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June 2, 2004
Young Girls: We Don't Need No Exploitation

In a society gone skin-mad, voices of reason seem few and far between. Surprisingly, though, retailers and designers have started to heed calls for more modest choices in clothing aimed at young girls -- from the target market itself:

During a recent shopping trip to Nordstrom, 11-year-old Ella Gunderson became frustrated with all the low-cut hip-huggers and skintight tops. So she wrote to the Seattle-based chain's executives to complain. The industry has been getting the message: A more modest look is in, fashion experts say. ...

The Web sites and where the slogan is "Clothing your father would be proud of" report that sales have skyrocketed over the past 18 months. Many youngsters are frustrated by the profusion of racy teenage clothing, according to Buzz Marketing, a New Jersey-based firm that compiles feedback from teen advisers.

"There is just sensory overload. Kids are going to say enough already," said Buzz's 24-year-old chief executive, Tina Wells. "The next big trend I see is kids are going to look like monks."

Apart from the sneering condescension from the likes of Tina Wells, this new modesty movement among younger girls sounds like good news to this grandfather of a two-year-old girl. Wells represents the group of women who confuse liberation with exploitation and naturally resent others who know the difference. Ella Gunderson and her peers, who have made their displeasure known at the streetwalker-style outfits that abound these days, somehow have thus far avoided bein brainwashed into believing that women become more free and more respected in direct relation to the amount of skin they show.

Of course, Ella and her friends still have to negotiate the rocky shoals of adolescence, but hopefully her values will remain unchanged. It would be good news indeed if we can raise a generation of young women who refuse to sell themselves short. At the least, pressuring retailers, designers, and magazines to give them a broader range of options demonstrates their savvy at standing up for themselves -- and that's a great start.

UPDATE: Susan Estrich earlier today made the same complaint regarding little-girl fashions, and one can hardly accuse Estrich of being a social conservative -- although this kind of problem may eventually push her in that direction:

In my house, where the former preteen just turned 14, we call it slutwear. Girls wear wifebeater T-shirts with Pornstar logos that my daughter tells me cost a fortune. Their mothers let them out of the house dressed that way? I ask in shock. Presumably, someone buys them these clothes.

The seven men at the Wet Seal board meeting were not the only ones in Orange County addressing the limits of teenage sexuality last week. In a courthouse just a short hop away, defense lawyers were arguing that a teenage girl, who might have been a Wet Seal customer, pretended to be an actress in a kinky sex scene and willingly had sex with three boys (one of them the deputy sheriff's son), who are charged with raping and assaulting the then-16-year-old with a pool cue, a Snapple bottle and a lighted cigarette. According to the defense lawyers, this wasn't an isolated incident. ...

If you don't want to be treated like a slut, don't dress like one, I tell my daughter and her friends. If you don't want to send a message about sex, don't dress your daughter in sexually provocative clothes, I tell other mothers.

QandO's Dale Franks reacts:

Every day, I'm seeing younger and younger girls wearing brief skirts, bare midriffs, sporting belly-button rings, and the whole nine yards.

There is something deeply sick about allowing pre-teen girls to display their bodies while wearing clothes that sport sexual messages. And I've seen these clothes available in the children's' section of clothing stores. We aren't talking about "Juniors" here, but actual 6-10 year old kids.

First, you are a fool to assume that the sexual message it broadcasts for your daughter will not be received by some distinctly nasty people. Second, it teaches your daughter that it's perfectly benign to present herself as a sex object to the general public.

Either way, you're doing your child a gross disservice, and are negligently exposing them to dangers they shouldn't have to face.

There's more, so be sure to read the whole post.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 2, 2004 9:41 PM

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