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Please don’t help your 6-year-old be sexy.

Date: June 13, 2007 | Posted By:

Little girl putting on lipstick When my friend’s three-year-old daughter answered the door wearing some kind of brownish makeup smeared all over her face, her mom and I had a good laugh. She had done it herself; we joked that she missed a couple spots, and the little girl busted out a belly laugh that almost knocked her over.

Most of us have played in our mom’s makeup. But yesterday on Salon’s Broadsheet, Tracy Clark-Flory commented on some real, high-quality makeup for 6- to 9-year-old girls that Mattel and Bonne Bell are going to be releasing in 2008. MGA Entertainment (which makes Bratz) already has been selling makeup for girls through Markwins International and Added Extras.

Bratz Ooh La La Makeup2

OK, moms, teachers, aunts, we ought to stop this craziness, and quick. Let’s not dismiss this as just playing dress-up. Already, there are Bratz-branded padded bras for 6 year olds (which they call “bralettes”) that came out just months ago. And by buying little girls their own makeup, we will continue to make them into sexualized beings way too early.

Bratz Bralettes

Yes, these are padded bras for little girls.

I’m not just some overprotective woman saying, “Keep the girls young and cute!” According to the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls published February 2007, the early sexualization of young girls contributes to a host of psychological problems, including issues of cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development. Who wants their daughter to have these problems? Since makeup is one of the accessories of women’s sexuality, you’d better believe that buying little girls fancy, real makeup serves to help our culture sexualize them.

(The report 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.)

If you’re a parent or teacher of a young girl, check out these APA recommendations on what parents can do to prevent early sexualization.

And I’d add to that great list: Think good and hard about the toys you are giving the young girls in your life. Do they encourage sexuality too young? Just let them be little girls, running around and playing, not obsessing over their eyelashes in the mirror every day.

Taking Action: Four Ideas
1) Talk back to Bonne Bell and Mattel: Tell them that marketing makeup to 6-9 year olds is a bad idea and that you won’t be buying their sexualization of little girls. (Click here for contact info.) And if you own Mattel stock, use your stockholder status and contact (888) 909-9922.

2) Hit ‘em in the bottom line: Don’t buy Bonne Bell or Mattel products (that means American Girl, Hot Wheels, Barbie, or LipSmackers lip balm, etc.)

3) Make a stink: In 2008 when the line launches, go to your local mall or Bonne Bell retailer and stand outside with copies of this article or your own writing, and talk to people entering the store.

4) Encourage your friends not to buy makeup for their young daughters: Remember, little girls pretending to be Mommy sometimes (with Mommy’s makeup…) is fun role-modeling, but putting on makeup to look “sexy” or “grown-up” is inappropriate for girls’ development. Make sure you tell your daughters that it’s not important for them to be sexy at age nine.

– J.B.




What Do You Think?

18 Responses to Please don’t help your 6-year-old be sexy.

  1. Jennifer on 06-13-2007

    Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention. I don't have kids yet so I was not aware of this trend in "toys" for little girls. It's very disturbing.

    I have been an aunt to girls for many years but when the youngest was born (she's 6 now) I decided I would not use "beauty" language...meaning I would not praise her for her looks....only her talents, intellectual achievements and positive behavior. Yet, I have to admit that it's been more difficult than I imagined. We're such a beauty-centric society that even with my best intentions, I still slip up and tell her she looks beautiful or that she's cute. When I catch myself, I quickly follow with..."and so smart" or "such a great artist"....which she is.

    I agree that we need to encourage girls' androgeny as long as possible so they have time to develop their skills and confidence in areas other than beauty. If this confidence is established early on, I believe that when girls get judged by their peers on looks, they will reject that criteria altogether and answer to only to themselves....and with that freedom, they will be able to strive to achieve their true potential. At least that's my dream.
  2. Paigerella on 06-13-2007

    Wow, I can't believe that they're making padded bras for six-year-olds. I remember buying Tinkerbell makeup when I was six- it felt so special, and I loved the stuff. But it wasn't "real" make up. It was really cheap, like that nail polish that just rubs off, or soap scented "perfume," etc.

    I would relax on calling a girl pretty, but also definately priase her for her talents. My mom always asked people to not compliment my looks while growing up, and she made it a point not to mention it. I kind of wish that she had incorporated it, just a little, so that I could feel more comfortable with accepting the way I look. I think that it would also have given me more confidence, especially when dealing with the opposite sex.
  3. Paigerella on 06-13-2007

    Wow, I can't believe that they're making padded bras for six-year-olds. I remember buying Tinkerbell makeup when I was six- it felt so special, and I loved the stuff. But it wasn't "real" make up. It was really cheap, like that nail polish that just rubs off, or soap scented "perfume," etc.

    I would relax on calling a girl pretty, but also definately praise her for her talents. My mom always asked people to not compliment my looks while growing up, and she made it a point not to mention it. I kind of wish that she had incorporated it, just a little, so that I could feel more comfortable with accepting the way I look. I think that it would also have given me more confidence, especially when dealing with the opposite sex.
  4. Britt on 06-16-2007

    Thanks so much for this article. I already fear for my daughter who will be entering the world in November. There is so much I feel that I need to protect her from in this world just because she is a girl. I think this marketing sceme is sick. Thanks again.
  5. penny Jean Bare on 06-16-2007

    Thanks for the article.
    When a friend gave my 8 year old daughter a tube of lipstick, she used it to paint a red nose and whiskers on her face. She also steals my nail polish and uses it to paint "tattoos" on her legs.
    I don't watch tv, and neither does my daughter (not at home, anyway). 8 year old girls don't want to look sexy, unless the media teaches them that "sexy" is who and how they are supposed to be.
    Innocence rules!!
  6. Maria W. on 06-20-2007

    Thanks for this article. I don't have kids, but I definitely have noticed the scary trend of sexualizing young girls. It's very wrong - so its great to have about-face as the voice of reason, calling companies out on their sickening behaviour.
    Thanks for your hard work keeping this blog going, its always eye-opening.
  7. Kendra on 07-03-2007

    I wish I had been as shocked by this as some of the other posters, but since my husband is uncle to a couple of little girls in the elementary school demographic, I'm fully aware of what's been going on. His sister told us just last year that once her girls hit 9 years old, she was having difficulty buying shoes for them that didn't have heels. Except for sneakers. Imagine that. I acquired and wore my first pair of heels at age 16, and my mother made me pay for them myself. Now manufacturers of girls' clothing are forcing parents to buy sexualized gear for their daughters because there is no other choice. That's just not right.
  8. Krista on 09-01-2007

    I find it equally disturbing that there are bras for 6 year olds. It's sad to think of how these products will effect the lives of our young daughters and the effect they have on us as women in general. We are all not the type of girl who is tiny and fragile. But as I look at the products that are coming out for young girls, its going to be hard not to want to be. Not only is the media going to sell this product, but the children's peers will also. If the child does not have that particular clothing or make up, eventually the child will be ostrichsized and that it self can really hurt the child mental and emotionally. At times i see this battle as a lose - lose.
  9. tracy on 09-03-2007

    I have four daughters ranging from 17 to 2 years of age. i totally agree with the gimmicks that they try and sell, but my 9 year old actually needs a bra, she has become very aware of her body in this day and age our children are actually getting taught about alot more worrying things than bras. e.g. sex. i have been asked quite a few awkward questions that i am not sure how to answer. My parents werent very open about these things.
    As a parent you just have to cope with what ever comes your way and hope that you give them the best answers and advice about life you possibly can.
  10. Janet on 10-01-2007

    Make up, and sexy underware for children,that is being sold at many Department stores should make us be aware of pedofhiles.They are every where possing as very good people. They could be wealthy people or with a lot of influence, and they are promoting this kind of fashion for children. So with the time, we can believe that this kind of fashion is normal. Mothers should be vigilant all the time.
  11. Jeff on 11-13-2007

    While I applaud the efforts of this web-site and agree with the message, I think that there needs to be a greater focus of getting BOTH sexes to be aware of this issue.

    As a man, I see it being just as much MY responsibility to treat women with respect and not objectify them sexually. And this is something that I try to pass on to other men I know. My parents were, thank goodness, good at teaching their 6 sons not to objectify women, and I plan on passing on such messages to my son(s) if/when I have any, and make certain that my daughter(s) know how special they are not because of their looks, but because of their intellect, talents and personality..

    In short, I think it should be made clear that teaching such lessons is every bit as much the responsibility of men as it is women.
  12. Jennifer on 11-13-2007

    Jeff, you are a good man -- and one of the many that keep showing up lately. This has come up for me SO often as I talk to groups as About-Face's executive director. More and more men have been asking what they can do, and I think we need to invite them to help us be responsible for our portrayal and positive treatment. So thanks, Jeff, keep it up!
  13. RW on 11-14-2007

    There are lots of us out here.
  14. Jackie on 11-27-2007

    Bratz isn't owned by Mattel, MGA Entertainment is the company that produces Bratz. I think the bras are disturbing. My mom and I once saw lingere type clothing for little girls, and said "Who produces these, pedophiles?" It's absolutely the same as saying, "Hey it's ok to have sex with 6 year olds, look at their sexy bra, they're asking for it"
  15. RW on 12-01-2007

    I was particularly irritated at a film the other day - for its encouragement into early sexualisation. But on this occasion it was my son who was watching it, and it was my thoughts about how he was being damaged that were in my mind. Note that my son is young - without giving too many personal details on the internet, suffice it to say that the school still class him as an infant.
    In 'Arthur and the Invisibles' a 10 year old goes off into a fantasy land (this part is animated) and falls in love with a princess - played to be a late teenage-adult kind of character. That's problematic enough - the boy character is only 10 for goodness sake! Then there is all the standard hateful stereotype stuff about how princesses/heroines are beautiful ladies and more desirable than ordinary ugly women. But to make matters even worse - the bit that irritated me even more than I'm normally irritated - was the princess being drawn in the worst tradition of Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider game - with an exaggerated female form. I can't find pictures that quite capture this but the ones at the places I list below give a rough idea:
    - http://www.imdb.com/gallery/ss/0344854/coquelicot.jpg.html
    - http://tinyurl.com/2jcew6
    - http://tinyurl.com/2ybv9v
    I'd never argue that my son was more damaged by this than a little girl watching it, but I was reminded that it's children of both genders who lose out from being forced to grow up too soon. He's still an infant, and the pressure's already on to find a 'sexy' girl!

    And I should add that we found him crying in bed last night because his teacher had said that it was only girls who would be allowed to be angels in the nativity play (they are the closest thing to fairies)...

    ...now I better go before I get too angry.

    Oh - except to say that I had a thought on the thing that Jennifer said. I use the word 'beautiful' with my children all the time (I think it does them good to hear it), but wouldn't use words like 'pretty' for the same reasons as her. My theory is that as children grow up they understand 'beautiful' to be a term about their whole being, whereas they take words like 'pretty' to be specific descriptions of their features. But I'd really like to know if other people think the same.
  16. on 12-08-2007

    im shhocked.... what a theft of innocence....

    padded bras for 6 year olds?? at 6 i didnt even think of such things o.0
  17. Andy on 12-19-2007

    Oh, and did not know about it. Thanks for the information ...
  18. Samm on 04-19-2008

    I dont agree with making make-up for young girls; I did not wear make up untill I was 13 and still have to argue about it at 14. Even though I dont agree with making "padded" bras for young girls, my friends little sister goes to private school and has to dress for Physical Education, shes only 6. Most of the girl wear bras to prevent embarrasment by other classmates. (If they did not make 6 year olds dress for P.E. then I would say NO to bras altogether)