(tw: media portrayal and sexualization of young girls)
With Halloween coming up, it’s a bit easier to notice that there’s something…off with a lot of costumes they’ve been putting out. You know the ones I’m talking about.
I guess what’s weird is that 8 years ago, I would probably look at the costumes in the tween racks and feel a little bit envious knowing I wasn’t going to be hot stuff that year. But then again, 8 years ago, the Halloween costumes were honestly not all that great either. Now what I notice when I pass by Target or other department stores around October, a lot of the tween (9-14 yo) costumes look like shrunken versions of their much older, more humorous counterparts. As in, humorous and ironic on grown adults, but kind of creepy for kids to wear. Throwback to when I was a middle schooler–I was a huge dork. Everyone was a huge dork. Pretty much all the costumes were dorky–witch, jedi knight, cat, pirate, fireman, etc (not even accounting for kids who took their own creative tack on costumes that year). But now, I’ve been seeing a lot more “sexy/hot/naughty” tacked on the front? For kids?
I’m all for people who want to dress up as a “sexy” ladybug that’s composed of strategically placed red fabric, lace suspenders, and gauze wings (and maybe antennae headband if we’re lucky) SO LONG AS THEY’RE GROWN. 18 (or at least a teenager that’s old enough)? Go ahead, have fun, party, be safe. 13? UMMMM. UUUUUUUMMMMMM. OH MAN WHERE DID YOU FIND THAT? (HOW DID YOU FIND THAT?)
I read a post somewhere online about how markets capitalized on the creation of the “tween” demographic by pulling shit like this and sexualizing younger girls, often introducing a lot of negative body image issues earlier on to foster insecurity over not appearing “desirable”, encouraging them to constantly attempt to improve themselves to meet ridiculous and unrealistic beauty standards. Now you’ve got media to back up the whole mythical “interesting teenage life” where in shows like Pretty Little Liars you have teachers messing around with underage students. (Sure the actors are grown, but still.)
You even have fashion magazines with kids modeling the latest high-edge fashion–only, why are they wearing heels? Why are they airbrushed and caked with makeup? Why do they stare dead-eyed at the camera, posing like grown adults?
You might ask, really what’s the harm in it? Nobody’s getting hurt right? (Reread above). Well, okay, but really?
Yes. Really. You see it enough and you start to get desensitized to it, it starts to get normalized and then people start thinking that it’s actually okay. You’ve got vulnerable kids and teenagers (male, female, everything in-between and nonbinary) who start to think it’s normal. That it’s fine to be in some kind of relationship with an adult much older than them. Where emotional and mental maturity are just not going to be able to match up–not even mentioning the immense power imbalance in this type of situation. Where no matter how smart you are or think you are, or how much control you feel you have, it’s a game with a tilted board and you can’t win. Use the old age ‘biology’ straw argument, use pseudo-science, try to justify it all–but when it comes down to it? Just don’t.