Friday, October 20, 2006

"Corporate Paedophilia"

Go and grab a cup of tea, this is a long one...

Thank goodness someone's given it a name - and, trite as a catch phrase can be, "Corporate Paedophilia" is a lot easier to say than The "I'm really sick of seeing all that Skanky Ho crap in the shops, aren't you? And what's with all the suggestive posing of little girls?" Phenomena. I know some of us have been bemoaning the hideous 8-year-old bralettes in chain stores. At least we're not alone.

Thankfully, several people have written lucidly on this. To start, check out the summary of Dr Emma Rush's report from The Australia Institute (TAI), the media release, and the ammendment they made when they pulled some of the images of children from the report at the request of the parents.

Tigtog posted on the topic at Larvatus Prodeo (cross posted here) and her own site; there's an article on 'sexy kids' on the ABC site and a transcript from the 7:30 Report about the legal action against TAI by David Jones; a short but pertinent article I found interesting; and finally Phillip Adam's article from back in 2003.

The site that I pulled Adam's article from, Young Media, is a great resource, by the way.

To be able to see some images which have been talked about go to Tig's post, or try here, there, and everywhere (also try this and that). Most catalogue sites have been pulled, but even though the front page was pulled, once you've got a link to a specific page, you can see the whole collection. Some photos I think are fine; some I don't.

The P-word is certainly provocative - but as with many touchy topics, you have to overcompensate and make headlines in order to push the envelope. Perhaps there should be an alternative, but what should be used instead? Any ideas?

In the defense of some of the skanky merchandise, it has been pointed out that children like to copy their parents and role models. So why shouldn't they want to dress like, and imitate, their elders? Of course they want to, and they should. Role playing, and dress ups, are an enormous part of children learning who they are. However -

Dress ups are meant to be children dressing up in cast-offs, and playing pretend. Mum's old nightie, dad's old waistcoat, a policeman's hat, long sparkly gloves, enormous cloppy shoes, nanna's wigs, a tool belt, a hard hat, mum's cast off makeup that she's still got at the back of the draw (a big thrill when I was about 5 was getting some old makeup from a lady down the street. she was very groovy, and her makeup was amazing!).

You dress up, you play, and then you get back into your normal clothes. Children's clothes. You do not, by default, wear a tiny denim mini skirt which shows your knickers and a crop top which says something charming like "Get It Here", then pester mum endlessly for your own tweenie (I hate that word) makeup like the range you saw in K Mart.

Most of the stuff being written is about the objectification and sexualisation of little girls. What of little boys?

Well, I know that lately, walking into a chain store leaves me pretty cold. The girl's fashions are pink, pink with a bit more pink, oh, and would you like glitter with that? And don't forget the ponies. While the boys fashions are just fine, as long as you want khaki, mud, slime and puce, printed with tanks, helicopters, and violent robot-on-robot action.

I'm sick of seeing little boys in head-to-toe cammo. The Delightful Nanna(TM) found an old army jacket at the Salvos and it's going straight into the Dress Up Box because - it's a prop. You can pretend to be a soldier, little Dinghy, but you won't be dressing like one every day.

Reading 'Raising Boys' by Steve Biddulph recently reminded me of another thing which really gets my goat (btw, thanks again for the lend, DV). I remember when I was working in child care, there was one teacher who'd always, when she saw a little boy holding hands with a little girl, giggle like a freakin' schoolgirl and say, "Oooh, is X (little girl's name) your girlfriend?"

Little boys hold hands with little boys.
Little girls hold hands with little girls.
Little girls hold hands with little boys.
Little boys hold hands with little girls.
Can we get that straight?

It's about friendship. It's not about bloody sexual relationships. They'll come sooner than most parents want. Can children be children first? The realisation of gender occurs early enough, but the sexual connotations can occur much, much later, thank you very much. Realising that you're a girl like mummy or a boy like daddy doesn't mean that you need to be attractive to the opposite sex. It means you're a girl or a boy, now get on with being a child.

There's an older lady I know who always looks at the Dinghy and says things like, "Ooh, he's so sweet, I'll bet he gets all the girls when he's older." I know it all sounds innocent while they're babies, but I don't like it much when people flatter children like that. Giving and receiving compliments is an art we should all cultivate, and you can say a child has a lovely feature - but why add that this is the way they'll attract the opposite sex?

Why is that the way to define a baby? Why is that the way to define anyone???

I want to extend this to the way some boys get called "Little Man." I know some won't be with me on this one, but sometimes, I don't like it. My baby is a baby. He's not even a boy yet, although he is male. He's a baby. Then he'll be a toddler, a little boy, a boy, an older boy, hopefully never a tweenie (have I mentioned I hate that word?), a teenager, and finally, a man. But at the moment, I still dress him in handknits and booties. Because he's a baby.

Finally, someone found this horrid piece of clothing. I'm not going to put the image up here, it annoys me too much. I think it's urban kiddie culture gone too far, a shame, because some of it is clever and bloody funny. If you don't know what the acronym means, try here.

"In honour of all the beautiful mothers out there" - my arse.

Okay, enough rant. I like a good cathartic rant sometimes, and I hope you got something to think about out of it. Even if it is just, "Oh dear, Speedy is a humourless loony, isn't she?"

Heh. Bugger orf.


fliss said...

Why do people think it looks good on adults - let alone kids? No idea - clearly I'm showing my age cos I hate the whole lot...
It's even worse when you have to use older kids clothes cos you have a big kid. Tash is currently wearing size 8 (for a 5yr old) and in general it's even more disgusting and inappropriate the bigger size you get and therefore harder to find something decent. I have a solution - don't buy it!! If people didn't buy it they wouldn't make it... It is possible to find nice stuff - hard, but possible. I buy the season ahead at sale time and shove it away. Bratz have been banned (we'll see how long that lasts...) and make up is for playing in the house in and taking off before going out in public (unless you are doing a dance concert!). Tash loves me making sundresses & skirts etc for her and knitting jumpers - but I don't have a huge amount of time, so i only get a bit of sewing/knitting in per season... There are a few companies who are starting to realise that there are a bunch of us who loathe this crap and are at least producing plain stuff...

Mindy said...

Maybe I should start sewing stuff for Gemma now. I'm seriously considering dressing her as a tomboy.

tigtog said...

The tigling had a decided girly streak from the age of 2 until the age of 11. She refused to wear the sort of stuff her former-tomboy mother (moi) hopefully waved at her.

Finally being one of the tallest and most developed in Year 6 has led to her preferring to dress tomboyish so that the boys don't stare so much. Hoobloodyray. Finally.

At least now we have to shop in the women's section there's a lot of athletic wear aimed at women who don't want to show off the muffin top that we can buy. At last.

DV said...

I'm not even going to get into my feelings on sexualisations of 12yr olds in the media, fashion industry, etc. It's tioo early and my flaming sword of righteousness is at the mechanics. Sum up into, no f###k that, I agree with you.

I actually don't mind babies being called 'little man' I see babies as these bundles of potentiality and that's a way to express it. It doesn't help that he looks so much like MrNw so I see him sometimes as a mini-him (not in an icky, set him up for life with issues way). Mind you, I also call Torby a chubba-chop, a snuggle-sausage, a stink-mcstinky-pants and all sorts of things so I may just be mad.

The MILF top is offensive on so very many levels not least of which is the whole idea that the boy wants to shag his own mother. Eeeeewwww!!!

Anyway, off to thank my lucky stars that I have a boy not a girl. so many less clothing battles ahead of me. I just have to make sure I beat out any notions he may have that skater wear is fashion and we'll be fine.

fliss said...

And I forgot to mention the whole body image issue stuff... It starts at age 4!! (or at least in my daughter with absolutely no help from me - my sister opened her big mouth about diets etc in front of her without thinking)
"Q: Mummy - why are you fat? A: I'm a bit overweight because I don't do enough exercise. We eat healthy foods, but we all have to exercise a lot and mummy doesn't have as much time as you & daddy." Well that was the best I could come up with at the time... Arrrgghhhh...
And the "mummy when do i get to have a bra like you?" "when you start getting boobs at about age 12 darling and not one second before" I did cave in on buying her a bikini though - made sure it had sufficient coverage, was plain and looked like a little girls one as opposed to something horrid... She is of course in heaven about it but only gets to wear it at indoor pools, because as soon as she is outside the sunsuit goes over the top...
I'm dreading the day she actually "discovers" the whole fashion thing seriously. I don't know where the girly-girl stuff comes from - it's not from me! I figure it's just best to ride the pink phase out and hope it passes quickly...

Wenchilada said...

And what the hell makes people think that getting a baby's ears pierced is a good thing?

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

where I grew up, there were a lot of Maltese, Italian, Sicilian etc migrants, and they all had their baby's ears pierced. it was sort of weird and sort of expected... it made us all want ours done, but I wasn't allowed till I was about 11.

once my mum and her mum had them done, it didn't seem so terrible for them to say I could. it only really became widely popular with whiteys in the late 70's, I think. if I remember rightly, it was quite exotic before then.

mum just said that when she was working in hospitals in the late 50's to late 60's, she was told by one nonna that they thought it helped good eyesight(!). so that's one theory.

Mousicles said...

The whole fashion industry is FITH.

The whole idea of marketing images to younger kids means they think they can't get enough money out of suggestable adults... or perhaps they are attempting to prey on these same adults when they have kids.

I'm a fashion reject/retard. I'm sure sprongling will rebel at some stage and actually be able to dress well. Thankfully the marketing push on boys does seem to less intense than that on girls.

Come on world! They will have enough body image problems when they hit puberty. Why start the angst early? It's just plain cruel. Oh, yeah. It's so you evil companies can flog more garbage. Bastards!

I am, however, a sucker for nerdy kids clothes. If they put O'Reilly book cover images on small sizes, I'm so there! Otherwise, it's tie-dye time.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

I've got no probs with marketing when it's flogging an appropriate product and in an appropriate fashion... but at the moment it seems getting both is close to impossible.

I actually lament the whole 'label' approach with clothing (and shoes and toys etc). I know that when we were growing up, there were some big-ticket items when a brand was important (eg, a Dragster) or a fad when you had to have one (eg yo-yos), but in general, clothing brands really weren't as important. fashions, sure, but not brands. my niece and nephew growing up in the country aren't half as brand-savvy as children in the inner city suburbs.

Wenchilada said...

Hi, I'm Finn and my daughter wears pink and I'm cool with that.

Now that we have that straight...

We were at the car wash one day and saw a little girl dressed in her cfm boots, tiny little skirt, faux fur short coat, caked in mak-up. She must've been about 8. I was pregnant at the time and we looked at her, looked at each other and said "No!". I was absolutely outraged and really had to restrain myself from going over to her mother and giving her a stern talking to and Mr C just didn't know quite where to look and felt somewhat uncomfortable. He was horrified that someone would actually dress their little girl up to look just like a prostitute. So was I.

If Pers wants to be a tom boy, fine. If she dosen't, that's fine too, but I'm going to let her make up her own mind and gently steer her away from being old before her time. Let her be a little girl, without any pressure to conform or not to conform to social expectations and attitudes.

If she has an awareness of what the concept of body image actually is and how sometimes that is used to influence people for good and bad, then that's half the battle. And if she grows up feeling better about herself than I did when I was growing up, I will consider myself a successful parent.

We have a long way to go. I kind of figure it's about listening and responding to her with intelligence and insight, not so much about dictating.

DV said...

I read an article last year that discussed the wya children percieved themsleves and that denying any part of it wasn't a good thing. Okay the article was a lot more articulate than that. The way I interpreted it wa sthat to say, my girl is going to be a tomboy and i will dress her as such can be as damaging as saying, my girl will a delicate princess and I will dress her as such. Either way, the child gets an impression of what they should be to be acceptable.
Once again, the article was a lot more articulate.
I remember reading it and thinking it was wrong and then rereading it and thinking about it and realising that it actually made sense to me.

I guess the best atittude to give your child is 'be what you wann be, do what you wanna do, yeah'

As long as it doesn't involve being a hooker at 12.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

Hi, I'm Finn and my daughter wears pink and I'm cool with that.


I don't think pink is evil: there's just a lot of it about. as mum says, it's flattering to the skin and makes a baby look fresh and sweet. heh. but when all your choices are pink, pink and a bit more pink. well, that's not choice...

as you say, and as Mouse and Gabrielle and I were talking about recently, a lot of it comes down to awareness, for both the child and the parent, although we were actually talking about role models and expectations.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

DV - sure thing. have I ranted to you about the twin girls we had at child care, where one was dressed as a boy and made to be the tomboy, and the other was dressed in pink and spoiled rotten?

their parents were indulging in a bit of unpaid social research, weren't they?

jeebus. talk about a can of worms. it was appalling at the time, and I still wonder about those poor buggers. they'd be teenagers now.

fliss said...

And leaving kids options of ways to dress is fine. Little miss has lots of blue, white, red, green, purple, pink and generally multicoloured clothes. If i help her pick what she is wearing (based on weather/day's activities) it could be any colour and appropriate. If she gets to pick it's either head to toe pink or purple or a combination of the two...
At the mo, I'm just trying to get across that our dress up Cinderella dress is not appropriate for gardening and if you want to swing upside down or climb in the park shorts or trousers are the way to go and dresses and bikes are a bad combo... I'll let you know how i go -I'm not there yet...
And she is in heaven with this year's dance costume - a black & white "penguin" tutu. What a classic! See my flickr site for the pics! (and if you aren't a contact - just email me your email address)

Wenchilada said...

I didn't want to post this as a seperate post because I'm trying to be a little bit careful. But. Yesterday I was horrified to see on the theatre list that there was a 17 year old girl having breast augmentations.


What? New tits for her formal? Dang, all I got was lousy braces!

Now, I admittedly, I didn't get the whole story before ranting here, but honestly... I was really glad I wasn't in that theatre, I think I may have had to refuse being on the team for that case. Unless there was a really good reason for it...which sometimes there is.

Still freaked me out...

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

as you say, there may have been a reason, like plastic (as opposed to cosmetic) surgery.

but otherwise, she needs a good slapping. and so does her parents.