Stop Trying to Make Teenagers Sexy!
No sooner had my children been dropped off at school, then the Halloween paraphernalia had overtaken all the back to school supplies (No slacking in the retail industry). Yesterday I received my first spam from a Halloween costume shop. Of course I clicked it. I love to see the new costume additions every year, and come up with ideas of my own. While I was browsing, however, I found myself faced with a pretty horrific reality.
Lindsay Lohan, in one of her most iconic performances in the movie, Mean Girls, said it best,
“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
I’m incredibly disheartened by the way Halloween costume stores are contributing to the sexualization of our young girls. Teenagers are still children. Many of them don’t even have breasts, but at Spirit Halloween a “Teen” costume means exposing more skin than an adult costume.
Take a look at Exhibit A: The Teen Supergirl Costume
Now have a gander at Exhibit B: The Adult Supergirl Costume.
I wondered if this was a trend, so I browsed through a few other costume websites, and found these:
At least they aren’t using teen models to model these clothes.
This particular costume completely disrespects all of our Female soldiers who fight so hard to gain equal respect in the eyes of the country they serve. I’m not sure what kind of military this store thinks we have, but in our country women and men wear the SAME uniform.
I’m not even sure why this exists. Teen Playboy Bunny? That’s child pornography, isn’t it?
I know it might sound prudish, especially if you knew me in my party girl days, and I’m sure it has something to do with my way-too-beautiful six year-old, who will one day grow up into a dangerously gorgeous teen, but I’m a little grossed out when I see teenaged girls depicted as sex symbols. To me, TEENAGED GIRLS AREN’T SEXY.
Allow me to clarify a few things:
While Eighteen, and Nineteen year-olds are consenting legal adults, they do not make up the majority of teenagers. Teenagers, as a group, are made up of Thirteens, Fourteens, Fifteens, Sixteens, and Seventeens. I may be able to swallow marketing sexier outfits to the Eighteen and Nineteen year old segment of Teens, but it’s absolutely disgusting to swathe them all in the same Teen category for that kind of advertising. I suggest marketing geniuses put their brains to work to come up with some other clever age categorization for Teen Adults, so that they can effectively reach their demographic. If you read the reviews on the Teen Supergirl outfit, that costume isn’t even made for a “small teen body”. So maybe the term: Pre-adult might suit the eighteen to twenty crowd a little better. Some other suggestions include: Senior Teen, Adulteen, or Almostgrown.
I believe the human form is beautiful, and not something to be ashamed of. This is not an argument about hiding the body away under blankets. My daughter actually wears a two-piece bathing suit, although I’m not thrilled that all I could find was something that exposed her stomach, but that serves a practical purpose. One-piece bathing suits make potty time desperate. I encourage my daughter, and all women, for that matter, to love their bodies, and to embrace their own beauty. I try to do the same.
This isn’t a conversation about slut-shaming either. How an adult woman choose to dress is absolutely her own prerogative, and whether she likes it or not, she does have to deal with the consequences of her choices. The truth is that the male gaze sexualizes women no matter what they wear. Our gender is constantly besieged with uninvited commentary about our appearance, whether we are gorgeous, ugly, fat, skinny, or anywhere in between.
I don’t believe that there is anything a person can wear that invites rape.
It’s not just happening with our teens either. Here is a costume I found for a TWEEN costume. Whilst the costume itself isn’t overtly sexy, the way the model is posed suggests that we should think it is.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that we are barraged with images of young girls in provocative clothing all the time. Competitive dance teams come to mind quickly. Think back to all the ten year-olds you’re seeing in crop tops on television, or just watch an episode of Dance Moms; Cheerleaders in way too short skirts; Or just plain commercial advertising. A bra top on a little girl is probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. What are they even covering up? When did we start ascribing the characteristics of a woman to small children? When did it become okay to think of children in sexual terms?
My biggest beef is that we are allowing our children to imitate the costumes worn by adults. The word “sexy” isn’t being used overtly, but the silhouettes, hemlines, necklines, and shirt lengths are either the exact replicas of sexy clothing, or are actually sexier–just in youth sizes. Just the concept of sizing clothing intended to be sexy as 3T, or youth XS is so far beyond the capability of my understanding. I mean, think of the number of people who had to give their approval on those decisions. How did that conversation even happen?
“Hey boss, what do you think of the sexy nurse in teen size?” “I like it.” “Great, how about Exotic Dancer?” “Make the skirt a little shorter, and the neckline lower, and make it in tween size too. Those twelve year-olds are gonna eat this stuff up!”
I think dressing kids up like mini-adults is kind of adorable, myself, but there are certain boundaries I subconsciously apply. For example, a little kid in tiny fatigues–adorable; a little kid in little scrubs–super cute; a little kid in a little suit–cute overload! When my Little was a toddler I created a mini version of an Audrey Hepburn a la Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and it’s still my favorite picture. However, when we start putting little kids in over the knee boots, or nipple tassels…things start getting creepy, and that doesn’t just apply to toddlers. That’s because the word sexy comes from the word sex–which is an act which should be reserved for adults only. When we even start to think about children in terms of sex, well, I don’t know about you, but I get that I’m-about-to-vomit feeling mixed with red hot rage. Tweenaged girls, and even young teen girls really don’t belong caught up in the midst of conversations about objectifying the female form. I don’t think anyone belongs there, but as adult women we are more prepared to fight these battles than our children are. Maybe by the time they get to our age, we’ll have defeated gender discrimination, but since we haven’t done it yet, how about we stop allowing our children to make the decisions in our homes, and say “no” to the sexy referee, huh?
This Halloween, let’s please encourage our children to stay children for as long as they can. Soon enough our daughters will be facing the same demeaning catcalls, and leering gazes of lecherous men.
We don’t have to rush it, do we?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!