• Mon, May 13 2013

Parents Are Slut-Shaming Their Daughter’s Clothing Choices While Being The Adults Who Buy The Clothing

girls slutty clothing Before anyone furrows their pretty little brows at me, I use the term “slutty” clothing because I find it absurd and it also makes me laugh. Even though I find it sad that we still judge women and girls based on what they cover their bodies with rather than what comes out of their mouths, as a parent I am sympathetic to other parents who have difficulties in dressing their daughters in what they feel is “appropriate attire.” In the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times, daddy Bruce Feiler is having difficulties with the whole  Fine Line Between Sweet and Skimpy thingy:

It first happened to me this spring. My daughters, who had just turned 8, came bounding into the room to show off new outfits they were wearing to an extended-family gathering. My eyes bulged. The dresses drooped provocatively off the shoulder and offered other peekaboos of their bodies. Sure, as a parent, I figured I would one day face clothing battles with my children. Politicians aren’t the only ones who draw red line.

Although I like the article, and I agree that a lot of the clothing made for children is totally inappropriate, especially when emblazoned with slogans that perpetuate gender stereotypes or that send provocative messages, I feel like I sort of need to remind big daddy Bruce here that his eight-year-old daughters did not buy the clothing themselves. A parent, either him or his wife, paid for the outfits he finds “too provocative.”

A lot of clothing, especially for young girls, is inappropriate. According to a study discussed in the article:

Sarah K. Murnen, a professor of psychology at Kenyon College, said parents today face greater challenges than those in the past because girls’ clothing has become more sexualized. “Some people say it’s due to an increased pornification of culture,” Professor Murnen said, “where the easy availability of pornography on the Internet has made its way into styles and popular culture.” She cited thong underwear, push-up bras and leather miniskirts for first to fifth graders as examples.

In a 2011 study, Professor Murnen evaluated 5,666 items of girls’ clothing on 15 popular Web sites to determine whether they were “childlike,” “sexualizing” or “adultlike.”

OK, yeah, any parents who has walked into a Justice clothing store realizes this. But here’s the thing, you do not have to buy these items. There is no law stating that you have to buy your daughter reveling clothing. It’s especially unfair when parents buy these items for their daughters and then they turn around and make them feel bad for wanting to wear them. I have an eight-year-old daughter. She wears what I buy her. I let her express her own individuality by getting to choose her own accessories and hairstyles. She can wear twenty necklaces a day for all I care, but she is usually wearing these over a plain T-shirt, jeans and a cardigan. She wears insanely colored nail polish, and plenty of ridiculous headbands, but she doesn’t wear clothing out of the house that I feel is too revealing or perpetuates gender stereotypes by proclaiming “I am 2 pretty 4 homework.”

Until the day comes, probably in the future when we are all wearing spacesuits, that society doesn’t judge women based on how they look or the size of their hemlines, I dress all my kids in sort of utilitarian styles that they can run, jump, play and learn in. Because I’m the parent, and I buy the clothing. It’s really not that hard.

(Photo: twitter)

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  • ALE515

    I don’t get it… If my Mom saw me trying on something proactive at the store, she would have simply said “No”. She always did those “sit down” tests on my jeans. Ya know, if it showed butt crack or not. Is it that when these parents were kids, that they didn’t like being told “No” so they don’t say “No” to their own kid?? Also, my Mom had say in what store we shopped at.

    • smish smash

      My mom just went ahead and pre-empted the whole situation by only driving me to JC Penny and Eddie Bauer. What the heck was I supposed to do, I didn’t have a car. Have you ever tried to cobble a sexy outfit together using nothing but forest green courdoroy pants and turtle necks with caribou on it? Harder than it seems.

    • Justme

      Too bad there wasn’t Pinterest around back then…

  • CW

    Unless it’s a relative who bought the inappropriate outfit as a gift. My mother-in-law bought my ‘tween an inappropriately skimpy sundress and allowed my DD to remove the tags & wear it before I found out. Since I was unable to return the dress, I do allow DD to wear it layered over a tee-shirt and leggings. Sometimes DD throws it on without remembering to layer it and I have to send her back to change.

  • Ashley

    Ugh, we sold that shirt (the stock photo) where I used to work. Made me cringe every time anyone bought it. Really, working in the children’s department was incredibly tiring for my feminist mind.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      internet applause for managing to stick it out. I am cringing SO HARD just looking at it.

    • CW

      That shirt is dumb and not something I would buy for that reason, but I don’t consider it inappropriate. It looks like it covers everything it needs to. The linked article is talking about the “mini-streetwalker” look, not the “moronic message” look.

  • a

    How about a daughter who has already been raised to make her own good clothing choices and then, while out shopping with her mother gets yelled at and berated under “if I ever catch you wearing something this.” The “this” in question is something that said daughter wouldn’t ever choose for herself anyway.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      You tell your mom you don’t appreciate that <3

  • daly_beauty

    This has always bothered me. Needed to be said.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      It’s just so patronizing to girls. Parents don’t want them wearing things don’t buy it. It’s more traumatizing for girls to feel judged by their parents ugh

  • LiteBrite

    A former co-worker once told me about a trip to The Gap where she had the misfortune of seeing thong underwear for eight-year-olds.

    “Aren’t they cute?” the salesperson asked.

    “No,” my co-worker responded. “They are NOT cute.” However, she refrained from going off on the employee because of course the salesperson doesn’t have a say in the merchandise.

    I agree clothing for girls has gotten out of hand, at least that’s what my friends with daughters tell me. However, the word “NO” is still pretty powerful.

  • Amber

    Any parent who buys clothing for their child and then shames the child for wearing that clothing is a child abuser. That’s abuse.

  • Tusconian

    Very true. Children that age do not buy their own clothes. And if these clothes are available for young kids, who’s making them so frequently? If this was just a test run to see if it would sell, we wouldn’t still be talking about it, this would have blown over in the 90s. This means that parents are buying these things, at high enough rates that it’s apparently flooding the stores (from what I’ve seen at Target, J. C. Penney, or even Justice, I’d say that’s an exaggeration, but these clothes are more common than when I was a kid). I’m reminded of a frankly disturbing and abusive email forward written by a father that included rage over his daughter (12ish?) wearing bikini style underwear and Juicy sweats. His wife was implied to not work, so who bought her these things? (Of course, the internet lauded this letter as a success in great fatherhood, even though it was basically “I’m punishing Children 2 and 3, and my wife, for something that Child 1 did.”)

    Though I really have to ask, how does one qualify a thong, push-up bra, or miniskirt “for a first grader?” I have never in my life seen evidence of these items being marketed to the 6 to 10 age group, despite having come across dozens of claims that Abercrombie, GAP, and whoever else are allegedly hawking lingerie to first graders. “First grade” is not a clothing size, it is a relatively narrow range of ages, generally 5 to 8 years. Every time I see these claims, under closer scrutiny, these clothes seem to be aimed at an 11 to 14 age range (whether or not that is ok is up to the parent, but is also not the same as age 6), but sold in the same stores that also caters to 6-10 year olds. These articles use cloudy language, but a thong that “could fit girls as young as seven” or “could fit MY seven year old” is not the same as “a thong for seven year old girls.” Many seven year old girls are close in size to average 11 and 12 year old girls. Childhood obesity, early puberty, and just plain genetics means that there exist 4 year old girls who wear adult sizes, and adult women who wear children’s size 14. I have a cousin who is five, and I’m always surprised that she’s in kindergarten because she not only looks, but acts, like a child closer to 8 or 9, and she isn’t even overweight or entering early puberty. She is just big for a five year old. By the time she’s 8 or 9, she will likely be wearing tween or junior’s sizes due to her height, even though many clothes that aren’t worth questioning for the 12 to 17 set are wildly inappropriate for 3rd and 4th graders. Which is just more reason to pay more attention. Once kids stop being infants, we can’t assume their size from their age, and especially for grade schoolers and tweens, deviating from the average size can make it harder than it should be to find appropriate clothes. Even if your 12 year old is small, she doesn’t HAVE to wear Oshkosh jeans with elastic in the butt and Elmo tees, and even if your 8 year old is big, she doesn’t HAVE to wear thongs and miniskirts and keyhole tops. But it might be harder to shop for them.

    • Amber

      This is a very good point. I’ve never seen the sexy clothing marketed to kids but I don’t go into little girl clothing stores because I don’t have a daughter. I have, however, seen women holding up clothing in MY size in department stores and bitching about “little girl slut clothes.”

      I may be the size of many fifth graders but I am not a fifth grader. I’m a 30 year old woman and I deserve to look sexy sometimes too. LOL

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Of course YOu do! You are a grownass woman :)

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Well, when you check out a website like Justice, who sells clothing for ages 6 and up, they have a category called HOTTEST OUTFITS. Now, we can argue semantics, but when I, as a grownass woman, wanna look “HOT” or put on my “hottest outfit” I usually mean sexy. I suppose HOT could mean “trendy” but I think a lot of people, when using the word hot – mean sexy.

    • LiteBrite

      But “hottest outfits” could also just mean “outfits that are selling really well right now.” I see the word “hot” used a lot in marketing to describe the new “IT” item.

      I think Tusconian has a point about kids clothes though and what people might assume is being marketed to children. In regards to the kids thongs I mentioned earlier, I didn’t see them nor do I plan to (frankly I hate The Gap, Abercrombie, et al), but these very well have been for adult women. Unless, of course, the someone sees them in Gap Kids.

    • Muggle

      I’ve seen small-sized women’s lingerie in the kids’ section before. Not because the stores themselves are actually trying to sexualize kids, but because they believe women really can’t be that small. Since I am quite small (but still an adult, damn it!) I find it rather insulting. I’m 21 years old, I haven’t shopped in the kids’ section since I was like, 13. I agree with Tusconian 100% on that front.

      Sometimes I’ll walk past the kids’ sections in stores, and I have NEVER seen thongs or push-up bras there. In fact the “appropriateness” hasn’t changed at all in 10 years, when people were having the same conniption fit over girls’ clothing. Some details have changed to reflect changing fashions but that’s it. If anything is too revealing, it’s because women and teens are wearing those things as well. Aren’t we objectifying women and teenage girls too? Maybe I don’t want to wear “slutty” clothing either– not because it’s “slutty” but because I just don’t bloody like it!

      All too often these discussions are so ignorant, and if they’re not slut-shaming they’re body-policing.

    • Tusconian

      Body policing is spot on. I’ve seen multiple websites slamming makers of AA-B cup bras specifically for “sexualizing children,” among other middle school nonsense, despite the fact that the lingerie was quite pricey and the models were very clearly adults. Because there is just so much body shaming over what an adult woman looks like, and if you bring it up, you’re slammed because “well blah blah, some people would give their left arm to look younger, just shop in the kid’s section” (trust me, anyone who’d give their left arm to look younger as a young woman is an idiot). There may be people out there spending 80 dollars to buy their 8 year olds see-thought lace teddies, but realistically, most of the target demographic for these products in adult and teen/tween stores are for, well, adults (who can wear whatever they damn please) and teens (who will wear whatever they damn please, regardless of- and due to- the uproar). And despite being bustier than average now, I can tell you how much it sucks to be the smaller-than-average girl in middle school when most of your classmates are larger than average, and running to the juniors section while you’re still wondering whether it’s worse to be seen flooding in 12s or baggy in 14s. Stores like Justice and abercrombie honestly were developed to alleviate that; their sizes may start at 7 or 8, but they run to larger sizes than most children’s line (when Justice was still Limited Too, I remember them carrying girls’ 18s, and a few “junior’s” 1s, 3s, and 5s, when most girl’s sizes would stop at 14, or even 12, and this was before 0s and 1s were popular, so being tall and thin or short and chubby was basically a condemnation to go naked) and are very much aimed at the middle school set. And whether moms like it or not, that’s an age when some of their classmates are adult sized and clothes really matter. These stores allow a certain amount of equalization in a setting where deviating from the norm either way makes you a target for bullies, both being too “developed” when you’re younger, and being too “scrawny” when you’re a bit older.. I don’t know about abercrombie, but Justice/Limited Too is hardly hawking “streetwalker” clothes. They’re selling sized-down, more modest, more colorful versions of what adult women and teenagers are wearing. For me, at least, it provided a comfortable transition when my only other options were wearing floodpants with elastic in the butt, or too big pants that were practically hanging off my butt and dragging under my feet. It’s also where I got my first training bras when I wasn’t really fitting any “average” sizes, but really couldn’t be going around without one in many situations. And yes, some of them were lined.

      And having looked through the Justice site, I honestly don’t get the big deal. Few of the dresses or skirts seem particularly short, and those that are have built-in shorts or are meant to be worn over leggings. Some parents may have issues with bikini swimsuits, but there are a myriad of tankini and one-pieces. There are plenty of inappropriate clothes out there for girls, but the usual targets don’t seem to be the main offenders, just the easiest targets.

    • Tusconian

      In that context, it is almost 100% used as Paris Hilton’s version of “hot.” As in, very trendy, popular, “cool,” etc. You could twist it to say “sexiest,” but that would be stretching. Especially since, as far as I can tell, that is a section for loose-fitting summer style athletic wear. While “sexy” might be the tertiary meaning, fact is, those clothes are a) for hot weather (it’s already summer where I am), and b) very trendy among preteen girls.

  • AP

    There are a lot of things that can turn once-appropriate clothing inappropriate, too. Kids grow overnight, and things shrink in the dryer, so a favorite outfit can quickly switch to “too small.” Older siblings pass unwanted clothes down to a younger sibling, who’s not old enough for the style. An adult buys the kid an outfit a size too big “to grow into!” and then it’s falling down inappropriately.

  • THOMangoStreet

    thongs are sexy?!?! that is news to me, I personally just wear them so I don’t get panty lines (unprofessional) and because “full coverage” bunch up my butt crack thoughout the day resulting in the “butt pick” (which isn’t a great career move duing a presentation). thongs are just a sensible underwear item choice for those that find them comfortable (and if you think they feel like dental floss, honestly you should probably go up two sizes) Thongs are a sensible choice, unless of course they are crotchless :)

    i do however agree that many of the innapproripate t-shirt sayings and shorter shorts, etc often come from discount/cheaper stores (kohls, kmart, etc). the companies might be trying to save some money on fabric (which is often the case as to why taller girls can’t find anything appropriate), but these items must be selling. so maybe we should discuss the target demograophics of these companies and the socioeconomic implications of that. people love to hate on abercrombie because their models photograph sexy but i have NEVER seen any cheesy graphic T’s there saying “My best subject is boys” or “I’m 2 smart for homework”

    Don’t we want for our daughters to have true confidence that comes with intellectual achievement AND be proud of their bodies…..
    Welcome to the real world where innapropriate people stare at your butt and breasts NO MATTER HOW COVERED OR UNCOVERED THEY MAY BE, lets stop making the girl feel like its her fault and accepting the gender shame that comes with that and realize that if a person is attractive, even a pair of “hammer pants” won’t stop a dude from checking you out.
    and doesn’t this mentality contribute to rape culture anyway? “she wore a short skirt so she wanted me to force sex on her”. People need to think long and hard about the messages they send and not just repeat the same culturally male dominated sterotypes and sayings they have heard their whole lives in the name of feminism….

  • jsterling93

    I keep seeing Ambercrombie being mentioned but as far as I know their clothes are meant for 14-20 something not 6 year olds so I don’t understand the issue,

  • KyukiYoshida

    My parents were like that, they would buy me clothes that were “perfectly decent” at the time, but then would shame and scream at me for wearing a simple tank top that they bought me. They then decided one day that my clothes and even bras and underwear weren’t big enough, so they bought all my clothes 2 sizes bigger than what I wore. I also wasn’t allowed to shave, or wear deodorant even though I was past puberty at 12. Don’t ever do that to your kids.

  • Elizabeth

    The other possibility, is the dad just realized his girls are one day going to be women and he freaked out. I don’t even know what these dresses would look like. “drooping off the should”? So it’s an off the should dress? So what? And what are these “other peakaboos” he’s talking about? Unless it’s a cutout dress (which I highly doubt) then I think the guy is over reacting.

    This happens all. the. time. I work for a shoe store and we sell a lot of dress shoes for kids. I’ve had dads come in and throw fits when their *teenage* daughter picks out a *1 inch* heel. When a dad throws a fit because is sixteen year old daughter wants to wear our least sexy dress shoe, I have to get a coworker to take over.

    And for some extra information, most girls start wearing (low) wedges around middle school (10-13) and by their early teens we regularly suggest one to two in heels or two to three inch wedges. (And at the end of the day, it’s a personal decision for *moms* to make. It’s completely fine to go higher, provided they walk well, but understandable for moms to choose to stick to flats for a few more years.)

  • NotAPrettyGirl

    When I was a kid, Brittney Spears was really popular. That meant girls clothes were designed to expose your midriff no matter what. An extra large t-shirt still only grazed the waistband of low rise jeans. So I wore my brother’s t-shirts and boys’ jeans through 7th grade so I could actually do things without my stomach being cold.

    A problem arises when you can no longer find boy jeans that fit your girl body. And when kids at school start calling you a lesbian or hermaphrodite for refusing to wear low-cut shirts when you don’t even have boobs yet.

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