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Itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie little girl in a bikini

9th April 2007

Itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie little girl in a bikini

posted in Body Image, Pop Culture |

Friday night saw Brandon and I perusing the little girls section at a popular clothing store to buy a birthday gift for Techgirl’s six-year-old, Josie. Amidst the racks of past-colored Easter dresses, flowery denim overalls and Dora the Explorer, I was surprised to see rack upon rack of bikinis for little girls, some young enough to be in diapers.

Why would they make bikinis for girls who don’t have breasts?

CoppertoneBecause really, isn’t that the supreme purpose of a bikini top? To cover the breasts (some bikinis more so than others, albeit)? So, why make one for a one-year-old?

In 1959, Joyce Ballantyne Brand created what has now become one of America’s most memorable ads for Coppertone, in which a black dog playfully pulls down the bathing trunks of a little girl in pigtails. Based on her daughter, Cheri, Brand’s blond-haired girl is bare-chested.

Juxtapose this to the recent Dolce & Gabbana ad, which has drawn the attention of Spanish authorities who are debating whether it depicts a child in an improperly sexual manner. The ad, shows two little girls around 6-7 years of age, both wearing make-up. One wears a bikini top and stands with her hip cocked alluringly and her arm Dolce & Gabbana - Little girl in a bikiniaround the other.

When women lacked political, economic and sexual equality, showing a girl bare-chested was perfectly innocent. Now that women have gained a (seemingly) equitable foothold across as aspects of society, we cover her up and pose her seductively.

The most eroticized anatomy on a woman’s body is the breast. As Joan Jacobs Brumberg comments in her book, The Body Project, “When we dress little girls in brassieres or bikinis, we imply adult behaviours and, unwittingly, we mark them as sexual objects.”

I understand that child abuse is more prevalent and widespread in today’s digital age, and many parents think a bikini top to be modest. I’m not saying that we should let our daughters streak naked on beaches, either.

But children are not women, and making revealing women’s bathing suits in miniature sizes only serves to identify children as smaller versions of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. And we wonder why girls display an assiduous focus on their bodies at such a young age?

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 9th, 2007 at 3:55 pm and is filed under Body Image, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 20 responses to “Itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie little girl in a bikini”

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  1. 1 On April 9th, 2007, Toni said:

    This has bothered me for so long! Thanks for talking about it. There are stores at the mall that make me want to cry. Hipster jeans, midriff tops, platform shoes. For 7 year olds. There is something totally wrong with this picture!

  2. 2 On April 9th, 2007, Rachel said:

    I’ve always wondered myself why a 7 year old would need to wear a tight, clingy tshirt reading “Sexy” or “Diva.”

  3. 3 On April 10th, 2007, drstaceyny said:

    I remember some years back a few of the major clothing stores were selling thong underwear for girls, as young as 7-years-old. I think the items were eventually pulled. Thanks for visiting my site!

  4. 4 On April 14th, 2007, spinsterwitch said:

    While I agree that the sexualizing of little girls is pretty rampant and horrifying, I have to admit not feeling shocked that toddlers and young girls are wearing bikinis. I guess that I think fondly of the beach trips that I went on as a little girl when I got to wear my bikini. I didn’t like it because it was “sexy,” I just liked that it meant playing on the beach and being in the sand and water. This was 33 years ago.

    Of course, I also used to run around outside without my shirt on…until about the same age, when my mother told me that I had to stop. I negotiated at “one last time” playing outside shirtless.

  5. 5 On April 16th, 2007, TechGirl said:

    I cringe when I walk thru the girl section at the store. I wouldn’t put my daughter in half of the crap they’re trying to push at us. And a bikini is definitely out. It’s bad enough that there are pedophiles out and about, but I don’t need to make my kids even more attractive to them than they already are.

    Thanks for the gifts, btw. You guys are really sweet to my girls. :)

  6. 6 On April 25th, 2008, mindy said:

    I think the tank top type two pieces make sense from a potty training point of view but the ones that imply breasts are scary. I have seen ones with cut outs and string bikini tops in size 6months. String Bikini’s for infants!!!

    It drives me nuts.

    My two year old is wearing size six skirts now and they are just the right length for her short legs they would be micro mini’s on an average height five year old.

    (And you can’t find glittery shirts for boys. which is different problem.)

  7. 7 On April 25th, 2008, Baconsmom said:

    Well, baby bikinis are good for diaper changing and potty-going – it’s a lot easier to pull down half a wet bathing suit than a whole one, especially when you’re 4 and you have to go RIGHT NOW.

    But all the ones I’ve seen or bought (Bacon’s 4) have been tank-style tops with full-coverage bottoms. I don’t even know that it’s accurate to call them “bikinis” instead of plain old “two-pieces”.

    But I have no idea about the rest of it, except that I certainly won’t be buying it.

  8. 8 On April 25th, 2008, ladykuri said:

    Ugh. Don’t get me started. I have a 7 yo who is in the top end of the girl’s sizing and a 12 yo who is in junior’s sizes. Both girls, both chubby and tall for their ages (and therefore look older), both NOT going to be going around looking like junior strippers, thankyouverymuch!

    On the suits, I will say both of my girls currently have two pieces in the “tankini” style (or that’s what the 12 yo says they are anyway). The little one has board shorts for a bottom, the older had just a regular bottom- low hip openings, come up to her belly button, regular bottom half of a swim suit. And of course her sister’s suit is essentially a tank top and shorts made out of swimsuit material. Neither one shows more than a traditional, conservative one piece, but both are very cute and much easier to get into/out of in a cramped changing stall (or to go pee RIGHT NOW!), and both work much better under shorts for amusement parks like Six Flags. I won’t go into the difficulty we had in finding *decent* suits though, these are last spring’s purchases and I’m still dealing with the trauma!!!

    It makes me so sad to go to the little one’s school and see the kids out at recess and half of the girls can’t even play because they’re dressed like junior Cosmo models and their clothes won’t allow it. Let the kids be kids people….please!

  9. 9 On April 25th, 2008, Karen said:

    I’m all for “two-piece” bathing suits, but, yeah, invoking the imagery of the most sexualized organ in out culture on the underage reeks of the child pornography we keep saying we don’t like.

    As a testament to my own experience, last summer I was down at the beach and I only had one suit. It fit, but it was a bikini and I had bought it 10 lbs lighter, and we were with my in-laws. I will admit to a little body insecurity when I decided I wanted to get a one-piece (and I was with my in-laws). I looked in the women’s section . . . no one pieces. I’m short and normal weight, so I figure I can find something in the girls section (I wasn’t remembering I’d gone up a cup size too . . .), but no one pieces. None. They simply were not available.

  10. 10 On April 25th, 2008, sso said:

    two piece bathing suits for children have been around since i was a child, at least, but what disturbs me is how they’ve changed in nature. when i was a kid, two-piece suits were essentially a one-piece with the middle missing. the bottom piece was very brieflike, and the top was something like an abbreviated tanktop, showing only the stomach area. indeed, i wore such suits well into my teen years, and probably into my 20s as well. i liked the convenience of a two piece suit, as far as going to the bathroom, but i am rather modest. maybe 5 or so years ago, i noticed a shift from this type of “bikini” for kids, to a more string-bikini type style…and today, it seems like the string bikini type is the predominant style. i don’t think it’s really inappropriate for kids to wear the type that used to be sold, but a child in a string bikini? that’s a bit much.

  11. 11 On April 25th, 2008, serye said:

    Don’t get me wrong…I worry about misogyny as well, but it seems to me that some of us may have things a bit backwards.

    I mean no offense to any of the commenters, but “slutwear”? Really?
    The clothes may or or may not be offensive or objectionable (not getting into that) but the term “slut” certainly is, and I hate to think we’ve forgotten that.

    I think it would be more productive to focus on the lookers and not those being looked at so to speak.
    When I was a little child I swam topless and no one seemed to think much of it. When my mother was very small she swam naked.
    The problem is not how much of a little girl’s body is exposed, the problem is a society that looks at a child’s innocent nakedness as sexual.

    I know there are many more issues involved, and that of course there are ways clothing inappropriately sexualizes children, but I just wanted to bring this point up.

  12. 12 On May 1st, 2008, David said:

    While skimpy bikinis are a tad over the line for girls (and adult women for that matter), I think the world would be better if everyone was a nudist, that is, not afraid to be naked in front of others. I am a nudist, or at least, I’m trying to be one, anyway. Bikinis for any female show off the very body parts they are trying to cover up. When people are naked…naturally naked I mean…the body parts meant to be covered are no longer the center of attention, except to perverts and paedophiles who get a thrill out of innocent nudity. Anyone agree?

  13. 13 On May 1st, 2008, Rachel said:

    I get what you’re saying in theory, David. I don’t think we should be ashamed of our bodies and I wish more people had the courage of expression and self-pride many nudists exhibit. But I think these things are so steeply sexualized in our larger culture, that such sentiments are only wishful thinking. Plus, I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong for a breast to be the object of sexual desire, but nor do I think it should be the objectified, either.

  14. 14 On May 1st, 2008, David said:

    Most men view the female breast as a sex object and lust for it, thanks to the media. I, however, view it as a natural organ meant to nurse babies and small children. And, yes, I am a guy. I really hate our society and how they brainwash people into believing there’s only one way to view nudity…porn!

  15. 15 On January 7th, 2009, violin kid said:

    I think bikinis for kids are fine by themselves, it’s the advertising that’s not right. The portrayal of the girls in a sexually suggestive manner, no matter how slight, should not be allowed but that’s just how many are pushing the fine line nowadays. I’ll only allow one pieces for my future baby girls in the future :)

  16. 16 On January 7th, 2009, David - the nudist said:

    It’s sad how kids have to suffer because of paedophiles and perverts out there. Girls that young haven’t even developed breasts and yet, bikinis are being sold to them anyway, as if trying to say “let’s make believe you have breasts and cover them up to sexualize them”. I’m the same David as before, but I’ve added “the nudist” to emphasize my strong belief in this lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how much clothes you put on kids. Paedophiles will still view them as sex objects. I understand that some rapes occur because predators are curious as to what kids have underneath their clothes. That’s why some kids are often found naked, beaten, or worse after the predator has done the deed. Those kinds of people should be the ones to suffer, not innocent kids that are born natural nudists. Trouble is, parents teach kids body shame and insist that certain body parts must be kept hidden. I’ve learned a lot about being a nudist and how ALL body parts should be treated as equal. Covering certain body parts only sexualizes them. I believe I already said that, but it’s worth mentioning it again. We’re all born naked anyway. How come it’s okay with babies and very young children to be naked but older kids now suddenly have to put their clothes on? I still don’t understand the logic to that. Well, I’m proud to be a nudist and I hope…nay, I pray that others will discover how natural nudity really is instead of what the media has “taught” people to believe.

  17. 17 On January 7th, 2009, Rachel said:

    It’s sad how kids have to suffer because of paedophiles and perverts out there.

    I posted this blog entry in April of last year. Its still among my top visited entries and “little girls and bikinis” are among my top search engine referrals. I even had one man email me to ask if I had a larger image to send him of the D&G ad above! Sick, just sick…

  18. 18 On July 5th, 2009, David - the nudist said:

    Can I post links on this site? If so, here’s one.

    http://www.inthebuffstuff.com/Understanding%20Nudism.htm

    I don’t know if this has anything to do with the subject, but it may be interesting anyway.

  19. 19 On July 8th, 2009, Anna said:

    I was appalled this summer when I went to the swimming pool and saw all these little girls in string bikinis.. and children’s clothing resembling adult clothing. I hope this trend ends soon!

  20. 20 On July 9th, 2009, David - the nudist said:

    You know why stores have bikinis for little girls? To make them look older and “sexier” for pedophiles and sexual predators. Now, in places where nudity is normal, such as with nudist resorts, nude beaches, etc., there is nothing to hide, so to speak and such sexual crimes and pedophiles are far fewer…not to say there are none at all, but far fewer than traditional places where nudity is covered up. Yet, this country and others that ban nudity refuse to listen. Then, they wonder why so many children are being raped, exploited, etc. compared to more relaxed countries where nudity is second nature. It’s like they don’t understand why this happens far too much when the answer is so obvious. Again, these things do happen in nudist places, too, but the frequency and number of occurrences is far less than anti-nudity places. It’s a fact, but very few get it or believe it.

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