This month Dr. Rebecca Hains, author of The Princess Problem, wrote about an incident that, although shocking, is unfortunately all too familiar for many parents. Whilst at their local YMCA swimming pool, a mother was told by staff that her one year old daughter had to cover up and wear a swimming top.
Dr. Hains raises two important points as a result of this incident. Firstly, why would any adult think it necessary for a girl’s undeveloped chest to be covered? And secondly, at such an young age it is often difficult to know the gender of a child, so this type of rule clearly discriminates against what people may perceive to be feminine coloured swimming attire. If your one year old daughter was wearing blue swimming shorts, would she avoid the attention of over zealous staff? Similarly, what if your son wore pink swimming shorts? The gender discrimination is hard to miss.
Commenting on this incident professor of psychology Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker says, “Through this kind of behaviour as adults, we are teaching little girls that their bodies are sexual objects … Because culturally, we believe a female body is a sexual object for the pleasure of others. We have got to stop this nonsense. It’s teaching our girls very harmful messages about where their social power comes from, and about what makes them valuable as a human being.”
In a similar event occurred last month in Ontario; an 8 year old girl, who had taken off her t-shirt to join her brothers in the local wading pool, was told that she had to cover up. The policy was that girls over 4 years old had to wear a top. Her father later commented “She was so embarrassed and really nervous and scared because it appeared she was in trouble … You hope that never happens, but you know it’s going to eventually. Basically she’s eight years old, and she’s been sexualized by a stranger.” At such an early age we see how society teaches this little girl that there is something wrong with her body and that it needs to be covered up.
The City of Guelph subsequently released a statement apologising and announcing that it would review it’s policies. In support of the family, Change.org began a petition entitled “Change your discriminating policy regarding ‘dress-codes’ at enclosed pools and splash pad facilities.”
Tackling these types of unacceptable policies head on is so important because not only do they sexualise young girls, they very directly feed into the wider issue of what we now know as ‘body shaming’. And there are many examples of how this concept effects children from an increasinlgy younger age. You may remember back in April the “I hate my thighs” baby grow which was swiftly taken off the shelves due to a massive outcry on social media.
Employee Jason Evans took a picture of the purple baby grow hanging next to a blue one with the slogan ‘I’m Super’ in New York University’s Bookstore. He shared the image on Facebook saying: “I had a very difficult time not raging out about this in the college store. These are onesies…for infants…guess which one is for girls and which one is for boys? THIS is the problem.”
Earlier this year Children’s advocacy group Common Sense Media released a report about the media’s unrealistic beauty standards and its effect on kids self esteem.
Jennifer Swann of TakePart commented on the report – “The findings showed that 80 percent of the country’s 10-year-old girls have been on a diet, and more than half of girls even younger report not being as thin as they’d like to be. Boys also overwhelmingly say their weight causes the most dissatisfaction with their body. Many of them grew up playing with action figures, whose measurements now exceed those of even the biggest bodybuilders.”
Along with many others, here at Tootsa MacGinty we feel very passionately that we should #letclothesbeclothes and allow children to be children. We believe the unisex aspect of our clothing allows kids to just enjoy the fun and colourful side of clothes, rather than informing who they are, defining them by their gender and conforming to how they “should” look.
Why burden children with concepts such as gender identity when they have their whole lives ahead of them to discover who they would really like to be?
Written By Lisa Dwyer Hogg