The Editor-In-Chief rants on the hypocrisy of covering kids up
October 31, 2007 5:48 PM
The relentless sun burns the beach when a sand-covered toddler stands up in the middle of her sand creation, hops over shovels and buckets and runs into the shallow water. As she returns, a group of kids playing nearby freeze and stare at her. One girl breaks the silence and says: “She is naked. Dad, why is she naked?” The dad answers that maybe she likes to be naked. And that is exactly what my daughter Stella wants—to run around the beach butt-naked. I thought all children did—until I moved to this country. Those other kids on the beach were shocked, probably because they’ve learned that they should cover up in public. Little girls are often even dressed in miniature bikini tops.
Sitting in wet sand with a wet bathing suit for too long can’t be healthy for little kids, but putting on bikini tops on little babies seems even unhealthier. So why do adults feel a need to cover their little darlings? Is it really because they are too uncomfortable with the thought that some people might look at their children the wrong way? Is it a moral decision? Or does it simply have to do with the urge to follow the latest commercial hype?
This summer, a Gap advertisement took the crazy business with covering kids up to an alarming level. A baby girl dressed in a white, rectangular bikini and a cowboy hat adorned the front page of the infant clothing section on the company’s website.
Little girls have nothing to hide, yet someone covered this infant’s undeveloped breasts in an attempt to make her seem as a cute little copy a woman—because that sells. I don’t think it’s cute, I think it’s outrageous!
The fact that girls have to learn that their bodies need to be covered up is in itself an act of objectification.
As I see it, there are two reasons why women cover their breasts on the beach. Primarily, the puritan, moral code in this country says that it’s forbidden to show any naked parts of the female body—hence no sunbathing topless. Secondly, women are supposed to cover from the male gaze in order to act accordingly to society’s set norms of how a woman should act. However, a bikini is many times not covering a lot, only enough to make it socially acceptable. The bikini-top on the infant-Gap-model is no different from the bikini styles that hook readers into the pages of magazines such as Maxim, for instance.
Putting a bikini on a little girl suggests, first of all, that her little body already is subject to sexual emotions and therefore needs to be covered, and secondly that she has to live up to the moral codes and set norms of appropriate femininity already as a baby. She doesn’t know about genders yet, and it will take many years before she can make her own decisions regarding clothing that either fit into an “appropriate” feminine role or not.
By covering her undeveloped breasts in a way that her mom might is to signal that “you are the same as me, you are born female and this is what you have to do.” Because of this, girls become aware of their bodies from a viewers’ perspective way too early.
Kids should be able to feel free in their bodies and not have to worry about what other people see or don’t see. Let kids be kids and experience the feeling of running around butt-naked—just as nature intended them to.
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