Before I even get started, I just want to state that I do not envy the lives of Jessica Simpson or Elizabeth Hurley. As Katie Couric’s first guest on her new talk show, Jessica showed a picture of her four-month-old baby girl posing in a crochet bikini. Instant outrage ensued. Then Elizabeth launched provocative, animal-print bikinis for girls under eight through her swimsuit line. Outrage, take two.
So when asked my opinion of the whole situation, I admit that I was slightly confused by it all. I feel a bit like Switzerland since I don’t really have a strong opinion, but can fully understand where all parties are coming from. I happen to think baby girls in bikinis are just about as adorable as a new puppy on Christmas. I also understand, though, the pressures and danger of our already over-sexualized society and how girls are dressing more provocatively at younger and younger ages, in which case, angry moms and dads have every right to be frustrated by influential people posting “inappropriately” dressed babies on national television.
I don’t know what the answer is here, however, and it’s hard to ask yourself if you feel wet when you’re submerged underwater. I live in America where “sex sells” and I’m so exposed to it on a daily basis that I wouldn’t have blinked twice at Jessica’s bikini-wrapped baby had the media not freaked out. I do think that whether we know it or not, we are promoting the idea that it’s appropriate for young girls (even babies) to wear what, on an adult, would be a very skimpy bathing suit and that raises a red flag for me.
Then again, rather than rehash a well-documented conversation about the appropriateness of both Jessica and Elizabeth’s decisions, I’d like to view this from a different angle. Do Americans have a warped sense of sexuality in the first place, dragged through the murk and mire of taboo? Having just been in Southern Spain for the past week, I was reminded how awkward we are about public affection and about our sexuality in general, much less what we wear. In European culture, little girls don’t even wear swimming tops for several years.
So, maybe we aren’t asking the right questions when we rage over a picture of Jessica’s new baby. Maybe what we should be discussing is why “sexy” or “provocative” is even in contention when discussing an infant or reassessing the “inappropriate” relationship our society has with sexuality. I think we have a long way to go and scolding celebrities in a public forum is the least of our worries. Rather than moms writing in about the views they have on other moms, maybe we could use that energy to create a safe space for moms to discuss the impossible expectations daughters face today to be “perfect,” the pressures to measure self-worth by physical beauty or the epidemic of insecurity plaguing our schools and breeding bullies.
I’m less concerned with babies in bikinis as much as I am about why girls like Linnea commit suicide. We have much bigger problems here and instead of admonishing celebs, I’d rather discuss the real problem of girls fundamentally not feeling enough in a country governed by a $400 billion beauty industry distributing advertisements with the wrong message. Let’s start by reminding little girls to pursue passion, be compassionate, and integrity-filled. Then maybe we can start discussing the appropriateness of swimwear.
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