Costumes make life harder for girls
It’s costume party season, and online shopping giant SHEIN is cashing in with an enormous range of school girl themed costumes.
The search term ‘costume girls’ returned scores of listings featuring objectifying and porn inspired images of young women dressed in stereotype tartan mini skirts, crop and bikini tops and neck ties. One costume bore a school logo style badge which read ‘Student’.
Sometimes the models were styled wearing braids or buns, lending to younger, more girlish appearances. Others posed wearing glasses or holding books and pens.
One posed holding a cherry to her lips - a classic trope used to signify a girl’s virginity and to suggest her “readiness” to “lose it".
One particularly disturbing listing showed a young woman styled with braids and buns poses on the floor in a pink tartan skirt and white frilled crop top, surrounded by stuffed animals. The set resembles a young girl's bedroom. We have long highlighted how this type of styling - known as a ‘paedophilic aesthetic’ - sends the message that young girls are sexually available to men. It has the effect of eroticising and normalising child sexual abuse. We condemn any company which uses it to flog their products.
SHEIN's porn style school girl costume and fetish wear promos were interspersed with listings for young and toddler girl Halloween costumes and clothing. Even pre-teen girls were presented as 'horny devils' by SHEIN.
SHEIN's message to girls: Slay. Until you grow up. Then you can buy our merch designed to cater to men's porn fantasies.
Meanwhile, real school girls are suffering sexual harassment of a nature and at rates never before seen.
During recent months, Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist has heard from thousands of school girls who described their daily experiences of sexual harassment by male peers. News.com.au reported:
“So what grades 5 and 6 girls are telling me used to be what the senior girls told me,” [MTR] said.
“They’re telling me that boys are threatening to rape them.
“Three girls, two weeks ago, told me – they were all 14 to 15 – that boys have threatened to rape their mothers and sisters if they didn’t send naked pictures.”
She also reported that a group of year 7 girls were offered cash by their male peers to make “porn films for them and their mates”.
Another teacher told Ms Tankard Reist that she overheard a 12-year-old boy ask another boy, ‘How do you know you’re having sex’?
“The other 12-year-old boy replied, ‘When she starts to cry’.
UK petition to ban school girl costumes
Last year, London Radical Feminists launched a petition to stop the selling of school uniforms in sex shops. Pointing to a recent increase in reporting of school-based harassment and abuse, they highlighted the experience of girls en route to and from school:
In 2018, 35% of school age girls reported to have been sexually harassed whilst travelling to and from school because they were dressed in school uniform.
To repeat, they experienced this abuse because they were wearing school uniforms.
This harassment included groping, cat calling and wolf-whistling, all of which increases young women’s fears when out in public before and after school. This behaviour was recorded also as either experienced or witnessed by girls from the age of 8. That means that from 8 years old, girls are seeing the link between their school uniform, and the sexualisation they face. (emphasis added)
Source: change.org (LRF)
The petition identifies drivers of sexual harassment of school girls, including ‘teen’ pornography and school girl fetish costumes:
If we want to make a society that is safer for young girls and women, we need to be addressing the causes of such harassment. In the UK today, ‘teen’ is one of the most popular categories on online pornography websites, and sex shops across the UK continue to stock school uniforms to be worn as sexual roleplay.
How can we possibly create a safer world for young girls and women if we treat the clothing they wear to school as a sexual costume? How can we create a safer world for young girls and women if we accept that a suitable adult roleplay is to pretend one partner is below the age of consent by dressing them in clothing designed to look like that worn by young girls in 90% of British schools?
In a 2020 tweet, feminist author and speaker Rachel Moran - herself a survivor of prostitution and abuse - asked women to respond with the age they first experienced sexual objectification, harassment or assault.
Women, in order to deliver a necessary wake up call, I’m asking you to respond to this tweet with simply your age the first time you were sexually objectified/leered at/spoken to inappropriately or sexually assaulted by a grown man. Just your age please. I’ll start: 9— Rachel Moran (@RachelRMoran) April 2, 2020
The tweet drew 2.2k responses, a sample of which indicates most women were under the age of 13 at the time.
Life’s hard enough for girls navigating life and school in a culture shaped by pornography. By flogging products which eroticise and fetishise school girls, SHEIN makes it even harder.