they’ll do. But Christian parents MUST be parents – I’m 27 and so thankful my mom didn’t let me wear halter tops and bikinis – I protested loudly at the time, but that was a battle she was willing to fight. Thanks, Mom – thanks for helping me grow into a modest, sexually pure woman of God.

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