Why Do We Dress Our Daughters Like Skanks?

I was in a local bookstore doing some post holiday exchanges when the cover of the January 1st edition of Maclean’s magazine virtually jumped off the shelf and smacked me across the face.

Macleans cover

The cover features a very young girl around 10, wearing a miniskirt, fishnet stockings and pink tank top with silver lettering on it that says “Made You look”. Uh, yep, you did. The cover article is called “Why do we dress our daughters like skanks?”

It’ss a great question. As the father of a young girl, I am concerned about the growing acceptance of sexualized children. I commend Maclean’s for posing the question and pushing this issue and for emphasizing the point that we, as parents, can do something about it. We don’t have to dress our girls like this. But often, we are not even aware of how insidiously acceptable provocative kids clothing has become. I mean, how much time do we have to really understand the subtleties of the meaning behind the shades of pink we dress our girls in? We battle advertising and marketing and compete against multi billion dollars industries who can spend more money and time analyzing and exploiting each and every weakness we, and our children have.

But the sexualtization machine for young girls doesn’t stop with clothing – it extends to the toys they play with. I’ve ranted about Bratz before, but somehow they have become so popular that there is now an even sicker Baby Bratz collection. How can we, in any way shape or form, find these kinds of toys normal? How can we continue to walk by them in the aisles of toy stores and not feel revulsion?

And don’t even get me started on the new clothing company called “Pimpfants”, featuring a line of clothes called “Baby Beaters” and t-shirts emblazoned with sayings like “My Mommy’s a M.I.L.F.” I’d like to hear a Mom who buys this for their kid explain to them exactly what a M.I.L.F. is. Oh, how hip and ironic it all is.

It’s not hard to see how we got to this point. We worship skanks. How else could someone like Paris Hilton become a pop culture icon?

Don’t get me wrong here. I am all for mature, grown women celebrating their sexuality. It’s one of the core principles of third wave feminists. But Fergie being “Fergalicious” cavorting in a Brownie uniform showing off her “candy” is not a celebration of sexuality – it’s a way to sell records and make money by being provocative. It’s a perverse bastardization, a co-opting of the principles of sexual freedom. And I believe it does real harm to our society.

I wish I could link you directly to the article, but I can’t find it on the Maclean’s website.The Maclean’s article is available here. Instead, I’ll link you to some interesting books and authors that the article references and interviews.

41 responses to “Why Do We Dress Our Daughters Like Skanks?

  1. Good article. I’ve posted my take at daddy daze. Sad, isn’t it?

  2. Happy New Year from Idaho! I just wanted to say thanks for all the great post of the past year. I look forward to more of the same in 2007!

  3. Excellent blog. You’ve articulated my point even better than I could!

  4. I agree completely.
    I have a 4 year old and a 6 months old girls and I dread the moment when they will be influenced by what other skank girls are dressed like.

    Thank you for this post

  5. kudos for bringing up some very good points.

    since when did parents become so weak that they are willing to stoop to every wave of merchandising and trend to blow across their children’s world?

    what’s wrong with telling our kids we don’t approve of such toys or clothes or music or television along with an explanation of how it doesn’t fit our family values?

    great post.

  6. Excellent post. When 4T pants say “sexy” across the butt, you know there’s a problem. The question i have is: where do we go to buy decent clothes for our girls?

  7. Michelle,
    I hear you. Where do we go to buy clothes for our kids? Along similar lines is the amount of branding on clothing. We recently tried to find our girl a pair of running shoes.Try to find a pair of girls shoes that are not branded with Dora, Disney Princesses or [insert heavily hyped kids movie of the season here]. It’s pretty tough.

  8. Great point – sad it’s come to this. I have 2 boys (10 & 7) – and I know the 10 year old notices, and I wish he didn’t have to deal with the way the media tries to create a sexual impulse in him early – but it’s everywhere.

    Thank God there are parents out there like yourself those commenting here who can actually see these things clearly and guide their kids through some of the crap being thrown at them.

  9. I am a father of a 2.5 yr old daughter and I found your site through fark.com. They liked you article on “dressing our daughters like skanks”, and so did I. I agree with your comments and think this question should continue to be asked of advertisers and record companies. Someone has to be accountable for the images we bombard them with, and while I can be responsbile as a parent for what I allow her to be exposed to, if it continues to be accepted in our society, how do I “hide” her from it??

  10. M.I.L.F.? Are you kidding? Is this possible? The whole thing is shameful. I recently read an article about how if we have taken all the morals our of our schools, and decided that our kids aren’t responsible for anything, then how can we expect them to know the right thing to do? Obviously, there are a number of us who feel this is wrong, what is happening to our kids, why can’t we change things? Thanks for this, you have stated the right stuff, in the right way! Go Man, GO!

  11. Nobody inpart, your anti semetic comments nullify anything positive you might have said. You are blinded by your own hate.

    Note from DadClint, owner of dadventure: the comment that this comment refers to has been removed. It was vile.

  12. My solution is to continually point out to my child, even from a very young age, the sick parts of consumerist society, because that’s what this really is.

  13. “Made You look”

    There you go. It’s part of the the justice system / law enforcement job security plan. They’re out of business if they don’t keep prosecuting, and it’s easier to prosecute a child molester based on suspicion than it is to prosecute corporate fraud on facts. All you have to do is sprinkle enough temptation around and entrapment will be easy, and their cases will get jury sympathy and public exposure.

    I pity the poor teachers who have to look at this every day, and I’m not really surprised at the number ensnared. I don’t ever go to a mall any more, for the simple fear that someone is watching just to see if they “made me look.”

    Fortunately, all of my grandchildren are being home-schooled, not from fundamentalism, but from rationality. They are positively taught about their sexuality (humans are sexual beings from birth), and urged to accept it, enjoy it to the extent that law and society permit, but do so in a morally dignified manner.

    They are taught to recognize commercial attempts to exploit them, and resist the current culture’s attempts to draw their sexuality into immoral — or undignified — public displays.

    These are not things that the “public education” system can teach, nor should they be expected to. They do not have the resources to provide that much individual attention in non-core subjects, nor to they have sufficient knowledge of each individual child to work on such subtle cognitive constructs at a level that matches the child’s cognitive development.

    This is the responsibility of parents and family. If the government and the schools want to be involved, if they can, let them teach parents how to talk to their children.

    As far as commercialism and buying their cultural-mutating garments — just say no, Michelle. You don’t have to buy their clothes. It’s only a recent phenomenon in our cultural history that pre-made clothes were bought. Except for shoes, socks and underwear, I didn’t wear off-the-rack clothes until I was a senior in high school, and the need for more frequent wearing of suits and ties made purchasing reasonable. Everything else was hand-made, hand-fit, at home by mother, grandmothers and aunts, who took great pride in their work. My great-grandfather could make a dashing set of canvas or denim overalls that would command high prices today, if they had some little trademarked logo printed on them. You can actually make a nice set of clothes for your child in less time than it takes to wander the mall or wade through Wal-Mart, and you won’t have the annoyance of being made to look at “juicy” bottoms.

  14. Good point.
    I am not a dad, but I am an uncle. I was repulsed this year to find all the boys toys are marketed at boys being smart, scientific, intelligent, tough, and manly. All the girls toys were skanky or domestic housewife oriented.
    I refuse to send the message to my niece that she should grow up to wield a vacuum cleaner or dress like a hooker.
    So I bought a stuffed animal instead.
    Great point.
    We need to send a message to toy manufacturers that little girls should be holding on to their innocence, not dressing in mini-skirts and wearing makeup by age 10…..

  15. I absolutely agree. I hate that I have to spend twice as much to dress my daughter than I would if I had a son. It seems like the only companies that are willing to de-skank children’s clothing also intend to charge you an arm and a leg for the privledge of not having a four year old that looks like a ‘ho.

    And a big, “Hell yes.” to the poster above me. It kills me that when you look at “boy” toys and “girl” toys, the girl ones are about how to be a better mommy/better wife, but any time a toy touches briefly science or math it gets painted blue. My daughter loved dinosaurs, and wants I dino themed bedroom. How am I supposed to explain that the pink and green bedclothes she wants doesn’t come in “dino” just in “princess?” We are doing a great disservice to our children.

  16. Grandfather,
    unfortunately, i don’t have the skills, nor do i have any relatives with the skills to make my daughter’s clothing. i wish it were otherwise.

  17. I wrote a response to the article to McClean’s, and I’m so glad there is more discussion on this point on the web.
    I’m a 20 year old female. I’ve gone through most of my life fully submerged in what a pop female is supposed to be. The garbage that we’re allowing our kids to wear just so that they can gain a bit of social accpetance is really disturbing. There is NO WAY that a child would ever want to wear shorter skirts unless they deemed it a better option. Who is teaching them this?

    I came from a low income family, so I never had brand names. Dressing in baggy t-shirts and jeans allowed me to become myself at a very early age; athletic, happy, outgoing and definately a believer that boys are more accepting as friends.
    I grew up in hand-me-downs that went from my neighbours, to my sister then to me, spaning an average of a decade. I was never “in fashion” and I was never the popular kid. But I’m happy, very social, not sexually scarred by the adult implications of my pre-teen clothing and definately very aware that I am what’s important about my outfit.. not a name-brand or fashion trend.

    The fact that you care enough to read/post these comments means you’re doing your kids a huge favour. Teach them to do without.. teach them that their personality is what really matters.
    Unconditional love comes from you, not the Roxy bag everyone at school has.


  18. someone forwarded this poat to me, and I’d like to reccommend anothre book on just this very subject
    “Female chauvinist pigs, women and the rise of raunch culture” by Ariel Levy. Very well written.
    I wonder if anyone notices that the slut toy ads, and pics of Britneys beaver shot are on one page of the paper, an update on the Jonbenet case on the next page, and these morons are asking Why is this happening to our children? hmmm

  19. I believe the article referred to is this one: http://www.macleans.ca/topstories/life/article.js

    Parents who dress their kids like this are often skanks themselves. Many parents are too busy to spend any quality time with their kids, so they buy them everything they ask for, and everything they see on TV.

    If parents want some quality life for their kids, they should cut their debt, let one parent stay home and homeschool, and get rid of the television.

    The parents who let television, the government (you know, that group that's screwed up everything they've touched for over 100 years) and the other cretins at school raise their kids for them tend to be the ones crying and whining about their 13-year-old getting pregnant or using meth.

    The word NO still exists. Use it, and don't feel guilty about it.

  20. Concur, the whole ‘tween/trashy party girl’ zeitgeist perpetuated w/the Paris Hiltonization of pop culture is OOC; in fact, we have a couple blog categories at Shaping Youth (media & marketing’s influence on kids) where we track this stuff. One is: “Vapid Values” http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?cat=12
    and “Growing up too soon” http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?cat=15
    We TRY to applaud “Positive Picks” in media & marketing too, but lately, well, let’s just say we’re long overdue for a massive mindshift.
    I just finished a series of preteen podcasts about media, middle school & growing up too soon that has some research you might like: http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=193

    Appreciated this entry of yours particularly, as sometimes I feel as if I’m shouting in an echo chamber! Nice to not feel so alone in this cultural battle…

    I’ll add you to our ‘Poppa Picks’ as I just did a piece on articulate Dad bloggers in my interview with Joe Kelly of Dads & Daughters.org in a piece called “Shaping Youth via Fatherhood!

    As you’ll see, we’re focused on counter-marketing, creating a bit of a ‘backlash’ in our industry, but our primary objective is to use the power of media for positive change.

    Thanks for the great post, looking forward to more!

    p.s. Also, I just got an e-mail from Ben Murphy that TheFatherLife.com launched yesterday, (but you guys probably already know that)

  21. Being a brother to three sisters, I know all about “provocative kids clothing”. I can hardly stand to look at them without wondering why in the world we would choose to outfit someone so young with something so disgusting. My entire English 20 class has posted in some way or another about this article.

  22. Yes, whatever happened to “No”? You can’t shelter your child completely from the whole world, but you CAN turn off the tv, and make sure your child is exposed to good things.

    Expose them to quality, and they won’t settle for garbage. Rent good movies for them, and the popular junk won’t entertain them. If they really, really want to watch junk, watch it with them, and point out what’s wrong with it.

    If you bring them up right, they’ll reject the skanky stuff on their own.

  23. As silly as this sounds, there was a book referenced in this article, and I cannot remember either the name of the author or the title of the book.

    He was a foreign author who wrote a book about a girl coming of age entirely too young, and he ‘follows’ her journey. Does anyone know the name of this book or the name of the author? Please help – I’m really interested in reading it!!!

  24. Hi Jamie,
    I think the book you are referring to is called Katlick School by Sante D’Orazio

  25. This is the website of the article you mentioned.http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=20070101_139023_139023
    I just read the article for my grade 12 English class. As a older sister of a 8-year-old girl, I am really concerned about my sister’s dressing-code.

  26. As a kid growing up today I really see the effects of what is happening here. It seems that everyone is in this conformist state of mind. It seems that everyone wants to be older and everyone older wants to act younger.

  27. this is a school assignment hahaahahahhaahhahaah

  28. Wonderful article. As the mother of a three year old daughter, this makes me crazy. I am linking to your blog on mine. Wonderful insights.

  29. You might be one of those who let their daughters dress like “skanks, but I’m not.
    Trick is to be trict and explain the troubles that can be caused.
    Explain that there are a bunch of 40 year old virgin perverts lurking around every corner waiting for a young prey.

  30. This is very rude. Don’t blam it on the parents, Stupids.

  31. Pingback: Kids and Clothes - SillyDad.com! - Blog Dedicated to the Stay at Home Dad

  32. I couldnt have said it better..When did we start letting pedophiles decide on fashion for children. Fathers who let their children dress like that need a good kick in the stones and mothers that allow it should realize that they are now Mothers and not to live vicariously through their children. How dangerous a parent can be!

  33. I think that all the industries are setting out to make a profit by selling raped cloths to the innocent young girls and the economy it self does not care what the consequences are!!

  34. I think we share the same brain.
    I just wrote a huge thing about this concerning obscene Halloween costumes geared to tweens and teenagers.

    I wonder what kind of parent would allow this?

  35. Excellent article. I’m not a parent, but I don’t envy those of you who are who have to combat the tidal wave of trash engulfing kids and society today. What happened to childhood being a time of innocence? Furthermore, who makes all of these moronic skank celebrities famous?

    Aside from being damaging to our kids, this garbage insults anyone with even moderate intelligence. You’d think people would finally get bored with it.

    We need to reclaim our culture.

  36. I remember your article from way back when I snagged you as one of our ‘poppa picks’ so thought I’d get a man’s take on this oh-so-trashy new online game “Miss Bimbo” in the smut/strut/slut category of teaching kids toxic body image/behavioral cues.

    My question for critical thinking skills is essentially this…should we (as parents/bloggers) hush and avoid any buzz on it, or skewer mighty pens? Opinion from a dad’s POV?
    Here’s the post on Shaping Youth questioning whether ‘Bimbo’ is Baiting us for ‘reaction?’

  37. While it is appalling at times that these sort of things are becoming more common every day, I dont fully agree with what you have to say. Yeah, its become acceptible to dress kids like that, but so what? Look around you, the world is changing. Even adults didnt dress the way they do now twenty or thirty years ago. Also, I dont know where you come from, but kids around here (sf bay area, california) couldnt care less about Bratz dolls. How can we not feel revultion you say? Just open your eyes and take a look around you, there are many, MANY things out there you can feel revultion to, but do you? This isnt any different. What about the teenage boys who carry guns because their favorite rapper talks about it. Or just the society of young people today and the acceptance of promiscuity…

  38. CONT: … How its cool to be a pimp or a bitch. Im pretty sure it wasnt like this even 15 years ago. If you really search for something bad, you will definitely find it. Even something much worse than dressing our daughters as "skanks". Sure our kids are more aware of sexuality now than ever before, but its all about raising them right, raising them aware of all these things. The world is changing, its always going to be, but its up to us to raise our children properly. So instead of wasting time on letting people know how appalling the world is, or how skanky young girls are dressing, do something about it; keep your kids on a short leash.

  39. While I am also a bit concerned about the hyper sexuality of my daughter, i would rather see healthy expressions of her sexuality and femininity then be repressed by the feminist extremists who are forcing girls and women to reject their feminist selves. Let's not teach our daughters that being a feminine or sexual being is something to be ashamed of. Political correctness should not force boys to be girls, or girls to apologize for being attractive.

  40. The sixties culture brought with it radical feminism (a real headache), a hatred of men, a belief that all adult sex is violence, a hatred of marriage, a hatred of child-rearing, drugs, divorce, materialism, promiscuity, etc. The root causes lie in modern culture, radical feminism, family breakdown and the insistence of everybody's right to do whatever they want at other people's expence (e.g. some guy right to drink and drive, to assault a woman while drunk and blaming it on alcohol). This kind of pathological thinking goes on and on. There is a reason why sixteen-year-old girls come home pregnant and infected with hepatitis and herpes. Perhaps if their mothers would stop dressing like that themselves and spend less time at clubs and more at home (same for workaholic neglectful fathers who cheat on their wives), things might change. Things didn't go wrong because parents sipped wine while listening to jazz and rock music and the dinner cooked in the stove while the wives looked over samples of wallpaper and fabric for a cocktail dress. They went wrong because nobody was there. Everybody learned in the sixties to care only abou themselves and it has been that way ever since, only getting worse and worse. I don't care if women want a career, but they can work and also be mothers. If they don't want kids, they shouldn't have them. It is ridiculous to accept the argument that one can have kids and hate them, when abortion and birth control are available. Some women are just lousy parents. Some men are deadbeat dads. Deal with that and don't worry about advertising. Somebody has to buy that stuff, namely, the parent, who also allows the girls to attend schools without dress codes and drives them to work and school in that garish prostitute clothing. Not surprising. Leave adult activities to an adult world.