We always talk about the over-sexualization of little girls in terms of being the parents of a little girl. But, as the mother of a little boy, I can’t agree enough that forcing little girls to be women before their time has to stop.
My son loves women. Not because he’s a pervert or a latent rapist; he’s all of two. He loves women the way innocent children love their mothers, marvel at the beauty of butterflies, and stand in awe of waterfalls. As much as he thrives on guy-time with his dad, grandfathers, and uncles, my son loves cuddling up to his grandmothers, tickling me silly and requesting playtime with his first crush, his Aunt Suze.
Before his first birthday, he was flirting with teenage waitresses at our local pizza joint. Just the other day he literally gave one the once-over. “Did he just check that girl out?” I asked my husband in disbelief. “Yep,” he nodded with a slightly concerned smile. As my brother-in-law jokingly observed, our son has a type and that type is women. And no, there is nothing wrong with that.
Until, of course, my little 2-year-old watches a 4-year-old girl dressed in spandex micro-shorts shake her booty on the faux stage at Barnes and Noble to some tweenage pop hit.
He’d never seen a girl gyrate like that before. You could tell just by the look on his face: enamored confusion about sums it up. As much as I don’t want my little boy to find a girl’s inappropriate gyrations intriguing, even appealing, I know I can’t help it. It’s part of his biological wiring to find anything a woman does absolutely fascinating. Not because he’s objectifying her, but because long before he will ever know or understand sexual attraction he is already mystified by women. And mystery is damned appealing.
The little girl offered my son her toy microphone and he basically blubbered, turned red, and shyly attempted to play along. Add about 16 years, trade out the toy microphone for a beer, and you could’ve been watching a freshman encountering a senior girl at his first college party. It was simultaneously cute and horrifying. More than anything it was an early lesson in what I’ll be up against as the mother of a boy. Not girls gyrating in spandex: girls who abuse, misuse, and misinterpret the power of their own sexuality. And the seeds of ignorance are being planted in the minds of those girls (and the boys watching them) by parents who think how a girl dresses, talks, walks, and dances shouldn’t matter because she’s only 4 years old.
Writing at Kveller, Jordana Horn recounts the experience of confronting her daughter’s camp counselors when she found out her 4-year-old was being taught to “shake her booty” for a performance routine. Although she was the only mother to complain (scary), the camp leadership changed the songs and routines to be more age-appropriate. Horn concludes:
I’m writing this not to toot my own horn (ha): I’m writing this because I need allies. I would never have initiated this discussion 10 years ago… because at the time, I was only a mother of boys. I thought any implicit or explicit bias against girls, intentional or otherwise, had little or nothing to do with me.
I was wrong.
We are all affected if any of our children are implicitly or explicitly devalued, or valued for their physicality rather than their unique, amazing selves. At age 4 or 5, a kid is learning the norms of their community.
She couldn’t be more correct. Whether I like it or not, my son is learning how women work from your daughter’s behavior. Please, don’t let him learn how to admire, respect, and love women for the wrong reasons. And don’t dare accuse my son of not respecting women if you can’t even respect your little girls.