Thursday, 15 April 2010

Sugar and spice and padded bikinis tops

A debate has been raging over on the Guardian CIF section on whether it's ok for young girls to wear the padded bras and bikinis that are being sold by Primark at the moment. Actually, I call it a debate but in fact Laurie Penny has written a piece that, while in the main discourages a narrow interpretation of womanhood, she also states that restricting a young girl's blossoming sexuality is puritanism - the lack of debate stems from the fact that the vast majority of people totally (and angrily) disagree with her. 

To be fair to Laurie, I think she had a point to make and got carried away with another one entirely and the two seemed to crash into one another. Yes she is right that girls should not be made to feel ashamed of their sexuality. But I think she is completely wrong to suggest that external indicators have anything to do with their inner sexuality in the first place. In fact, take the argument further and it goes full circle. When sexuality is stamped onto you, you lose control and self esteem inevitably suffers. 

Whatever the rights or wrongs of shops selling this tat, it saddens me that it is getting girls onto the treadmill of looking good that women labour on day after day. The ideal of the perfect woman has become so divorced from reality, just to look normal has become one of the most time consuming aspects of women's lives. 

And for what? Sure, beauty is appreciated but ultimately what does it get you? Respect? The world's most beautiful women certainly show that beauty sells and reap the financial rewards so it's obvious why teenage girls would look up to them. But these women are also portrayed as bimbos with nothing of worth to say, no real understanding of the world and their so called 'imperfections' get the Circle of Shame treatment in Heat Magazine. 

If a young girl or woman told me her ambition was to become a doctor I'd be delighted. Similarly, I would be if she said he wanted to be a mum. Both are productive and valuable and can provide a sense of purpose. But the pursuit of beauty for beauty's sake is essentially shallow and should be recognised as such. People often justify fashion as just a bit of fun but it doesn't quite wash when it seems more like an obsession that is running out of control and into little girls' clothes ranges. I actually like to look nice - I enjoy attention and a bit of therapeutic shopping as much as the next girl. But it loses its shine when it becomes a necessity and a chore on account of other people's expectations of you. And this is what I feel society is doing to girls and young women with its current mantras. 

Maybe girls and women are naturally more disposed to displaying their attractiveness as a part of their sexuality. It's certainly nice to be appreciated and boosts the confidence. But having your desire to be desirable repackaged, sleazed-up and sold back to you is as insulting and diminishing as the cheap price tag attached to it. And this goes for both girls and women alike. 

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