Buying Christmas presents this time of the year is hectic for the most part: crowds and slow-walkers and queues and over-priced 'seasonal specials' are all reasons to avoid the malls and shops for anything bar items that are essentially life-threatening.
So, needing to get into the store to buy the obligatory socks and underpants gifts for my daughters today was already something I was dreading. The fact that there were about sixty people trying to buy the fifty items available in my sleepy-hollow of a town, means that I was already quite unhappy about being classified as that, the lowest form of festive season bottom feeder: The Last Minute Shopper. But I'm going in the wrong direction here. Back to point.
Among the pretty pastel pink vests and little ballet tights for toddlers, I came across the most disturbing thing I think I may have ever seen in a store. G-strings, (a.k.a. thongs,) for toddlers. Starting at two years old. I'm not going to name and shame the store, because they won’t be the only store selling these, but surely we haven't sunk so low as a society that our tiny little babes are wearing thongs??
Think about the purpose of a thong: it's a smaller piece of underwear and therefore probably designed to be sexier. It is also helpful when you don't want visible panty-lines, again in an effort to be more attractive. They also make pole dancing more successful as the more bare flesh making contact with the pole, the more sticking power you have. And then of course, they are very beautiful when paired with a garter and corset. WHY THE HECK DO WE WANT THREE YEAR OLDS WEARING THEM????
Then I realised the thought that goes in to selling a product in commercial franchise a-branch-in-every-town type of stores. They don't just get a product in and sell it en masse. They have testers and group market researchers to investigate the sell-ability of the products. They then, as educated, (one would assume,) adults, make an informed decision on whether or not the product is worthy of their shelves. So this didn't just land up on the shelves as a fluke, or spur of the moment idea. It was pre-meditated and probably based on some kind of demand. How SICK are we?
Maybe I am just a prude? But what does it say about us as parents that we are so driven to have our little girls looking attractive, (sexy???) that we are willing to don them in thongs? What on earth could we be thinking of when we deign it more important to hide visible panty-lines on a two year old's leggings than encouraging her to be modest and comfortable in her own skin without adornments created for the purpose of luring the opposite sex?
I am ridiculously old fashioned when it comes to my daughters, I'll admit. I didn't even allow any name branded kitten or dolls into our house until I was sure she wasn't going to become obsessed with them and was old enough to realise that they are quite blasé. When they wear miniskirts, I put tights on underneath. When they wear bathing suits, even two piece ones, they aren't even nearly string bikinis. So maybe I am a little too protective of them. I also don't allow any nude photographs of them at all. Ever.
You see, there are sick people out there who prey on little girls. There are sick minds out there who would find the idea of a toddler in a g-string tantalising. There are also the age-old ideas that little girls are sugar and spice and all things nice, not sexy and saucy and all things naughty. Pretty bows and cute outfits are one thing. Designer miniskirts with bedazzled pockets and matching rocker jackets, perhaps the next step. But I know that as a parent, it's my job to show my daughters that it's what's inside of them that counts. It's more important for them to be smart, or well read, or polite, or sincere, or kind, or all of those things. I don't think it's good when we have a society promoting sexuality in little girls because that may well degenerate to the point where they start to think that that's all they're worth. And they are worth so much more.
I learned too late in life that there's always someone willing to take advantage of the little girl who doesn't know her own self worth. I recall many instances, and not only as a teenager, but as a young girl, thinking that 'if I wore this skirt a little shorter,' or 'if only my boobs were bigger,' then HE would like me. I also remember getting dressed up in some of the most beautiful outfits and feeling as if that somehow elevated me above people in less exclusive/expensive/elaborate outfits. I'm not proud of either of these facts. Nor am I pointing a finger at anyone involved in my childhood, because I certainly wasn't brought up in a home where these things were encouraged.
My parents bought me beautiful clothing because I was their beautiful little girl, simple as. I do the same for my girls. I do remember a particularly contentious black skirt I desperately wanted to which I received a resounding NO from my Dad. "Little princesses don't wear black," he said. You see, black clothing was considered sexy and raunchy and inappropriate for blonde-haired, blue-eyed little angels. So the onus doesn't only lie at the door of the parent. Because if it did I would never have had such screwed up ideas.
I think little girls, by nature, go through phases in life when they do need to be guided in the right direction; they see everyone 'ooh' and 'aah' over them when they are all pretty and might well equate that to "If I try to be beautiful all the time, more people will like me." So when will I allow g-strings or miniskirts sans tights? When they're old enough to make an informed decision for themselves.
With all the Barbie dolls and princess cartoons showing perfect figures, perfect hair, perfect outfits etc, it can be difficult for a little girl to feel that less-than-perfect aesthetics are okay. Then they often have mothers who are battling the same demons. Moms who are constantly on diet, or reading magazines with airbrushed-stick-figures on the covers and maybe commenting, "Isn't she pretty?" to their sponge-like daughters, who are soaking up all the input they can as they form their fragile perception of self.
It's an argument as old as the hills of fashion magazines. The call to arms is to women to stop berating themselves at any age and simply be happy in their own skin. Aim for overall health. Aim for good grooming and cleanliness. Aim for straight teeth. These are things within your control. Find the right make-up for your skin. Maybe find a good hair-dresser if you can afford it. Read books or surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. Get an education of some kind; show your little girl that it’s good for women to be thinkers and if you choose to, get a job and be good at it. These are also things within your control.
There are so many opportunities out there to lead our daughters down the path of low-self-worth and plain old self-depreciation that you should really try to be the voice in the darkness, (as difficult as it may be,) but it means you need to make peace with your own demons first.
It's not as easy as that though. And I am probably not the one qualified to even have this conversation. My only qualification for any of this, in fact, is being a mother of two little girls and having been a little girl once. I'm also battling my demons daily, more so on 'fat days' or 'bad hair days.' I've often wondered what we can do differently to teach our little girls to love themselves more; to be more comfortable within themselves and less reliant on clothing or make-up or sexuality to prove their worth. I've asked myself over and over again, when I was a teacher and now as a parent, what could anyone have said that would have made me be more accepting of myself? What could anyone have done to make me be more comfortable being me? The answer is, I simply don't know.
But what I do know, without a doubt, is that my toddler will not be getting a thong this Christmas.