We make fun of Gwyneth Paltrow a lot here at The Gloss. One might say she’s our new Courtney Stodden now that that river has run its course, except inexplicably respected and still relevant despite doing mostly awful projects and films for the past five years. But then, if she didn’t give us reasons to poke fun of her ($90 white tees, “essential” $450K wardrobes, write cookbooks with scarcely any food involved, etc.). Now, though, she’s being hit with a whole lot of criticism from all directions for selling bikinis to children on GOOP.
The bathing suits, designed by Michelle Obadash for GOOP, are ruffly, embellished and tied. Many people are up in arms at the ages that these are being designed for: 4, 6 and 8. Claude Knight of Kidscape, an anti-child abuse foundation in the UK, told the Daily Mail, “We remain very opposed to the sexualisation of children and of childhood. The dangers have been discussed at length, so it is a great pity that such trends continue and that they carry celebrity endorsement.”
Yes, they’re in styles that are typically associated with adult swimwear, but what exactly should we be upset about here?
I don’t take a whole lot of issue with kids wearing bikinis. I mean, I think it’s pretty weird to structure something in a style that is meant to specifically highlight womanly parts on girls who are far, far from being “womanly,” but overall, I’m not horribly offended by it. Would I be down with my kid wearing one at the age of 6? My answer is very “whatever,” as I’m not concerned that it supposedly “invites” looks from creepy people (as is often the argument against bikinis for kids); I firmly believe most people would glance and probably not think twice about the matter, negatively or otherwise.
As somebody who was always a bit ashamed of her body and felt obligated to cover it up, I don’t want to tell my kids that they need to wear specific garments because of what others will think. It’s more of a body image thing than a sexualization idea for me, though the latter is still a delicate subject that needs to be addressed.
But the bikinis themselves? Meh, as long as the kid is the one who wants to wear it because it’s fun — in the same way a child might want to dress up as a unicorn or wear wings for a day — and not because some magazine or friend told her boys think it’s sexy, I’m okay with it. Little boys are allowed to go shirtless, and I think girls shouldn’t be told their upper torsos are inherently sexual.
No, I take issue with how these swimsuits for kids under ten are advertised by GOOP. It’s uncomfortably adult, and that is where the sexualization aspect comes into play in my opinion.
First of all, this kid looks miserable. Utterly miserable, and not in a “my sister kicked my sandcastle over” but in that pouty way that older (albeit not by much) models are in high fashion ads. It’s reminiscent of 10-year-old model Thylane Blondeau, whose images turned heads for their blatantly “sexy” demeanor. This wasn’t a child dressing up for fun; these were photos wherein a child was made to look like an adult, pout like an adult and pose like an adult.
Kids run around naked all the time — it’s pretty difficult to stop them sometimes, especially if they’re going through garment-hating phase — but positioning kids the way adult female models, who are blatantly and consistently sexualized, is inappropriate. Obviously, we wish adult women weren’t sexualized so frequently, but for children, it’s even more disturbing.
Each of these images is unsettling to me, but especially the second and third. These little girls are being photographed from behind in eerily adult manners (if necessary, I can go find about 50 swimsuit ads for grown-up bikinis that are posed identically to these).
I am nearly certain I’ll get at least a couple comments or emails telling me that it’s my issue for seeing these as sexual, and that they’re just adorable kids doing adorable things, but here’s the thing: we look at “sexy” photos of adult women all day long. We also constantly read about girls being sexualized long before is appropriate. If these girls were running around and playing and just generally being little girls having fun, it wouldn’t feel so uncomfortably somber; instead, they’re being photographed from the sides and from behind doing nothing…just posing for the camera’s gaze.
When it comes to the sexualization of young females, it starts early. It doesn’t start with bikinis; it starts when companies stop depicting them as the kids they are, but as faceless, personality-devoid mannequins.
Photos: WENN.com and GOOP.com.