As a woman in her mid-20s, online people roll their eyes when I begin a sentence with “Back in the day….” or “I remember when I was young…” Why would such a young person who’s barely begun adulthood even start a discussion in this way? Well, sickness there was a clear difference in my past childhood and the childhood of today. Aside from the lack of reality TV shows, 24/7 social networking sites, and an age where a cellphone is used to record Youtube-worthy crimes instead of calling the local police, my childhood was the same as girls in the new millennium. I loved unicorns, drove my mom crazy with my Crayola artwork plastered across the walls, and was attracted to anything bright and sparkly. All of these commonly-held interests of course dictated my dubious fashion sense. Bright pink or purple track suits/ t-shirts were bedecked with sparkly flowers, cuddly creatures of the fuzzy variety, Barbie, and Disney princesses, as opposed to the male counterpart: primary colored track suits and shirts splattered with Marvel/Capcom heroes and villains, race cars, motorcycles, or some athletic figure. In essence, my grade school companions dressed like kids idolizing whatever gender stereotype Disney and other marketing firms churned out.
I have noticed that today, however, children, especially girls, are rapidly disappearing. Still subject to Disney’s modern princesses, Hannah Montana for instance, most girls still eat up anything bright, cuddly, and sparkly. However, the key difference now is the increasingly disturbing trend of lost innocence among girls. Three obvious outlets of this can be seen in dolls similar to Bratz, teen fashion, and reality TV showcasing children.
Unlike Barbie, who actually looked like a decent woman, Bratz dolls are a monstrous creation thanks to the overly-vamped, heavily- lidded eye shadow, the collagen-enhanced pout, and the questionable clothing. Teen fashion, obviously meant to encase one’s curves, is now being packaged in little girl versions. Low-cut, padded tops to give the appearance of breasts, while high cut shorts with inappropriate sayings bedazzled with rhinestones and/or bright colors draw attention to the rear. It’s bad enough that we live in an increasingly sexualized world, or, that despite recent studies, media and advertising campaigns produced an objectified view of women who are already struggling with negative body perceptions and low self-esteem. Now shows like Toddlers and Tiaras glorify little girls naturally going through a beauty regimen reserved for women: waxing, plucking, tanning, professional mani/pedis, facials, makeup …. all while trying to strut in hips not present, provocatively batting their falsies at the judges.
Whatever happened to children’s talent shows with horrible but endearing performances, crooked teeth, dirt under the fingernails from making mud pies in the sun, dressing up in your mother’s clothing, or applying your mother’s makeup with a shaky, yet unenthusiastic, hand? Not all children are like the kiddie beauty queens, but more and more these children are starting to dress like women, while the women role models are trying to recapture their youth by dressing in teen clothing. Let’s embrace childhood’s flaws, which is the key reason for its charm to begin with, and take a stand against exploiting young girls like the latest ten-year old, Vogue model: Thylane Blondeau.