Summer is approaching, and females everywhere are scrambling to find the perfect swimsuit to accentuate the body they have shamelessly dieted for. This year, however, retailers are targeting an age group that is better left alone.
According to a March 25 article from FoxNews.com, Abercrombie Kids, a division of Abercrombie & Fitch dedicated specifically to youth ages 8 to 14, began marketing the “Ashley” Push-Up Triangle bikini, complete with thick padding to enhance breasts. After public outrage, according to the article, the company announced on its Facebook page it would change its marketing strategy to “padded” and agreed it was best suited for girls 12 and older.
This is not the first time the company has angered consumers. In 2002, it began offering thongs with the words “eye candy” and “wink wink” printed on the front in children’s sizes. Groups spoke out in anger and called for a boycott.
Abercrombie & Fitch is known for its sexualized images, but now the company is crossing the line.
In a culture that is already saturated with messages of inadequacy, these young girls are being fed the idea that their bodies are not up to par. They have no use for breast-enhancing swimsuits — the average age a girl hits puberty is 12. The company is selling sex to girls that aren’t even developed physically. The goal of these swimsuits is simply to make young girls appear older than they actually are, and they are being made into a sex objects before they have reached adulthood.
The sexualization of teens has been an issue for years, but now it is beginning to affect younger girls. Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Nancy Irwin said in the article that such a bikini could pave the way for sexual promiscuity.
If we are teaching girls to base their value on their bodies, they will undoubtedly carry that belief into their teenage and adult years. This will lead to long-term issues with self-esteem.
A report released by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2007 defined sexualization as “occurring when a person’s value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another’s sexual use.”
Research found the sexualization of girls led to emotional and self-image problems, could cause eating disorders and depression, and suggested it could prevent girls from developing a healthy self-image.
Opponents may argue the trend is harmless because girls are just trying to feel pretty or be fashionable. But no matter which way you put it, the goal of these bikinis is simply to make young girls appear older. Girls between 8 and 14 have no business attracting males by wearing push-up bikinis.
Parents are key in this battle. They must teach their children to value their bodies and not allow them to succumb to pressure to grow up before it is time.
Chancey Herbolsheimer is a freshman journalism and political science double major from Amarillo.