During our caption contest for the photo at your left there were a couple of comments about kids not noticing this kind of thing / don’t make a big deal if they don’t / don’t shelter your kids just talk to them / and one about packing up the kids to play at the park instead because they shouldn’t be at the mall anyway. (Yes, you could have played along on our Bingo card and won several times over.
I don’t think removing children from public spaces meant for all ages is the answer. The existence of children is not the problem. The acceptance of sexualization of the female form as our status quo is the problem.
My kids and I had no choice but to walk past this on the way to the specialty store we needed to buy a gift at. I very rarely go to our mall, so I had no idea this display was waiting for us. Because of the way the window sits in the wall, from the direction we were walking a shopper cannot see the images until you are in front of them. And then you are in front of 8 feet tall porny banners for poorly made lingerie and sex toys. With your seven and four year old. You are fooling yourself if you think kids don’t notice these kinds of things. Eyes wide shut.
My seven year old daughter did notice the banners. And she did comment. And I did talk to her.
“Oh, those girls are pretty. I really like them.” -7yo Original Pigtail Pal Amelia
“What do you like about them?” -Me
“Oh, they are so pretty. Like Barbie.” -OPP
“I think you are pretty and I think I am pretty. I think these women are showing a different look. Why do you think they are dressed like that?” -Me
“Well, that is their fancy underwear and the man is trying to see their boobs.” -OPP (See photo below)
“Remember the other night when you asked me what ‘sexy’ meant? These girls are dressed in a way that many people view as ‘sexy’. The underwear is called lingerie, it is only for grown ups. Their hair and makeup and poses, it is all meant to be sexy. They want the man to be looking at their breasts.” -Me
“Oh my god. I had no idea that is what it….Mom? Am I in trouble for looking at it?” -OPP
“No, you are not in trouble. There is no way for us to not look at it right now. But I want you to see the difference between being a beautiful, strong little girl in your own heart, and being a sexy grown up who wants men to look at your body. Being sexy is not for kids.” -Me
“Yeah. That isn’t appropriate for kids’ private parts.” -OPP
We walked into the store we needed to go to, ironically the University Bookstore right next door, and on our way out, Amelia said, “Mom, you should take a picture of me in the car like Ben because then people can see that I am a kid and that sexy ladies are for sexy ladies.”
So here you go. The photo of Benny (above) was taken in the moment, to show the juxtaposition of the children’s play space being invaded by sexualization. The photo of Amelia is staged, at her request, so that you can see that, in her words, “Sexy ladies are for sexy ladies, and not for kids.”
My first grader learned two new words at school this week, neither of which I am happy about. “Sexy” was one of them. The other was “asshole”. I always say that if the child is able to ask the question, she is ready for the answer. I don’t believe in sheltering my children, but I do believe in respecting their childhood. Our children have a natural born right to a childhood. I didn’t want to be explaining these concepts to her at seven years old. I am pissed that I have to.
Yet, I do have to. Or at least, begin to. This will be just one of many conversations about this topic as she matures. This wasn’t a commercial that I could turn off or something that I could have avoided. As is the case with so much marketing, there are very few ways to escape it. That is WHY they call it marketing.
Because I respect Amelia’s right to a childhood and her right to develop a healthy sexuality and sense of self-worth, she is now starting to understand “sexy”. I explained it to her in as best an age appropriate way as I could manage. I think she is getting, in a small way, what “sexy” might mean. The concept of “sexy’ isn’t a bad thing when introduced at an age appropriate time, and allowed to be explored when the person is ready. But I do have to say, the people who force this on kids and families really are assholes.
I’m really glad she didn’t notice or didn’t ask about the whip and tie. I can handle talking about a lot of things with my kids. BDSM less than ten feet from the kiddies rides is not one of those things.
Here were my favorite captions :
Caroline Burkhart Askew: “Hop in, Mom! We’ve got to get away from this blatant display of sexism speedy quick!”
Theresa Costello: “Yellow Sports Car Ride: 25 cents. Soft Core Porn in the store window: Free. Your son leanring he has to pay more for a fake car ride then a woman’s dignity? Priceless.”
Daniel Singha:l “Mom, you can’t park in the red light district, lemme move the car.”
Christine Harris” “Bemused preschooler flees porntastic midwest mall in speedster hotwired by older sibling. News at 11.”