As far as I’m concerned, Chris Rock is the funniest person alive. I have watched his stand-up film “Bring the Pain” at least a hundred times, and I am not exaggerating. Even better (or worse, maybe), I like to speak in Rockisms; any time I hear someone tell me they have a food allergy, I launch into one of my favorite Rock rants: “We got so much food in America we're allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain't allergic…You think anyone in Rwanda's got a f&*%ing lactose intolerance?!” Brilliant. He has hundreds of them, all brilliant, all hilarious. But after last week, I have to give it up to Rock for saying something years ago that we all should revisit. Talking about his daughter in a stand-up routine, he said, “Sometimes I am walking with my daughter, I'm talking to my daughter, I'm looking at her, I'm pushing her in the stroller. And sometimes I pick her up and I just stare at her and I realize my only job in life is to keep her off the pole.” Funny, right? Well, it used to be. I’m not so sure it’s a joke anymore.
Last week I read about Tesco, a toy company in the UK that sells a kiddie stripper pole. I’m not kidding. The pink-packaged pole had been advertised in Tesco’s toy department with the following sales pitch: “Unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go! Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars." I did not make that up. And while it would be easy to blame the manufacturers of products like this one, let’s remember that people are buying these things. To wit, in addition to the Tesco story, there were reports on many websites last week about a British company called Primark that had been selling sparkly bikinis with padded bra tops for preteen girls. Padded bra tops for 8 year-olds. After much protest, most of it from children’s advocacy groups, Primark recalled the swimsuits and announced they will be donating any profits from sales of the item to a children’s charity. Wait, wait, wait – they are donating the profits? PROFITS? Who bought these suits? Who the heck thinks, “Man, my third grader really needs to boost her cleavage. I need to get that child a rack!” I mean, what kind of caregiver buys a PUSH UP BRA FOR A CHILD???? Sorry to yell, but, really, I cannot imagine what has happened to us that this is okay. Sexualizing children is a crime, not a marketing strategy.
The day after I read about Primark and Tesco, I read about a recent trend in Australia that has parents bringing in daughters as young as nine years for…wait for it…leg waxing. First of all, does a child need to remove her leg hair at all? And even if you think the removal is okay, why would anyone subject a kid to something so painful in pursuit of smooth, “sexy” skin. What is going on? And while the examples I’ve cited are from other countries, we all know the same problem exists here. Just look around. A few weeks ago I saw a girl walking hand-in-hand with her mom on the sidewalk outside an elementary school. I’m not sure how old the little girl was, but she was carrying a Dora backpack. And on the back of her pink, velour sweatpants, right across her behind, was the bedazzled word “Juicy.” She was in elementary school. She had a Dora backpack. And she was advertising that her booty is juicy.
So what is happening? I blame Miley Cyrus. I blame Miley and her stripper pole performance for everything. Suri Cruise wears high heels at 3 years old? Gift from Miley. Little British girls are wearing padded bras? Miley’s fault. Toy stripper poles for kids? Miley’s idea. An increase in gun violence? I don’t know how, but Miley is behind it. Seriously, while I really want to blame it all on Miley, the problem is obviously bigger than one little pop tart. It’s bigger than Miley, and it’s bigger than Primark and Tesco. Somehow, in our increasing tolerance of sexuality in our culture, we forgot to tolerate it only for adults. Believe me, I’m no prude. If they made a push up bra that I could have surgically attached to my torso, I might buy it. But I am not a child. I am a grown woman, responsible for and in control of my sexuality. A nine year-old girl is none of these things. In fact, she shouldn’t even possess sexuality. And no matter how you want to spin it, padded bras, stripper poles, and juicy butts are about sex and nothing else. Paint your little girl’s fingernails, and that’s just cute. Teach her to objectify herself – not cute. If you have a little girl, know a little girl, want to help a little girl, buy her some crayons for crying out loud. It takes a village, people, and the village needs to keep her off the pole.