Hot Pants for One-year-olds, Padded Bras for Pre-teens?

By Megan Seely, author of Fight Like a Girl: How to be a Fearless Feminist

I was in a store this summer with my one-year-old daughter looking for a pair of shorts. To my infuriation, all of the shorts for girls were short-shorts, or so-called “hot pants.” I’ve been around this media-saturated, sexually exploitative, female-demoralizing culture all my life—but being confronted with the sexualization of infants, toddlers and little girls was eye-opening.

After nearly five decades of a modern feminist movement in this country, was this what it had come to? Hot pants for one-year-olds, padded bras for pre-teens, and t-shirts that read “No Strings Attached” for little girls? As we grow up into young women, we are encouraged to embrace a new role model through images in Girls Gone Wild videos: We are taught that to be sexy means baring our breasts for plastic beads at Mardi Gras or spring break. (Ironically, while women who want to breastfeed their babies in public, no matter how discreetly, are made to feel uncomfortable, harassed and even banned from public places.)

This objectification of women and little girls has saturated our culture so deeply that many women are duped into believing that this is empowerment. Not only are we seeing the pressure to be sexy forced upon younger and younger girls, but now I watch women of all ages embrace this objectification as their own sexuality. From a five-year-old who dresses up in a midriff-baring princess costume for Halloween, to the straight women at a party or bar who make out with other straight women as a turn on for their male audience, increasingly I see women and girls acting out an image they see in the media as if it were their own. It is anything but.

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