Monday, April 18, 2011

One of our major concerns at KidsTerrain is that children develop healthy self-esteem. So, when in less than a week’s time these new products marketed to young children came across our radar, we felt compelled to raise the battle cry, “Let them be children, please….”

First up, Bebe Gloton, a controversial new doll that comes with a special halter-top that young "mothers" wear as they pretend to breast-feed their "babies." The halter-top has daisies that cover the little girls’ nipples and comes undone just as easily as the flaps of a nursing bra would.

The Spanish toymaker Berjuan developed Bebe Gloton, which translates as “gluttonous baby.” Bebe Gloton cries, signaling she wants more milk, and makes sucking noises as it "feeds."

Despite some outrage, many moms said they support the product. In a story reported on Fox News, one mother was quoted as saying, "I think that it’s great that people want to have a doll that promotes breast-feeding…. Most dolls that are purchased come with a bottle. That is the norm in society, an artificial way to feed your baby.”

This Straw Man response shifts the focus away from the concern at hand: Is introducing breast-feeding to girls young enough to play with dolls inappropriate? What’s next? A special, padded swimsuit-like garment that enables five-year-old "mothers" to “experience” childbirth?

Next up on our “Let Them Be Children, Please….” radar: Meet Clawdeen Wolf, the doll who comes complete with a “thigh-skimming skirt, sky-high boots and heavy makeup, and spends her days waxing, plucking and shaving.” You read that right…waxing, plucking, and shaving. Mattel’s target demographic for this doll? Girls aged 6 and up.

Human behavior expert Dr. Patrick Wanis, in an article by Diane Montgomery said, “These dolls are training girls to feel ashamed of their bodies, to focus on being sexually appealing and sexually attractive from a pre-pubescent age. By sexualizing these young girls, corporations also create another avenue to market and sell more products to a younger demographic.”

And speaking of marketing to a younger demographic, enter Abercrombie & Fitch into the debate. Last week A &B launched a padded bikini for girls as young as 7. The “Ashley” bikini gained attention after a professor at Occidental College posted a blog item calling it “another example of the sexualization of young girls,” The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Abercrombie Kids addressed this on Monday, March 28 in a statement on their Facebook page: “We agree with those who say it is best ‘suited’ for girls age 12 and older.”

As reported by the Dispatch, this wasn’t the first time Abercrombie targeted this market. In 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch offered a children’s-size thong underwear with the words “eye candy” and “wink wink” printed on the front.

It’s time we step up and step back…. Let our children be children, please….

Written for KidsTerrain, Inc. Reprinted here with permission.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boy's Pink Toenails Called Transgender Propaganda

This week a controversy soared across the airwaves and social media sites surrounding a J. Crew ad featuring a photo of J. Crew's president and creative director Jenna Lyons painting her son Beckett’s toenails. The ad, part of a feature, "Saturday with Jenna," was sent to customers. In the photo, Jenna is pictured with her curly-haired son; the two are giggling with Jenna holding Beckett's feet, showing hot pink painted toenails. "Lucky for me, I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink," read Jenna's quote. "Toenail painting is way more fun in neon."

Social conservatives, such as Erin Brown of the Media Research Center, called the ad "blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children." Brown’s position has little to do with children, and a lot to do with politics, as evidenced in her opening paragraph: “J.Crew, a popular preppy woman's clothing brand and favorite affordable line of first lady Michelle Obama, is targeting a new demographic--mothers of gender-confused young boys. At least, that's the impression given by a new marketing piece that features blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.”

She goes on to write, “J.CREW, known for its tasteful and modest clothing, apparently does not mind exploiting Beckett behind the fa├žade of liberal, transgendered identity politics. One has to wonder what young boys in pink nail polish has to do with selling women's clothing… Propaganda pushing the celebration of gender-confused boys wanting to dress and act like girls is a growing trend, seeping into mainstream culture.”

Advocacy groups are also fighting back, calling the reaction to the ad "ridiculous."

"This is not how the world works and not how children work, and not even how trans advocacy works," said Mara Keisling, executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality. "Complaints about the ad are totally blown out of proportion," she said. "It's just a cute ad with a cute mom-and-son scene and the kid wants to wear pink nail polish...It could be the kids just wants to spend time with his mom."

There is no simple explanation for transgenderism. Many psychological theories have been proposed and more recent research has focussed on looking at biological causes. Most research on gender identity and sexual orientation concludes that neither is a choice. Nor can they be shaped by a parent's wishes, said Dr. Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist. Drescher, who serves on the American Psychiatric Association's committee that is addressing sexual and gender identity disorder for the DSM-V. DSM-V is psychiatry's encyclopedia of behavioral diagnoses, told Susan Donaldson James of ABC News, "I can say with 100 percent certainty that a mother painting her children's toe nails pink does not cause transgenderism or homosexuality or anything else that people who are social conservatives would worry about," he said.

No one knows what causes transgenderism. "Certainly, research shows that there are gender preferences in the way kids like to play, and boys may be rougher than girls," Drescher said. "But then there is a broad range of children who don't fit into larger categories and for some families it causes panic and for some, it's not a problem at all…. The idea that a parent is indulging a child's interest in unconventional gender behavior does something to the child has no scientific basis."

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Written for KidsTerrain, Inc. Reprinted here with permission.