Melissa Odabash has recently collaborated with Gwyneth Paltrow to produce a new bikini line, but aimed at a niche market—
Melissa Odabash has recently collaborated with Gwyneth Paltrow to produce a new bikini line, but aimed at a niche market—these bikinis are for four, six and eight year olds.
Many feminists and child protection groups have criticised the bikini line, particularly after this article was published by the Daily Mail. As the bikini is the exact copy of the adult version, many are arguing that in this sense young girls are being sexualised and forced to grow up too quickly: the website says “now your daughter can have a Melissa Odabash bikini too.” Although I largely disagree with the concept, I also see the issue as a double-edged sword.
Firstly, besides the fact that the idea of a little girl wearing a bikini is ridiculous in the first place—from the cost of the set, to the impracticality of having tie-up wear which is likely to fall off when children run around, it gives the impression to young girls that they should aspire to look like older women, particularly when the clothing is endorsed by celebrities. Furthermore, it encourages them to think about what they wear and how they look. The average age for the development of eating disorders is becoming younger all the time, and I have seen girls who are easily aged seven wearing makeup whilst out.
At such a young age, I think it is quite normal for girls to wear no top at all at the beach. After all, they don’t actually have breasts which need covering up. In fact, the style of the bikini, which includes ruffles and a plunged top, is designed in the adult form to draw attention to breasts and make them look bigger. This is clearly an inappropriate style for young children, who do not want or need attention drawn to any part of their body.
On the other hand, it could also be suggested that actually the criticism of Paltrow’s bikini line is unfounded and over-the-top. Two-piece ‘bikinis’ for young girls appear to have always existed, and haven’t been complained about before. The majority of young girls do not care what they wear, or even think about it, particularly when they are on the beach and wanting to just have fun. This is also a problem for young girls only—boys don’t have any other choice but to wear trunks when they go swimming.
It is indeed very difficult to sexualise young boys, as they don’t wear dresses or skirts, and don’t wear makeup. This may be why eating disorders are less common in boys than in girls. By making a fuss about over-sexualising children, adults are drawing more attention to a young girl’s gender, and are accidentally reversing the roles by encouraging girls to think about what they wear so they can stay ‘safe.’ This may in fact make them more self-conscious and untrustworthy of men, when normally they wouldn’t care at all.
Sometimes I think worries about sexism and sexualisation go too far, and actually cause more harm than good. This issue has the danger of doing the same if its media attention continues. At the end of the day it is the parents’ decision as to whether their children wear this clothing or not, and personally, I think the criticism has been taken too far, and that mountains are being made out of molehills.