For a lot of moms, it seems their girls are already dressing super sexy at ages as young as 11. The girls may be trying to emulate their favorite celebs. Some are even happy to flaunt it on YouTube. “It doesn’t matter the season, they all want to wear tank tops that are very low cut,” says Marion Mendelsohn, a mom.
The bickering between mothers and daughters about what’s appropriate is nothing new; even celebs will admit to it. “My mom used to say, ‘I don’t care what Jane is doing, or Kendra is doing, I care what you’re doing,’ and I’d be like, ‘What about them? They get to wear this,’” television presenter and Boston-native Maria Menounos says. But parents say in this day and age, it’s getting tougher.
Jane Coit says over the years she has had trouble finding clothes she and her husband considers appropriate for her daughter. This may explain why a recent study published in the journal Sex Roles reveals that nearly 30 percent of young girls’ clothing had sexualized characteristics.
Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, recently introduced a padded triangle bikini top, initially marketed for girls as young as 7 years old. In 2003, tweens (girls between 7 and 12 years old) spent $1.6 million on thong underwear, according to Time Magazine.
In 2007, the American Psychological Association’s task force on the sexualization of girls issued a report linking early sexualization to three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self esteem, and depression.
Patrice Oppliger, assistant professor of communication at Boston University and author of “Girls Gone Skank: The Sexualization of Girls In American Popular Culture,” addresses this issue in her book. “They can never really reach that level of perfection or that level that we set up as the celebrity. They’re never going to be that thin, never going to be that beautiful, that lusty, they’re always going to have to have surgery or diet or stave themselves. They, They’re never going to be good enough if they’re only judged by their looks.”
Oppliger says teens need to think twice about the message they are sending to the world, and that by wearing sexy clothes, they are saying, “look at me” as opposed to “listen to me” or “think about me.”
As for parents, Oppliger says set boundaries. Stop playing 40-year-old best friends, wanting to buy your daughter what’s in so she fits in. Be a parent, and parent.
Sex Roles Study
American Psychological Association’s Task Force