Who's blaming the kids?

HAMISH DENSTON
Last updated 10:51 11/10/2012

Reading this article on Stuff really got me thinking. The premise of the article was that: "Young girls should not be shamed for dressing like 'tarts' and 'hookers' because this is how society is teaching them to dress, an Australian academic argues."

Our society seems to be so insanely focused on the pursuit of money, and that manifests itself with monotonous regularity as using sex to sell everything from chocolate to banking. The incredible availability of media these days, as well as the way sex is virtually marketed to tweens through music videos and magazines, means that kids are exposed to messages that can often be inappropriate for their age.

It seems as though, as a species, we're hardwired to want to run with an older crowd. One of the big levers that seems to move my daughter is being able to identify herself as a "big girl". Her fascination with her older cousins is obvious. The thing is, it becomes a bit of a chain. The young girls look up to the older girls and tend to imitate them, and in turn those older girls are doing the same with even older girls. Boys are much the same. On top of that there's the connection between the music that they like and what the singer is wearing or doing. As a parent it begins to feel like a bit of a minefield.

Bundled in with this is the fashion that is designed to emulate what celebrities are wearing. When that turns out to be provocative or revealing, the kids often don't care. Heck, why should they? They don't know any better. The counter-argument seems to be that because the kids don't dress that way to be sexual, there's no harm in it, and that somehow if an adult sees it as such then it's their problem. I can't say I entirely buy that. It's up to us as parents to recognise the things that are appropriate and safe for our kids to do, and the things that aren't.

This argument, like most when discussing kids, comes back to the parents. It can be really fun to see your child dressing up, looking pretty or wearing a cool costume. I guess for some, the temptation to dress their kid up in the latest killer gear can be too strong, whether it's appropriate or not. The issue is where to draw the line not just on what you let them wear, but where you let them wear it. Sure, dressing up in the living room to dance to music can be fun, but is it the right thing to wear to the mall? Would you let them wear it to nana's house?

The part of the original statement that I do agree with most strongly is that it's not necessarily right to judge the child for what they're wearing when they receive such strong messages around conforming. When they're getting it from TV, movies, books, magazines, friends and whatever else, and they're only doing it to fit in, too innocent to see any reason why not, then how can we credibly judge them for it?

Sorry everyone, this turned out to be a bit of a rant. It's a hot-button issue for me because I look at my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and I see a fragile innocence that will all too soon be shattered by whatever this world decides to throw at her. Anything I can do to stop that happening too soon is okay in my books.

What do you all think? Is it making a mountain out of a molehill? Or is it a bad situation that's just getting worse?

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