Little Girls, Push-up Bras, Lipstick, and Thongs

happy little girl

When Malika Saada Saar recently attended her daughter’s second grade school dance recital, she noticed that the third and fourth grade classes performed dances that sexualized the 8- and 9-year-old girls. They “were dressed in short shorts and tight halter tops, shaking butts and breasts they did not have.”

Saar, Director of the Human Rights Project for Girls (a group of human rights attorneys and advocates dedicated to protecting the rights of vulnerable young women and girls in the U.S.), wrote “Raising Daughters in an Age of Thongs for Tweens,” for the Huffington Post, yesterday. Her words were strong and the message was clear: it’s time for us to give our daughters a new image of “female power, agency, and sexuality.”

I am a lover of dance; it has been a part of my life since I was three years old. I’ve been the performer, the teacher, and the choreographer, from the beginner to professional level. However, I’ve noticed that the disappearing act on clothing has become quite skilled, and the lines of appropriate movement for youth have been blurred. But the dance community is not the only group deserving blame; advertisers, media, and many others have also played a huge role in the “cultural backdrop of sexualized imagery.”

Saar writes, “Our daughters, even before their bodies take shape into adolescence and early womanhood, are encouraged to wear push-up bras, lipstick, and thongs. Does this give girls a healthy sense of their sexuality – or reduce them into eroticized commodities before they have an opportunity to understand their own bodies? Unfortunately, I believe it is the latter.”

I agree with Saar. More and more young girls are suffering from low self-esteem, anorexia and bulimia, and depression. And isn’t there a chance that this oversexualization of girls has aided in the alarming increase of teen pregnancies, missing child reports, and prostitution? How can we teach our daughters to be confident and celebrate their feminine identities as they grow into the tween years?

We can’t lock up our daughters and protect them from everything until they are 30 years old, or older; we’ve got to figure this out now, while they are still young. I’d like to know:

How will you teach your daughter to take pride in her sexuality, without her sexualizing her body?



What do you think?

Little Girls, Push-up Bras, Lipstick, and Thongs

Kimberly Shannon is a wife, a mother, an editor, a writer ... She is always working to find the perfect balance¹! After Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she worked on two master’s degree programs (Creative Writing, and Marriage and Family Therapy). At various times in her life she has signed up to study Naturopathy, only to back out at the last minute, and humored the idea of returning full-time to the world of dance. Kimberly has also started 10 different children ... More

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  1. JosePinones says:

    “From Little Things, Big Things Grow”

  2. Megan Klay says:

    Thank you for your feedback, Paul. One of our bloggers actually wrote a similar post about boys not too long ago, you can find it here:

  3. Paul Booge says:

    Surely we should be pushing for the de-sexualisation of all children not just girls. I’ve heard mothers telling there boys that they have to grow up with big muscles or they won’t get a girl friend when they grow up. Why is it that boys have to have big muscles to get a girl? If it is not a sexual desire of girls generally to see boys with big muscles. If, this is the case why is that being pushed on boys as young as 5? Surely its the sexualisation of all child that has to stop. Why are male children abandoned in this debate? Or don’t you care?

  4. Melody says:

    wonderful message!

  5. joselin leon says:

    good tips thank you

  6. Grace says:

    you should not have to lower your standards keep looking … praying you’ll find someone who complements you perfectly- it can happen….

  7. KarolineLamm says:

    Ultimately it comes down to the people closest in a girl’s, a daughter’s life, meaning the parents: the mother, of course, as a role model, but also the father, and the the parent’s relationship.

    A daughter with a father (or mother) who sees women as sex objects may have more difficulties to view herself as an independent entity, a person whose value is not defined by her sexual attractiveness. Women whose entire self-esteem is based on their physical appearance may be more likely to raise insecure daughters.

    The influence of advertising, media & society is admittedly a huge factor, and it’s unrealistic to try and shield your children 100% from it, which is why women have to work hard to change the face of society. This means first and foremost taking a hard look at yourself; knowing who and what we are, helps us to recognise how we project onto our daughters. To me, wearing revealing clothing and make-up is not how I damage a daughter. It’s more about not letting her grow intellectually, about not letting her learn critical thinking, about restricting her access to knowledge, it’s about fostering her natural curiousity.

    It’s tempting to blame a patriarchalic society (and I am not saying that all of the accusations against men & male entitlement are wrong) but foccusing solely on critique might lead to a passive stance as well: "they (the men) wronged/hurt us, so they have to correct the balance," which sadly isn’t a realistic approach.

    In my immediate environment I notice that girls who grow up being loved for the person they are, not their looks, are also less prone to develop the disorders mentioned in the post: bulimia, anorexia, etc.,

    Obiously girls whose intellectual progress is encouraged by the parents, take actively part in her education, take her opinions serious and help her to form complex, unbiased opinions, are also less likely to buy into the unhealthy body image that modern media projects and be influenced by advertising.

  8. the thing is that men are not the ones pushing for this, women are doing this most guys i know, look at women that dress like prostitutes as objects, women if you want men to respect you, respect yourself, and stop being a sheep, women care far more about what they look like then men do, sad thing is i know i will be a bachelor my whole life because most women in my generation are so fixed on aesthetics and pop culture, both things that i hate, that i cant even think about having my son being influenced by them, i know their are women out there that are not as shallow but i cant seem to find them, but i am also shallow because you cant just be deep you must be hot too, wont lower my standards for anyone

  9. Krejaton says:

    I work at an elementary school and, let me tell you, the problem isn’t the sexualization of the girls, it is the hyper-sexualization of the mothers. It seems to be almost a contest to see who can bare the most skin or wear the tightest clothing. When temps reach 85+, the schoolyard is a cleavage-fest at pick-up time.

    These "sexualized" girls need to look no farther than their tramp mothers who are teaching them that getting people to stare/gawk at your body is the way to a healthy self-image. Pathetic.

  10. Andreana says:

    I dont have a daughter but I have 2 nieces that are very close and important to me. I firmly believe Monkey See – Monkey Do. You absolutely cannot preach what you yourself do not teach. I think it important to explain to young girls why exactly they shouldnt dress "sexy" or to act older and more mature than what they are and not just be told no and leave it at that. Its about communication and having an open and honest relationship with them. Thats my opinion.

  11. lisa says:

    i agree wit u on that one if the daughter see u wearing decent clothing they will

  12. lisa says:

    i will never let my little girl at that age wear something like that if i find out that she is she will get into alot of trouble prying 2 god that she won’t wear stuff like that

  13. Rachel says:

    My daughter is only 11 months. I’m not a girly girl and don’t actually wear much of anything that is even made for females, so she won’t be seeing me wearing inapproiate clothing.

  14. tiffy says:

    little girls should dress like little girls. we should be a role model to them. lead by example is my motto. i was taught to be a self respecting lady as well as my sister so i will teach that to my little girl.

  15. I respect myself in a well fashioned manor, and if I have a daughter I will teach her the same.

  16. marichinno says:

    I believe that it starts with the mother of a daughter. If a mother respects and loves her body for what it is her daughter will learn that it is okay to be who you are individually and what other girls are her age is doing. My daughter is only 6 but she catches on to things quickly and one of them is apperance and diet.

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