According to Caroline Marcus of The Sunday Telegraph, parents in Australia have been taking their nine-year-old daughters to undergo leg-waxing treatments, something New South Wales Community Services Minister Linda Burney has criticized as emblematic of the oversexualization of children:
"It raises the broader issue of children growing up too quickly and brings up the issue of sexualization of children," Burney says, "Children should be allowed to be children and not feel they need to emulate what they see in gossip magazines and the advertising industry."
Waxing, however, isn't the only topic raising questions on how society sexualizes young girls: as Rachel Williams of the Guardian points out, retailers are still selling high heels, padded bikini tops, and t-shirts with suggestive clothing to children in elementary school. As Anna Van Heeswijk of the anti-women's sexualization group Object tells Williams, "These clothes are a worrying example of how girls are being groomed at younger and younger ages to fit into a sex-object culture, in which women are viewed as a sum of body parts, always sexually available, and whose value lies in how sexy they look to boys and men."
While I'm not entirely surprised by the push by retailers to continue selling ridiculously sexualized clothing to children, I am surprised, and horrified by, the continued encouragement and acceptance of said sexualization on behalf of the parents who buy this shit for their kids: I have a six-year-old niece, and while I've seen some ridiculously inappropriate clothing out there for her, it's not that hard to sidestep the Toddlers & Tiaras look in favor of something more appropriate for the first grade crowd. It's not "cute" to dress your 6-year-old up as a 25-year-old. It's gross, and potentially developmentally harmful: as child sexualization expert Emma Rush tells Marcus, "girls in primary schools were now exhibiting depression, anxiety and eating disorders, which had all been strongly linked to sexualisation."
The waxing issue is also a disturbing one: my own mother didn't allow me to shave my legs until I was 14, and even then, I did it against her wishes, due to teasing by my classmates. Two razors and a permanent scar later, my legs were shaved. At the time, when my mother got mad at me for doing it, I thought she was just upset that I'd gone against her wishes. Now, I realize, she just might not have wanted me to grow up just yet. And I was 14! I can't even imagine the thought process, barring some medically extreme condition, that goes into taking a nine year old to get her legs ready for bathing suit season.
So what say you, commenters? Are retailers to blame for the sexualization of children? Or should parents take responsibility for how they allow their children to dress? Or is it, perhaps, a combination of both?
Parents Forcing Girls, 9, To Get Legs Waxed [Sunday Telegraph]
Too Much, Too Young? Retailers Still Selling Oversexualized Clothing To Kids [Guardian]