Tonight is Halloween so I'm extending the Halloween Costume Contest through the weekend (Winner announced Monday morning) to give parents a chance to email me (email@example.com) their girls' Trick-or-Treating costumes.
I'll publish the costumes I've received so far over the next few days so you can enjoy them. If there is one you think is particularly awesome leave a comment voting for that costume to win the $150 Seagate FreeAgent GO Portable Hard Drive.
Here's what I've learned so far. Parents, in general, are not dressing their daughters in a provocative way for Halloween.
Parents are angry, bewildered and shocked by the marketing.
Some people believe that girls and parents somehow created the demand for these products.
I disagree with that premise.
After reading the research in So Sexy So Soon I do not believe that marketers and advertisers responded to a demand for ever-sexier products for children.
I believe marketers intentionally created the demand.
Marketers perceived a "vulnerability" that they could exploit and profit from and CREATED the demand for provocative products. That vulnerability includes the fact that all humans are naturally drawn to sex - including children. Where before there was government regulation protecting children from sexually provocative marketing and content when we grew up - now there is not. Parent's haven't necessarily been educated or informed about their lack of protection resulting from deregulation of the media. Marketers are also exploiting a general lack of discussion and lack of comfortability between parent and child about issues of sex and sexuality.
Parents who buy these products are not trying to sexualize their children, they simply haven't regrouped from the same bewildered shock you feel and purchase the products out of naiveté and "busyness."
Parents who buy these costumes are wrong in blindly trusting companies - but that's their big crime - Trusting Companies.
Girls - little girls - are not hootchies, whores, Lolitas, sluts, street walkers or any other sexually derogatory word you might be tempted to apply to them tonight.
Girls are unsophisticated consumers because they are children and it takes practice, experience, education and persistence to become an educated consumer. They are subjected to an onslaught of exaggeratedly "feminine" and hyper-sexual marketing from dozens of sources. I've been writing this website for a while now and it wasn't until reading So Sexy So Soon that I fully understood all the pieces to the puzzle.
I knew something was up - but I couldn't articulate exactly what was causing it. Most parents - I estimate an overwhelming majority - know something is up, but they can't quite put their finger on what.
Girls' sexuality is being exploited with this type of hyper-sexual marketing and I INSIST that it is inappropriate to further exploit them by referring to them in sexually derogatory manner no matter what costume they wear on Halloween.
Read more about that in Empowering Girls: Hootchy Clothes.
Anger is appropriate. But, I believe it belongs squarely on the companies creating and marketing these products.
I urge you to look at real girls tonight and their overly-busy, naive and misinformed parents - however inappropriately dressed they might be tonight and consider them at worst - UNSOPHISTICATED CONSUMERS.
Also keep these 2 things in mind:
* Halloween is the one night when millions of parents allow their children to break normal rules. I, myself, will allow Ainsley to wear all the make-up she wants tonight. Just for fun. I will probably put some on Zack. I would also let my daughter wear shorter skirts than normal, high heeled shoes, brightly colored hair, etc. Last year, Ainsley declared herself a Princess at the last minute and I let her though I try to avoid the Disney Princess Culture as a rule (pictured - I was a Runner-up Dairy Queen.)
* Packaging for a costume might be more intentionally provocative than the actual costume. Just because the photograph in the marketing is overtly sexual doesn't mean that a 3 year old wearing that costume is in any way sexual at all.
Be safe tonight. Have fun with your children.
Be compassionate toward other families who just don't know what you know about the sexualization of girls. You can help educate and them by forwarding them this article or telling them about this website.