Are Parents Solely To Blame For The Sexualization Of Girls?

Last month, the Wall Street Journal published an article condemning parents for letting America's little girls dress like harlots. Apparently parents weren't shamed enough, because this week LZ Granderson decided to write a CNN opinion piece that makes the same point. Well, his piece drops the weird argument about moms being ashamed of boning all those dudes in college, but what it lacks in self-loathing it makes up for with slut-shaming 8-year-olds.

The piece starts:

I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye.

Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie "10" (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her "Xtina" phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.

You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word "Juicy" was written on her backside.

Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see all right. ... I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she's not even in middle school yet.

Yeah, every time I see a second grader with braids, lip gloss, and earrings the first thing I think is, "what a whore!" Granderson actually means well. He sees that girls are being sexualized at a younger age and realizes something isn't right. The problem is he fails to see this as a symptom of the larger issue, that women are mainly valued for their sexuality, and puts the blame totally on the the parents who buy their girls Abercrombie push-up bras.

Granderson argues that companies only sell these products because they know parents will buy them. That's true, but he doesn't address why people buy them. He writes:

It's easy to blast companies for introducing the sexy wear, but our ire really should be directed at the parents who think low rise jeans for a second grader is cute. They are the ones who are spending the money to fuel this budding trend. They are the ones who are suppose to decide what's appropriate for their young children to wear, not executives looking to brew up controversy or turn a profit.

Should parents refuse to buy items that are inappropriate for children? Sure. But this isn't a simple question of parental responsibility. For some reason, many Americans are very concerned about defending the rights of corporations to use whatever sleazy marketing techniques necessary to sell their products, and quick to criticize anyone who buys into their message for being stupid and lazy. Most people think advertising doesn't work on them, so they feel comfortable judging people who regularly eat fast food and parents who buy their daughters Bratz dolls for being weak willed. (Of course, none of these critics have ever enjoyed a Big Mac with a huge chocolate shake.) As Granderson says, you can't blame corporate executives for trying to make a buck, so we really shouldn't complain if they use Joe Camel to push cigarettes on kids. It's all the parents' responsibility to tell their kids smoking is bad!

In case you're wondering, Granderson is nothing like the bad parents who submit to their kids' pleas to let them dress like Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg. He writes:

I don't care how popular Lil' Wayne is, my son knows I would break both of his legs long before I would allow him to walk out of the house with his pants falling off his butt. Such a stance doesn't always makes me popular — and the house does get tense from time to time — but I'm his father, not his friend.

Threats of violence: The key to good parenting! (Okay, he's obviously exaggerating, but it's still a disturbing image.) Granderson is clearly a perfect father, but most other parents fall somewhere between "Tiger Mom" and Amy Poehler in Mean Girls. About a decade or two before they had kids, parents were children who were targeted by advertisers in a similar way. Maybe their parents didn't let them dress like Madonna and they were teased for it. Many moms and dads aren't letting their girls wear trendy outfits because they want to turn them into sluts (trashy clothing always leads to sexual promiscuity), but because they want to save them from being bullied or feeling like a social outcast.

It would be nice if every parent in America enrolled in Women's Studies 101 and decided en masse to stand up to the twisted messages marketers send about female sexuality, but that isn't going to happen. Granderson asks, "What adult who wants a daughter to grow up with high self-esteem would even consider purchasing such items?" Perhaps an adult who's learned from marketers that her own self-esteem should come from her ability to remain wrinkle-free and squeeze into a tiny, low-cut dress. Girls do need to learn that looking hot isn't all women have to offer, but an adult woman who's internalized that message can't teach her daughter not to.

Parents, Don't Dress Your Girls Like Tramps [CNN]

Earlier: Teenagers Sluttier Than Ever, And It's All Their Mothers' Fault

Image via AVAVA/Shutterstock.