Spring has just arrived and I’m already dreaming about summer – the thought of a warm breeze flowing through my hair with the smell, sound, and feel of the beach. I can’t help but get caught up in the daydreams of summertime and all the sweet, sunny days ahead. Summer always means swimwear if you’re a beach addict like myself!
I’m also a new mother, and with this new adventure comes an entirely new perspective on the world around me. When typing “summer swimwear girls” into a Google search, I was awe-struck by the images, and not in a good way. I was shocked and appalled with the images in front of me. These girls don’t look like they’re having fun or heading to the pool, they look like they’re posing for a pin-up. I think to myself, “Why does the media feel that this type of marketing of young girls in bathing suits is effective?”
Effects sexualisation on our children?
I can’t help but wonder how these images are processed by a child. How do they perceive the little 7-year-old girl in a scantily clad bikini, posed as if she were competing in an adult swimsuit pageant? Are there subliminal messages being going unnoticed? I wonder if these types of images have any sort of effect on the behaviour of our children? Are these advertisements going to effect the perception of what a child views as appropriate?
I could ask these kinds of questions until I’m blue in the face, but I think the most relevant question for me is, “What steps can I take to educate myself and my child on what is appropriate and/or respectful, and how to carry through with the actions that help prevent us from supporting the companies who deem these techniques effective for sales?” But, this is a deeper topic to be continued in a separate conversation.
Related article: Hypersexualization of Young Girls in Advertisements
Where are the appropriate suits?
Finding parents who are similarly outraged by the limited options for bathing suits for young girls in local department stores were easy to find. Walking through a local Walmart, where a “Monster High” bikini for girls had recently been taken off the shelves due to parental complaints (yes, YOU do have the power!), I can’t help but notice the ‘fun’, bright colours of the summer clothing on display in the girls section. It makes me want to wear scrunchies in my hair and glitter-bomb anything I can. But, after getting over the main distraction, I start to pay attention to the sizes of the teeny-tiny bikinis and who they’re target audience is.
I would not be OK with dressing my (theoretical) 3-year-old daughter in a bikini that has less coverage than my own. I found that taking the time to search for appropriate swimwear takes up the majority of the afternoon and involves a lengthy search of on-line sources for swimwear, including going international, unfortunately.
Related Article: Ethical Swimwear for Ethical Kids
Why are these advertisements working?
Every time we purchase an item advertised by such means, we are informing the market that this strategy works. I feel compelled to ask; why does this strategy work? Are we really more susceptible to purchasing items, from any category, as long as it is being portrayed in a sexual manner? Why does the photographer feel the need to direct the children models to pose in a manner not representative of a child, but as adults would in a similar photo? Every time I see a Walmart flyer and scan through the advertisements, I always notice how these kids are being presented. I wish I could open the flyer and see kids being kids, not miniature adults. The amount of time one has to enjoy a childhood is ever fleeting, why rush?
I wish I could open the flyer and see kids being kids, not miniature adults.
There are two things we can always count on; the summer is too short and children grow up too quick. Taking the time to teach children about the concerns around what they are seeing in advertisements or on T.V. shows that display other children in situations where they are being sexually exploited, can have a positive impact on creating a healthy version of their own self-image. It gives them the knowledge and confidence to make a personal choice about what they feel is comfortable and appropriate. I only hope that my child will share these thoughts instead of sharing scantily-clad photos of ‘girls’ in bikinis.
If you are like me and abhor the idea of encouraging this type of advertising, not to worry, here is a round-up of some great ethical swimwear… for ethical kids.