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Although living in the bubble that is Lancaster University means my access to newspapers, current affairs, or any form of information about the outside world that does not concern my next night out is pretty limited, one recent news story has managed to filter its way down to the likes of me. No, I’m not talking about the vital details of the Ashley/Cheryl split, but the recent scandal over the Primark padded bra.
So it might not be the most important thing going on in the world at the moment, what with general election and volcanoes preventing my Chris Moyles fix in the morning, but it caught the media’s attention. Newspapers such as The Mail ran headlines reading, ‘What a sick world’, whilst The Sun went with ‘Peado Heaven on our High Street’. The bikini in question was a low cut, halter neck padded bra. No it’s not the most scandalous of outfits, but these bikinis were aimed at children as young as seven years old, and at £4 are easily affordable with a week’s pocket money.
Unfortunately though, a padded bikini is just the start of it. Knickers that read ‘You’ve scored’ or ‘Kiss me’, and t-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Future WAG’ for young girls are a far from unusual sight on your local High Street. The discoveries of overtly sexual clothing has led critics to claim that stores are creating a sexualisation of children, encouraging them to dress provocatively. However, are these stores simply responding to consumer demand? Primark had agreed to give the profits from the sale of the bikinis to charities, but the fact that any were sold in the first place shows that some children will be strolling around the pool in them by summertime.
So why is it that children so young want to look so old? At seven years old I was donning a very attractive pair of leggings (before they were cool) – my favourite were a pair of lime green florals, with the all important stirrups at the bottom, so what’s changed? Well to be fair, you can’t blame them when you look at the some of the things influencing them. At just 15, the ever annoying Miley Cyrus did a cover of Vanity Fair half naked, and is now going out with a 20 year old. Her red carpet fashion includes teeny tiny dresses and killer heels. The latest tween craze that is Justin Bieber has just turned 16 but serenades his fans with lyrics such as ‘Girl you’re my one love, my one life for sure’. He’s 16. At the risk of sounding like my mother, I can personally guarantee that this ‘shawty’ he sings of is not his one and only.
However, we can’t just blame Miley and her band of squeaky singers, surely parents should know that parading your daughter around in a mini skirt and heels is not a good idea. Alas that is not the case. Celeb mums such as Katie Holmes dresses little Suri in high heels, whilst the ever controversial Katie Price has put fake eyelashes onto two year old Princess. It seems that mothers today are offloading their own insecurities onto their children, forcing them to look ‘pretty’. What’s even more horrific is that this means children are become walking adverts to paedophiles. An NSPCC spokesman explained ‘sexualising kids and teaching them to behave sexually legitimises the people who want to abuse them.’ It makes for pretty sick reading right?
To be honest, I find this stuff so confusing. If children want to look like women, and women are increasingly going under the knife to look like younger versions of themselves, we women today seem to have a weird perception of ourselves. What are we meant to see as the ideal? And why should we even believe that there is an ideal at all? To be honest, I think we need a reality check. It was less than a 100 years ago when women weren’t allowed to vote, only 82 years ago were women given the same political rights as men, and today women are still paid on average 16% less than their male counterparts. I’m no hardcore feminist but even I understand that this is just not right. My great grandmother was a Suffragette. To be honest, I think she’d be pretty disgusted that in a world where women get paid less than men, we are also encouraged to try and look sexy from as young as seven. Little girls should not be encouraged to advertise themselves as sexual objects, they should be taught about what’s really valuable and worth striving for. The shape of their bodies, false eye lashes, high heels and padded bikinis should be on the bottom of that list.