Have you heard? Children are being sexualised too early.
It seems that sexy billboards, celebrities gyrating all over their music videos and lad mags too close to the bottom shelf are leaving the wrong kind of lasting impression on our children. And according to one worried Mother, Beyoncé has triggered a desire for high heel shoes in her young daughter. It’s simply outrageous, Old Boy!
As a child my parents would not allow me to own, or wear, a pair of high heel shoes, so naturally I decided to fashion myself a pair using coloured paper (for the shoe and sole) and loo roll (for the heel): that’s right. High heels Art Attack style. Needless to say, the makeshift shoes were a massive failure. However, it didn’t stop me from fantasising about that pair of sparkly heels (which I still don’t own, by the way, because as an adult I’m forced spend my wages on bills – not shoes.)
My point is that as a child I was never exposed to music videos, or fashion magazines or to vast amounts of radio, nor did I pay much attention to billboards, yet I still harboured dreams of owning entire closets full of heels and expensive dresses, with plunging necklines and short hemlines. And my dress-up box was full of them. Why? Well, because I wanted to be a grown-up like my Mum. I wanted to have parties, paint my nails, do the food shopping and drive a car. It was certainly not because I’d watched it on television or because my parents threw outrageously wild parties. It was because I’d observed this behavior whilst meandering around in the world; I witnessed this behavior from adults around me.
For generations children have been imitating adults through play with their spooky lifelike baby dolls, their conveniently child-size pushchairs and their plastic houses. You’ll always find children playing Mummy’s and Daddy’s, Doctors and Nurses and, if you were my friend, you came to my bedroom pub and played ‘drunken child’. You always ordered the happy hour special ‘The Tit-A-Nic’ (orange and blackcurrant juice, lime cordial and water: fresh not tonic.). I wasn’t imaginative enough to invent an entire collection of drinks.
In all honestly, I think padded bras for nine year old children is appalling and Rihanna should have toned down her S&M video, but if we’re going to scrutinise the fashion and music industries perhaps we should be casting our eyes towards the child pageant industry as well. Or perhaps towards the toy industry and their perfect plastic Barbies, semi-realistic baby dolls and child-sized pushchairs.
Though when all is said and done, the government can rip down billboards, keep lads mags on the top shelf and slap an age rating on every music video under the sun, just because they can, but if your eight year old child is already bouncing down the street singing about S&M after she just heard Rihanna singing about it on the radio, well, you might consider that a battle lost.