I swore that I would not be one of those parents who believes in free speech until their children are old enough to watch unsavory programming on television and listen to rap music. And so far, I think I’ve done okay in trying to manage what my daughter consumes without trying to deny it to the rest of the world. And I have never tried to remove anyone's art from the airwaves.
But the corporate forces are going to far.
The sexualization of the teenager for fun and profit has been going on for ages. But thong underwear for 7-year olds? Suggestive messages written on girl’s behinds?
Of course, on could say, “Well just keep your kid away from this stuff.” But the use of sex to sell to kids who haven’t even hit puberty indicates that something has gone wrong in Western society.
In America, we have a lingerie store called Victoria’s Secret. I have no problem with women wearing whatever they like under their clothes and in private (in fact, I encourage it!) But Victoria’s Secret parent company, Limited Brands (they also own Bath & Body Works, La Senza, C.O. Bigelow, White Barn Candle Co. and Henri Bendel) has been cynically trying to earn lifetime customers at, in my humble opinion, the sake of their childhoods.
Victoria’s Secret stores in the US now carry a brand called Pink, aimed directly at young women and girls. Believe me, the sizes of their minuscule offerings range all the way down "garments" some toddlers could find into. How do they lure the kids into coming into their stores (stores filled with racy posters and mannequins in lude poses)? Stuffed animals.
Abercrombie and Fitch isn’t much better. Their Abercrombie Kids stores feature a shopping bag that some would consider a form of child porn. Do the 10-year olds shopping at A&F register these image as sexual? Who knows, but these poses didn’t help sell, they’d wouldn’t display them.
I remember a junior high school principal lecturing us about my generation’s universal adoption of blue jeans. Put simply, one was an outcast if one wore anything else. “You’ve all tried so hard to become ‘non conformists’ you now all wear exactly the same thing!” he railed.
That battle has been fought and lost. Corporate forces have convinced children that whatever they wear has to have their logo on it. Now I fear that we’re witnessing the end of the feminist struggle, thanks to corporations and savvy marketing departments.
Think about it. Once women had to dress in order to appeal to men. Then in the 60s and 70s, women understood that they could dress as they pleased. By the 1980s, women in the workplace work pantsuits, often accessorized by something approximating a necktie.
Then the pendulum started swinging the other way. Skirts got higher. Necklines plunged. All in the name of “owning it” and “being proud of your body.” As a feminist I understand and support the motivations behind this. Today women participate in “SlutWalks” (a trend started in Toronto after a constable made a stupid comment in which implied that women can avoid being sexually harassed if they dressed more modestly). Showing skin as a political statement. Fair enough.
Things have come full circle. Women and girls are again dressing in outfits that are bascially designd to appeal to me. It didn’t take long for the corporations to realize they could make a mint off this.
I’m not advocating that we should pass laws to regulate these companies or coming up with rating for clothes. But I do think that school uniforms are a good idea.
Again, people can wear whatever they want to wear. But children can’t make educated choices. They are incredibly susceptible to advertisements and other messages, and they are nearly slaves to what their contemporaries are wearing.
Some might say that this is all parents’ responsibility. And the vast majority of it is. But it's putting a lot of them -- how many battles can we fight? Besides, does society really want to turn our little girls into objects so corporations can get that much richer?
A couple of days ago, Mitt Romney declared, “Corporations are people.” If that’s true, some of them need to see a psychiatrist about their penchant for trying to sell racy clothing to our children.
Not exactly a liberal thought? I would aruge that keeping our kids anti-materialistic, anti-corporate and modest might be the ultimate liberal cause.