Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tweens: From Play Dates to Playmates?

The sexification of underage girls continues to make news. Earlier this year, we had Abercrombie Kids selling padded bra bikinis for eight-year olds. More recently, one of the diminutive divas of the so-called reality show Toddlers and Tiaras was dressed to thrill as the hooker with a heart from Pretty Woman.

The adorable little prostitute in question? Just three years old.

Both stories gained the parties involved (a major retailer and an ambitious stage mother in need of major therapy) tons of publicity. While many of the news reports expressed outrage, the media soaked the stories for all they were worth. Whether you're looking to sell bathing suits, sell your daughter or sell advertising dollars, clearly there is money to be made.

So, are any of us really surprised that the company that tarted up America's girls next door would want in on the act? Playboy has just licensed its famous bunny head to Diva, an Australia-based chain of jewelry and accessory stores that targets tweens and teens.

A little background. The bunny logo was designed in October 1953 by Arthur Paul. Today it is one of the world's most recognized trademarks. According to Playboy's website, the rabbit was chosen "to depict the lighter side of life, the rabbit being, to many people, the "playboy" of the animal world." By embracing the bunny, men are embracing their right to live like Hugh Hefner. Smoking jacket, L.A. mansion, beautiful blondes. Ah yes, the so-called lighter side of life.

For men maybe. But the way that the bunny logo is used on female models and cocktail waitresses doesn't feel quite so light. Whether as a piece of jewelry, silk-screened on a tee or tattooed on a breast, the bunny seems to communicate that the woman in question has received at best an admiring nod and at worst a brand like a piece of livestock. Her body is so bodacious that it would be a crime to keep it under wraps. The ultimate seal of approval? Playboy itself is staking a claim.

People may think I'm overreacting. After all, Playboy is still fairly tame compared to Penthouse and other adult publications. I actually think that's part of what bothers me. By combining the wholesome with the salacious, the wide-eyed girl in braids whose school uniform — oops! — happens to be unbuttoned down to there, Playboy seems to condone lusting after neighbors and nieces. It's the same issue I have with Hooters. (Are you a restaurant or a titty bar? Make up your mind!) I'm all right with pornography and adult entertainment when it's promoted as such. When it involves consenting adults and only consenting adults. It's the blurring of the lines that worries me.

And, to my mind, selling Playboy-themed jewelry at a store that caters to the junior high and high school set is some serious line-blurring.

So, a girl my daughter's age buys a necklace (or worse, one of the little bow ties that harken back to the heyday of the Playboy Club) at Diva. What is she saying? "When I grow up I want to take my clothes off for money." Or, "Look at my breasts now." Our little girls are growing up too fast as it is! And, I for one, do not want men leering at my daughter in the same way that they oggle Miss November.

Finally, I have to add that sexualization aside, a brand that objectifies women has no place in a shop that is dictating what's hot and what's not to impressionable young girls. Playboy playmates are held up as desirable for what's on their chests, not what's in their heads. If you have any doubts, check out an old episode of The Girls Next Door. Hef's three girlfriends (why settle for one, after all, when you're celebrating the lighter side of life?) are busty and blonde, but they aren't exactly a brain trust.

I know that girls want to look pretty and even feel sexy, but please let's help them set their sights a little higher.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there! I found you on MBC. I totally agree that tweens don't need to advertise for Playboy or be hypersexualized in general. Girls have the rest of their lives to be skanks if they choose, but let's let them grow up and decide for themselves. My girls will NOT be wearing slutty garb or clothes with recognizable (and suggestive labels) while they're under my roof.