Friday, April 19, 2013

Repost: How we dress our daughters and sons

I've contributed to the Orlando Sentinel's Moms at Work blog since 2010. The blog is changing content management systems and my old posts will no longer be available to the public, so I'm reposting them here, in the order that they were originally posted.

April 20, 2011

I'm not the first person to notice that today's kids seem to wear clothes that are much more mature than the ones kids wore in the past.

A couple of weeks ago, my fellow Moms at Work blogger Katie Powalski wondered whether today's mothers feel too paralyzed by the truths of their own pasts to curb their daughters' attempts to behave in too mature a fashion.

This week, it's CNN commentator LZ Granderson, who said he was appalled recently to notice an elementary-school age girl in clothes he thought appropriate for a much older woman.

An excerpt from Granderson's piece:
What adult who wants a daughter to grow up with high self-esteem would even consider purchasing such items? What parent is looking at their sweet, little girl thinking, "She would be perfect if she just had a little bit more up top."

And then I remember the little girl at the airport. And the girls we've all seen at the mall. And the kiddie beauty pageants.

And then I realize as creepy as it is to think a store like Abercrombie is offering something like the "Ashley", the fact remains that sex only sells because people are buying it. No successful retailer would consider introducing an item like a padded bikini top for kindergarteners if they didn't think people would buy it.

If they didn't think parents would buy it, which begs the question: What in the hell is wrong with us?

Good question, LZ.

I pay a lot more attention to pre-teen and teen girls these days in an attempt to understand what I'll be dealing with in a few years. I'm often shocked by the 12-, 13- and 14-year-old girls I see who wear low-cut tops, thick makeup and heels higher than mine.

While I know that girls that age are trying on new identities, I feel for parents who are trying to allow their daughters some freedom but don't want the girls to fall into the trap of sexualizing themselves too early. Girls aren't alone in this, by the way. Young boys who are lifting weights much too early and have arm and abdominal muscles defined by more than just normal athletic activity -- or wearing sagging pants showing off their underwear -- are the flip side of the same coin.

Parents of pre-teens and teens have tough calls to make. I'm not looking forward to it.

What do you think about what Granderson said?

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