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.