I’m Not Mad That Gwyneth Paltrow Is Selling Bikinis For Children — Just At These Creepy Advertisements

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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.

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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.

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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.

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    • Eileen

      I don’t have a problem with bikinis for young girls – I had one when I was 8 or 9! – anymore than I do with one-piece swimsuits for young girls. (I.e. as you point out, why is it that little boys have to cover butt and genitals, whereas little girls have to cover completely undeveloped chests?) But yeah, these are sexualized pictures. That’s inappropriate, and it’s really easy to avoid. See, for example, this picture from Land’s End. http://www.landsend.com/pp/girls-cape-may-cutie-eyelet-ruffle-bikini-top~250584_1187.html The little girl is wearing a two-piece swimsuit and happily walking along the beach with her “mom”…not photographed from behind, where you can’t quite be sure of her age, as she gazes out at the water.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

        Exactly! Agreed. Thank you.

      • Eileen

        I mean, really – part of the fun of two-piece swimsuits on kids is that they generally DON’T have adult hang-ups about their bodies. I wore two-pieces way more comfortably when I was 9 than when I was 19 because I didn’t give a crap about what my tummy or cleavage looked like and just enjoyed how much easier it was to get on and off. The body-consciousness and awareness that these little girls are displaying takes that away.

      • Emily

        Totally agree – she could be playing on the beach with a sibling or building a sand castle…something like that….

      • Tania

        Completely agree!

    • lala

      Yeah, the poses are creepy. Two piece swim suits just make sense for the for the really young crowd, as they often wait to long to address their restroom needs (to busy playing), and are just easier for a rushed bathroom trip. But yeah the triangles, …eh weird but nothing to worry a girl over if she is not sexualizing it (ie dressing like mommy or auntie).

    • Annie

      Yeah… It’s the context of these photos that make them icky. The same girls in the same setting in the same bikinis could be way less sexualized if they were doing *kid stuff* rather than being caught in moments of thoughtful repose usually reserved for grownups. These pictures, especially the first one, give this awful voyeuristic feeling, as though shuffling through the G-rated section of a pedophile’s collection.

    • JennyWren

      When I was growing up in Europe it was pretty common for kids to wear either just bottoms or nothing at all on the beach or in the pool. I think I started wearing a swimsuit at about age 7 or so. Maybe it’s changing now, but it definitely wasn’t a problem then because we were damn kids and we didn’t have anything that needed covering up.

      I think it’s fine if kids want to wear a bikini (and people who have kids tell me it’s far more practical for changing them in and out of), but the way these are sold is very icky. I think it’s a combination of the images above, the fact that it’s an exact replica of adult versions sold on the site, and that apparently they were captioned as being “great for girls who want to look grown-up!” Can’t we just make age-appropriate bikinis and leave them as kids until an age later than 4 or 5?

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.blakelastra Stephanie Blake-Lastra

      these pictures are defiantly overtly sexual and inappropriate. My daughters will not wear bikinis or any revealing swimwear but I understand why not every parent agrees…however this is obvious sexualization

    • Cee

      The last two pictures really made me sick to my stomach. Yes, little children can wear two piece swimsuits, but those last two poses make me extremely uncomfortable. The last one especially.

      • http://ktlifestyle.blogspot.com/ KTlifestyle

        I agree. It’s in the poses. I think it will be appropriate if they were 1 piece and hold a beach ball or something

    • adamfox

      This article reminded me of a creepy E-Trade ad from the Superbowl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8pdDI2O_Y4 It’s the ending that REALLY bothers me.

    • Rachel Sea

      I have no problem with the suits, I had a bikini when I was little. It was cute and comfy unlike a lot of one piece suits that didn’t fit my frame. I very much like the ties, because they mean the suit would fit longer. I have my doubts that many little girls really want a dark brown bathing suit.

      The poses are unsettling, and a bit creepy. The suggestion in the photos is that these bikinis are for being looked at, not for play, not for function. Who is the supposed target audience? Whoever the ads are supposed to appeal to, I’m not sure I want to know them.

    • chattyCathy

      Yet another reason to hate this ho. This kid looks like shes for sale NOT like shes enjoying the beach.

    • Alejandro_the_Great

      I’m not seeing it. The kids are just sitting or just standing. What’s “overtly sexual” about it?