Push-Up Swimsuit for your 8 year old daughter, epic fail for Abercrombie
Yes, you read that right.
Abercrombie & Fitch is well known highly for its highly sexualized images of young women, but the “Ashley Push Up” bikini, new in the spring line for Abercrombie Kids (a division of the retailer dedicated to 8-14 year olds) is a padded “push up” swimsuit top for little girls.
In tween lingo: epic fail.
Although there may be parents out there lining to buy the Ashleys, many more are outraged, citing issues that the company should certainly have considered, such as the fact that padded swimsuits sexualize young girls, and encourage negative body image. Abercrombie & Fitch released a statement saying it has removed the words “push-up” from the description of the bikini on its web site. It has not removed the padded tops, which retail for $24.50.
Here in the Philadelphia area, parents are clearly coming down on the side of common sense. “ This is outrageous,” says Leslie, who has an 8-year-old daughter. “Not only is the bra padded, which she certainly does not need at this age, but it’s also low cut.” Marnie, another parent concurs. “Yes, the onus is on the parent to teach kids how to dress, but when children see these messages girls learn that they should be something they are not.”
According to an American Psychological Association (APA) task force , the sexualization of young women has become increasingly prevalent, and products such as the Ashley are in large part to blame. The APA task force identified a process they call self-objectification. It works like this: when girls purchase products and clothing designed to make them look sexy, or model their identities on the provocative celebrities, they are actually sexualizing themselves. Girls who sexualize themselves often think of themselves in objectified terms and learn to treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desires.
The APA further goes on to cite research that links sexualization with three of the most common psychological problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. Several studies of teens have found associations between exposure to narrow representations of beauty — the “thin ideal” — and eating disorders. Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals to low self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls.
It is no wonder that eating disorders and body image issues as common among tweens. According to statistics compiled by the National Eating Disorders Association, 6% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner, and 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.
It is important for parents to help combat these messages. That means helping tweens to make appropriate selections in terms of clothing, to counter negative self-talk, reassuring tweens that they are beautiful just the way they are.