Gender InequalityOn The PulseRetailSexualization

Please don’t help your 6-year-old be sexy.

By June 13, 2007 18 Comments

Little girl putting on lipstick When my friend’s three-year-old daughter answered the door wearing some kind of brownish makeup smeared all over her face, her mom and I had a good laugh. She had done it herself; we joked that she missed a couple spots, and the little girl busted out a belly laugh that almost knocked her over.

Most of us have played in our mom’s makeup. But yesterday on Salon’s Broadsheet, Tracy Clark-Flory commented on some real, high-quality makeup for 6- to 9-year-old girls that Mattel and Bonne Bell are going to be releasing in 2008. MGA Entertainment (which makes Bratz) already has been selling makeup for girls through Markwins International and Added Extras.

Bratz Ooh La La Makeup2

OK, moms, teachers, aunts, we ought to stop this craziness, and quick. Let’s not dismiss this as just playing dress-up. Already, there are Bratz-branded padded bras for 6 year olds (which they call “bralettes”) that came out just months ago. And by buying little girls their own makeup, we will continue to make them into sexualized beings way too early.

Bratz Bralettes

Yes, these are padded bras for little girls.

I’m not just some overprotective woman saying, “Keep the girls young and cute!” According to the American Psychological Association (APA)’s Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls published February 2007, the early sexualization of young girls contributes to a host of psychological problems, including issues of cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development. Who wants their daughter to have these problems? Since makeup is one of the accessories of women’s sexuality, you’d better believe that buying little girls fancy, real makeup serves to help our culture sexualize them.

(The report defined “sexualization” as occurring when a person’s value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another’s sexual use.)

If you’re a parent or teacher of a young girl, check out these APA recommendations on what parents can do to prevent early sexualization.

And I’d add to that great list: Think good and hard about the toys you are giving the young girls in your life. Do they encourage sexuality too young? Just let them be little girls, running around and playing, not obsessing over their eyelashes in the mirror every day.

Taking Action: Four Ideas
1) Talk back to Bonne Bell and Mattel: Tell them that marketing makeup to 6-9 year olds is a bad idea and that you won’t be buying their sexualization of little girls. (Click here for contact info.) And if you own Mattel stock, use your stockholder status and contact (888) 909-9922.

2) Hit ’em in the bottom line: Don’t buy Bonne Bell or Mattel products (that means American Girl, Hot Wheels, Barbie, or LipSmackers lip balm, etc.)

3) Make a stink: In 2008 when the line launches, go to your local mall or Bonne Bell retailer and stand outside with copies of this article or your own writing, and talk to people entering the store.

4) Encourage your friends not to buy makeup for their young daughters: Remember, little girls pretending to be Mommy sometimes (with Mommy’s makeup…) is fun role-modeling, but putting on makeup to look “sexy” or “grown-up” is inappropriate for girls’ development. Make sure you tell your daughters that it’s not important for them to be sexy at age nine.

— J.B.