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Are Girls Being Pushed to Be Too Sexy Too Soon?

Last week a padded bikini top sold by the clothing chain, Abercrombie and Fitch, to girls as young as seven, reignited the discussion about the increasing pressure on young girls to appear sexy. Join the discussion this week.

Do you think girls are pushed to be too sexy, and too early?

Last week, a firestorm of parental indignation swept across the Internet over the ‘Ashley Push-Up’ padded bikini top offered in Abercrombie and Fitch’s girls swimwear line. 

The line, sold by the Abercrombie Kids division, is designed for girls as young as seven or eight years old.

In response to the outcry, Abercrombie and Fitch removed “push-up” from the description, and described it as a “striped triangle,” and included in the product details that it was “padded.”

As of the beginning of this week, the chain that has built its image on provocative style and marketing, removed the Ashley line from its website.

Abercrombie and Fitch is no stranger to controversy—they have gotten into plenty of hot water in the past for provocative marketing targeted at tweens and teens.

They are also hardly alone in offering short shorts, tight shirts and barely-there swimwear to young girls.

Why the fuss over a bikini top? And, haven't girls been trying on the trappings of sexy adulthood for decades?

Experts say the pressure to conform to certain ideals of beauty has a significant impact on girl's development. They have also expressed growing concern over the increasingly younger age that those ideals are marketed to.

The American Psychological Association has stated clearly that increased pressure to appear sexy at a younger age is damaging to young girl’s self-image and healthy development.

In 2007, the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls released a report that said “If girls purchase (or ask their parents to purchase) products and clothes designed to make them look physically appealing and sexy… they are, in effect, sexualizing themselves.”

"We have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development,” said Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chair of the task force, and Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Local mom and marriage and family therapist, Tina DeMattia of Danville, agrees.

“I think it is inappropriate and unethical for Abercrombie and Fitch to promote girls in this promiscuous way,” she says. “Our little ones have such a short time to be kids—let them dress appropriately for their ages.”

DeMattia says she sees the combined negative effects of the media and society’s pervasive sexual images, coupled with an avoidance of healthy discussion and education about sexuality in her practice.

“We are bombarded with sexual images, yet we are not allowed to discuss sex,” she says.

Sex is a taboo topic, says DeMattia, and says that the effects of not engaging sexuality in a healthy way leads to problems in adulthood.

“I see adults struggle all the time with their own sexuality,” DeMattia says. “How can we expect them to teach their own children?”

DeMattia says that parents have a responsibility to set an appropriate example and help guide their children’s clothing choices.

“Parents have to tune in and pay attention to what their kids are doing,” she says.

“Parents should tell their children that clothes are a language, and ask them what they want to communicate.”

Lifestyles of the Destitute and Obscure March 30, 2011 at 09:25 PM
It's super hard to find clothes for young girls that aren't sexy, obnoxious, or over-priced. Hanna Anderson and a couple others make great stuff, but it's kind of expensive. As my daughter gets older, I'll probably just buy a few things from them, and she'll just have fewer items of appropriate clothing rather than lots of cheap things to make her look cheap.
Kirsten Branch March 30, 2011 at 09:39 PM
You make a good point, Allison. I went shopping for my tween niece a few years ago at an "affordable retailer" and was hard pressed to find jeans that were not cut in what I considered an inappropriate fashion, or any clothing that wasn't emblazoned with Hannah Montana, etc... Do you think retailers stock it because it is in demand, or to drive demand (as in heavily licsensed and branded merchandise)? Thanks for your comments!!
Theresa April 01, 2011 at 02:49 AM
With a now 21 year old daughter whom I decided to go down the frienship road with was awesome. She was always very open with every topic imaginable with me growing up. I never had the "teenage drama" with her. But, when she turned 18 and graduated she all the sudden started making very wrong choices in her life, becoming involved in drugs and alchol and when I tried to help her the first thing out of her mouth was I wish you would have been a parent instead of a friend to me while I was growing up. I was shocked that she said this to me and asked her why she felt that way. Well come to find out as I was beaming all along with the thought that I raised a friend/child and wanted to stick my tongue out constantly to my mother who always said I would regret it one one day, my daughter was not always honest withme. She told me she never worried about staying out later than curfew or doing things she knew she really wasn't suppose to do because I was her friend and never punished her. My daughter is doing great now thank god and now & on the right track in life. Now the flip side to this story is that I have a 5 year old that I was going down the same road with as my first. After this eye opening event I have now decided that perhaps my mother was right and I am now taking the parent route as our parents did but adding a little friendship in around the edges. I hope that I can be a better "parent" to my 5 year old even when she doesn't like time outs & eating her peas. Theresa

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