Articles on the sexualization of young girls


Padded bikini for girls withdrawn

BBC
April 14, 2010

Clothing chain Primark has withdrawn the sale of its range of padded bikini tops for girls as young as seven following criticism.

The company apologised to customers for "causing offence" and said it would donate profits to a children's charity.

The Children's Society criticised Primark for "premature sexualisation and unprincipled advertising".

Conservative leader David Cameron said it was "disgraceful" but later added he was delighted by the withdrawal.

The £4 bikini sets came in candy pink with gold stars and black with white polka dots.

Penny Nicholls, director of children and young people at The Children's Society, said: "We know from our research that commercial pressures towards premature sexualisation and unprincipled advertising are damaging children's well-being.

'Better values'

''The evidence shows that adults feel children are more materialistic than in past generations, while children themselves feel under pressure to keep up with the latest trends.

"We need a significant change at the heart of society where adults stand up for better values.''

Mr Cameron said: "I'm delighted that they've taken the decision to withdraw this product because we do need a more responsible society."

Justine Roberts, founder of the online forum for parents, Mumsnet, also welcomed Primark's decision to remove the bikini range, saying it was a shame it was ever on sale.

Mumsnet recently launched a Let Girls Be Girls campaign aimed at persuading retailers not to sell products "prematurely sexualising" children.

Ms Roberts said it was "very clear that parents just don't want to see this stuff on shelves".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed her campaign, saying: "There's something wrong when companies are pushing our kids into acting like little grown-ups when they should be enjoying being children."

The Liberal Democrat's spokeswoman for equality, Lynne Featherstone, also welcomed the decision, adding: "How on earth could they have thought that this was a good idea in the first place?"

Child protection consultant Shy Keenan, of The Phoenix Chief Advocates which helps victims of paedophiles, said: "Primark have made a mistake here, but at least they have listened to their customers and taken real steps to put it right. We could not have asked for a better outcome."

Pole-dancing kit

Primark, which is well-known for its heavily discounted brands, has 138 UK stores and 38 in Ireland.

It is the latest chain to face criticism over products considered too adult for youngsters.

Asda has been singled out for a push-up bra aimed at young girls, and Tesco withdrew a pole-dancing kit from its toys section.

Last year WHSmith also withdrew its Playboy stationery, but did not say if that was because the products were sold to children.

A Primark spokesman said it has "taken note" of concerns about the product which is said it sold in "relatively small" quantities.

"The company has stopped the sale of this product line with immediate effect, the spokesman said.

"Primark will donate all the profits made from this product line to a children's charity, and apologises to customers for any offence caused."


Don't sexualise children - Tories

BBC News
February 18, 2010

Conservative leader David Cameron has called for an end to the "inappropriate sexualisation" of children.

Parents should be able to complain via a specially set-up website about offensive marketing tactics used by companies, he said.

Mr Cameron also told the BBC that firms which flout the rules should not be allowed to bid for government contracts for three years.

Such moves were needed to stop children being "bombarded", he added.

In 2008, Woolworths withdrew a girls' bedroom furniture range called Lolita - the same name as the 1955 Vladimir Nabokov novel about a man's sexual obsession with his 12-year-old stepdaughter.

Magazines

Supermarkets have been criticised for selling padded bras and pole-dancing kits aimed at children.

And some teachers have called for girls' magazines to be given age ratings, arguing they "glamorise" sexual promiscuity.

“ We have already acted to protect children from the irresponsible advertising of a wide range of products ” said Ed Balls Children's Secretary. Mr Cameron said: "It's time for action. As parents we all worry about our children growing up too fast and missing out on their childhood."

He added: "We cannot shield kids from the modern world and no-one would try, but we can try to stop them having inappropriate things put in front of them from an early age."

Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour: "A lot of parents feel they are engaged in a kind of struggle to try to bring up our kids.

"We want to let them see the world as it is but not be bombarded by the wrong sort of images from an early age. We've all read stories about padded bras and Lolita beds. There are some worries."

The Tory leader revealed he had stopped his daughter from listening to pop singer Lily Allen because he was concerned some of her lyrics were "unsuitable" for a six-year old.

'Tough new rules'

He said the Advertising Standards Agency should get greater powers to deal with inappropriate marketing aimed at children - something the government says it is also working towards.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said he had raised the issue in the Children's Plan two years ago, adding it was "good to have David Cameron's support because this is something which concerns all parents and is not an issue for party politics".

He said: "We have already acted to protect children from the irresponsible advertising of a wide range of products, including tough new rules restricting the advertising of unhealthy foods to children and the use of celebrities and cartoon characters to market them."

A government-commissioned report by psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos on the sexualisation of young people is due to be published in the next few days.

Penny Nicholls, director of children and young people at the Children's Society, said: "We know from our research that commercial pressures towards premature sexualisation, and unprincipled advertising, are damaging children's well-being.

"The evidence shows that adults feel children are more materialistic than in past generations.

"Children themselves tell us that they value family and friends above money, but feel under pressure to keep up with the latest trends.

"We need a significant change at the heart of society, where adults stand up for better values."


'Difficult' to ban sexual imagery

BBC News
January 29, 2010

Any crackdown on sexual imagery on clothes and toys aimed at children would be "fraught with difficulties", a report for MSPs has found.

The Equal Opportunities Committee commissioned a study after hearing concerns that inappropriate merchandise targeted at under 16s may cause harm.

Researchers looked at goods on offer in high street stores and questioned youngsters and parents.

They said "relatively few" sexualised products were aimed at children.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Institute of Education at London University, Glasgow Caledonian University and the Open University.

MSPs commissioned it after hearing claims about the availability of items like high-heel slip-on shoes for babies, T-shirts and underwear products for girls with sexual slogans printed on them.

The report said: "The attempt to control the production and distribution of sexualised goods, or at least control children's access to them, is likely to be fraught with difficulties, not least in terms of how we define what is to be regulated in the first place.

“ This is useful research which considers the prevalence of sexualised goods and explores the attitudes of parents and children towards them,” said Margaret Mitchell MSP Committee convenor. "This is not to suggest that it should not be attempted, although it is to imply that such a process might well have costs and counter productive consequences, as well as benefits."

The report also said it may be valuable to discuss the issues around sexual imagery and products aimed at children in schools.

Researchers visited retailers, including stores at the Fort Shopping Centre in Glasgow, to analyse the products on offer and customers' reactions to them.

Many of the stores surveyed, such as Tesco, Littlewoods, Debenhams, D2 Jeans and Marks and Spencer, did not sell any goods with sexual imagery aimed at children.

"This is not to suggest that imagery in consumer culture is not widespread or that children do not consume products surrounded by such imagery, " the report said.

"What it does indicate is that relatively few sexualised products are specifically aimed at children."

Sexual connotations

The study also concluded that both parents and children were wary of the prospect of any moves to put controls on the goods available in place.

It said: "The young people were keen to assert that they were competent in understanding and interpreting the sexual connotations of particular products.

"They strongly rejected the idea that regulation was necessary in order to protect them and argued that they should have the right to make their own decisions and mistakes."

Committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP: "The committee welcomes this body of work as an important contribution to the complex debate and area of public concern.

"This is useful research which considers the prevalence of sexualised goods and explores the attitudes of parents and children towards them."


Woolworths withdraws 'Lolita' bed

BBC News
February 1, 2008

Bedroom furniture for young girls with the brand name Lolita has been withdrawn by Woolworths following complaints from parents.
A parenting website said it was in "unbelievably bad taste" to give the bed the same name as a novel about a sexually precocious young girl.

Woolworths said the £395 Lolita Midsleeper Combi was withdrawn when the matter was brought to its attention.

Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel became famous for its controversial subject.

The story of a stepfather's sexual obsession with a 12-year-old girl has been adapted for film twice: first by Stanley Kubrick in 1962 and later in 1997 when Jeremy Irons played the lead part of Humbert Humbert.

Catherine Hanly, editor of parenting website raisingkids.co.uk, was among the parents to complain about the furniture advertised on the Woolworths website.

She said a Woolworths press officer had told her staff running the website "had no idea" of the word's connotations.

"I expect a company like Woolworths to actually know what it means and the connotations and stuff," she told BBC Radio Five Live Breakfast.

"It has become a name that is synonymous with sexual precocity and the fact that it is tied to a girl's bed - it literally couldn't be worse taste."

A Woolworths spokeswoman said: "Now this has been brought to our attention, the product has been removed from sale with immediate effect."

She said the suppliers, who advertise the product on the Woolworths' website, would be asked how the branding came about.

Playboy bunny

It is not the first time retailers have been criticised for using branding with sexual connotations on goods marketed for children.

In 2005, WH Smiths came under fire for selling youngsters stationery bearing the Playboy bunny - a symbol of the pornography empire.

Prior to that Bhs decided to withdraw its Little Miss Naughty range of padded bras and knickers for pre-teen girls after attracting criticism.