Kids' Swimwear: Boys Aren't Made to Look Sexy, So Why Are Girls?

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"Here's what I want you focused on: Sexy adult swimwear (totally okay) being made into miniature versions for children as young as four (totally not okay)."

These words appeared in a post by my friend Melissa Wardy written in response to a story about Gwyneth Paltrow endorsing designer Melissa Odabash's bikinis for little girls. As Melissa (Wardy) emphasizes in the piece, there is nothing wrong with age-appropriate two-piece bathing suits for girls, but shrinking a suit designed for an adult female body and placing it on a little girl is wrong.

Here is the ad included in Melissa's post.

I wonder if the girl was asked to look this miserable, or if this was her way of appearing serious and grown-up? Why so much sadness in such a young face? I find that just as disturbing as the bathing suit.

I checked the US version of the Odabash website. There are several images of girls laughing in their bathing suits, but there are also these:

The black suit is called “Baby Shorts” and the other is “Baby Heart."

There are plenty of people who defend these images and this type of swimwear for little girls. To them I say: Picture a 4-year-old boy in a teeny tiny Speedo posing like the girl in the Baby Shorts picture, or standing with a big red heart plastered on his little bottom. Creepy, huh?

If a designer made a revealing suit for a boy and posed him this way, that person would likely be accused of pedophilia, especially if the designer were male. But Ms. Obadash gets a major celebrity endorsement for doing that to girls. (Please note that I am not calling Ms. Obadash a pedophile -- just pointing out the double standard.)

Compare the types of swimwear marketed to 4- and 5-year-old boys to that sold to girls and tell me there isn't something amiss.

 

These two suits for girls from Old Navy are designed for ages 12 months to five years. To be fair, Old Navy also sells a tankini and a few one-pieces, but when you compare them to boys' suits, the contrast is jarring:

This unequal treatment of female bodies starts so young and is so common that people hardly notice it. Thanks to Melissa Wardy for continually pointing it out. I hope that this juxtaposition of girls' and boys' swimwear will make it harder to ignore.

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