Sexism, What About the Children?! Edition.

(cross-posted from TAPPED.)

LZ Granderson used his weekly column at CNN.com yesterday to bury the otherwise unobjectionable objection to over-sexualizing young girls in reductive language that will do more harm than good. In fairness, he likely didn’t write the deplorable headline: “Parents, don’t dress your girls like tramps.” (Next up from LZ Granderson: “If that were my child, I’d give him a darn good spanking.”)

The column begins with a lengthy, leering, lecherous description of an 8-year-old Granderson saw in an airport, wearing a midriff top. If the pedophiles he raises as a specter didn’t get a chance to ogle the poor girl in question, then they’ll be thankful for Granderson’s column. Next, Granderson goes on a rant about a trend he’s noticed; Well, if a trend is made up of a girl he saw in an airport plus two controversial marketing campaigns by the clothing company Abercrombie and Fitch. That is, the company makes things like push-up bras and thongs for young girls, and parents by them. Or, he argues, parents must have an appetite for them because companies supply these products and kids can’t shop by themselves.

Granderson tries to couch his argument in Concern for the Children language: he points out that early sexualization can lead to a lot of problems in girls. But that’s more complicated than a clothing store and a girl travelling in a short shirt and Juicy Couture pants. It also doesn’t need to be presented as a binary choice between, using his language, having a “sweet, little girl” and “dressing little girls like prostitutes.”

What harm could these types of clothing cause in the future? Granderson urges us to consider that, but he’s certainly not considering the effect using his column space to throw around such regressive ideas will have on women young and old. Sexuallizing young girls is bad, but there’s also the risk that most reactions are knee-jerk conservative qualms about female sexuality masquerading as concern. There’s a space in between childhood and adult, in which young women discover their sexuality, react to and against cultural norms and think about what it will mean to be an adult woman. That doesn’t happen outside of the larger influences of a sexist world; one that would exploit young girls. But it would serve Granderson well to remember which side he would rather be on.

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7 comments to Sexism, What About the Children?! Edition.

  • matador1015

    I agree with the basic premise; however, as a parent I understand that the children do nothing without the parent’s permission, support, or ignorance. If he’d made that point instead of Typing With One Hand™ I would have been with that.

    Do be aware that the average clothing aisle has seductive items for toddlers. If a kid’s mom wants to sexualize their children (losing a piece of innocence in the process), there are plenty of outlets willing to accommodate.

  • I agree that his approach is rather regressive and oppressive and dislike his “going all the way there” with the description. That was a little ICK.

    However, this conversation needs to be had and not just because we’re trying to protect young girls, but because there needs to be a different take on women’s sexuality and what it really means for us. In fact there needs to be an honest open conversation about sexuality in general. Boys walk around with their underwear showing because they think it looks hot. The young girls think it looks hot.

  • BRdirtysouth

    Clearly you don’t get out much. What Granderson has described is indeed a trend. Just comb through youtube or walk through a mall and you’ll find plenty of examples that support his case.

    I do agree that his opening was very pedophile-friendly.

  • Steph

    I also felt some discomfort with the language of the article, but I agree with its premise and think Granderson has good intentions. I don’t think it’s okay for an 8-year-old to dress like Miley Cyrus, and I agree that parents should act like parents and step in when a child (male or female) wants to flout sexuality at too early an age, which I feel is the larger point.

  • I did an unofficial count and these sorts of arguments that come up are often only a countdown (in the article itself or the commentariat) to A. people taking quick opportunities to put down moms (not any other adult in the child’s life, with direct or indirect influence) and B. opportunities to slut-shame, Other, & put down young girls themselves, hence “clever” phrases like “prostitots”, etc. In other words I look forward to articles discussing this without engaging in garden-variety slut-shaming, adultism, and misogyny, and apparently Granderson’s column is not it.

    “There’s a space in between childhood and adult, in which young women discover their sexuality, react to and against cultural norms and think about what it will mean to be an adult woman. That doesn’t happen outside of the larger influences of a sexist world; one that would exploit young girls. ”

    Very well-said.

  • Amy

    Kelly sent me here and I’m glad for it. I was very frustrated after seeing and reading this opinion piece, yesterday (so much so that I wrote about it today.) You touch on many things that are important, primarily that developing sexuality and how dare we comment on or slut-shame something so personal and precious. And yes, the tone, the leering quality of his observations was enough to turn my stomach. Thank you, for this.

  • matador1015

    And might I add that yes, fathers need to pay attention to their daughters as well. Either way, there are too many things working against even the most attentive parents that can influence a young girl. I can’t put my daughters in chastity belts and assign a security detail every time they leave the house. I can, however, set a good example and be there to talk to them.

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