Free from ‘toxic chemicals.’ Not free from toxic messages
Last week, 15 girls aged 14-16, and involved with Fusion Mornington Peninsula’s Real Girls program, took on Australian make-up and skincare brand Frank Body over its lip and cheek ‘Send Nudes’ product.Read more
UK retailer Primark has been accused of sexualising toddlers by selling frilly, adult-style bikinis for children younger than two.
Young mother Holli Sherratt saw the swimwear while shopping and felt they were inappropriate.
Ms Sherratt said:
“In my eyes it is completely stripping the innocence and childhood of said child. When I first saw the bikini, I instantly thought it was lovely until I realised it was for a child.
“A child should be covered up, protected from the sun and not flaunted as some sort of model. I have a daughter of my own and I want to protect her innocence and let her be a child. I look at this bikini the same way I look at bras that are aimed at young children.”
Children’s campaigners Kidscape have urged the retailer to “let our children be children” and to leave bikinis for a time when girls have breasts and make a choice to wear them.
Primark denied the swimwear is unsuitable, claiming the bikinis are in line with British Retail Consortium guidelines.
“Why do girls’ dysfunctional clothes prioritise their looks over their freedom? And why do we parents buy them?”
A recent article on SBS described a mother’s frustration over the process of trying to buy appropriate clothing and footwear for her young daughter. Most of the clothing is designed to be pretty rather than comfortable or practical. Louise Wedgwood writes:
When shopping for my eldest, a boy, it’s a breeze to find shoes that are comfortable to play in and practical for parks and puddles.
When I stood in front of the girls’ sections in three different major retailers, I was perplexed each time. Why is almost EVERYTHING pink, frilly or sparkly? How are pale fabrics and glittery finishes to withstand the rigours of play?
On that first naive shoe-buying mission at my local shopping centres, I was desperate to go home with something. So I bought the most practical shoes I could find – Mary Janes in a sparkly rose gold canvas, and glittery jelly sandals.
From birth, girls’ “cutest” outfits are usually dresses. But they can be unwieldy to move in, and girls in dresses are discouraged from climbing, hanging upside down or doing anything else fun that might show their undies.
I’ve unwittingly restricted my daughter with dresses. We were given a sweet purple cotton dress with white polka dots, buttons down the back and contrasting frills on the edges. I popped it on my daughter for a playdate with a baby boy the same age, around 10 months old. They were both eager explorers but she kept getting tangled in the skirt and couldn’t crawl in it, navigate stairs or climb onto furniture. As soon as we got home, I changed her into leggings.
If an alien landed in any of our major retailers, you could forgive them for assuming girls and boys are different species. Girls’ t-shirts encourage them to be "sweet and fun" and "hug your heart out". Meanwhile boys' shirts instruct them to “say yes to new adventures”, “fly away with me” and be superheroes.”
Both boys’ and girls’ slogans limit them to narrow stereotypes but the girls’ are particularly uninspiring. “Those companies are selling sexism, basically, the idea of a subordinate female or a dominant male,” according to Dr Hannah McCann, a gender studies lecturer at the University of Melbourne.
New research confirms Australian girls want a fair go.
Important new research commissioned by Plan International Australia has found that young Australian girls believe they are not treated equally to their male counterparts.
98% of girls said they receive unequal treatment compared to boys, particularly in sports, the media (television and magazines), at school, and at home.
Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, girls’ perceptions of inequality are felt most profoundly in the realms of sports and media. With adverts such as the Roxy Pro Biarritz 2013 official teaser, where the viewer’s focus is placed squarely on the sexualised bodies of female sports professionals rather than on their efforts and talents, the reasons for this finding quickly become clear.
In fact, it was found that after inequality, girls are most concerned with being scrutinised for the way they look instead of being appreciated for their abilities and talents. A staggering 93% of girls aged 15 to 17 years said it would be simpler to get ahead in life if they were not judged on their appearance.
When confronted with this finding, one frustrated mother commented: “I’m not surprised. Imagine what our daughters and we could achieve if there was no pressure to look a certain way. Instead of having to worry about shopping, shaving, manicuring, blow-drying, ‘make-uping’, dieting, self-monitoring, and all the rest of it, we could be spending our time doing things that actually matter.”
Vitryona Vaifale, a 15-year-old girl from St Clare's Catholic High School in Sydney's west, said she was tired of hearing she could not participate in sports because she is a girl.
Year 10 students at St Clare's Catholic High School are determined to stand up to gender inequality.
"I wanted to play football and some people in my community told me 'Oh, you can't play football because of you're a girl'. When I heard I couldn't play football, it's like 'But it's what I like to do. It's what I want to do but if you're putting me down like that, I can't do that.’"
Statistics and anecdotes like these can be discouraging. Discouraging too is that as girls get older, their confidence drops. At 10 years of age, only 56% of girls view themselves as being confident. Sadly, this number falls to just 44% by the time they reach 17.
Dr Steve Biddulph AM, Plan International Australia ambassador, family psychologist, and author of books such as Raising Girls and 10 Things Girls Should Know, asserts that the drop in confidence girls feel as they enter puberty is well-documented.
“Girls of 10 or 11 are usually very feisty and at ease with themselves, but studies show a real drop off as they enter their teens. And their mental health has worsened dramatically as a result. It started to decline 10 years ago and now it’s gone over a cliff. One in five girls now has a diagnosed mental health problem,” Dr Biddulph said
Jacqueline Rousselot, 17-year-old girl, said: "Rather than this idea that they should sit on the side and watch, they can participate in sport, they can feel comfortable they can sit how they want without worrying about how they look to other people."
"I think having that idea in your mind can increase confidence level, activity, physical activity and overall it creates that idea that you are equal to the boys you're being educated beside," said Rousselot.
About the Author: Violeta Buljubasic detests pornography and anything that resembles it. Cognisant of its devastating consequences, she believes that porn and the raunch culture from which it stems are symptoms of a ubiquitous ill that has removed sex and sexuality from their original design. Moved by the work of Collective Shout, Fight the New Drug, and NCOSE, Violeta hopes to be part of the solution to this insidious problem.