Pop-Culture | Posted by Rebekah R on 12/14/2011

Way Too Teeny Weeny Itsy Bitsy

messed up

messed up

A few months ago I was watching TV while running on my basement treadmill when a news story flashed across the screen. The breaking story? Bikinis for babies.

Needless to say the feminist in me was fueled with fervid anger.Though this might be a relatively minor issue, to me it felt like a symbol of the corruption of America’s moral structure and represented how we try to sexualize everything and everybody.

Why the hell do babies need to wear bikinis? Are they flaunting their pudgy stomachs or exposing their underdeveloped derriere? I was under the impression that they were still unable to even pronounce such a word. Is this how early we need to send the message to girls that they are sexual objects – only a matter of months after they’ve exited the womb?

This is another clear indication of oppression of women. First of all, we should consider why girls are supposed to wear bikinis in the first place. Hmm, I’ll tell you: in order to parade their bodies around to stir jealous emotions among fellow girls and to stir other emotions among their male counterparts. They are exposing themselves as objects, toys for men to play with and then subsequently grow tired of and dispose. This objectification of women demonstrates that America hasn’t come that far in terms of women’s rights. We haven’t progressed that much in this area since the 1920s when the whole fight began.

Say what you will: that I’m overreacting, that it’s just a bathing suit. But I believe that this is wrong. This tiny bikini implies that as a society we don’t want our women on the same level as men, that we are constantly seen as a prize for men. We are trophies and tokens and apparently the training for this mindset is starting earlier and earlier. It seems like we still need to fight for the idea that we could ever be on the same level.

We are not liberating ourselves by overexposure, but only play into the idea that we are sexual objects. When we begin to pride ourselves in ways other than sexual appearance then maybe we change for the better. But until then, we are trapped within the construct that society has made for us, which is perfectly symbolized by a bikini for babies.

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  • Leah @ at 2:03 pm, December 14th, 2011

    I know that you said bikinis exist for the purpose of objectification and creating competition amongst females, but I’d like to point out that some women choose to wear them not because they feel like they’re supposed to and not for the scorn or benefit of other people, but just for themselves. Maybe it makes someone feel sexy; maybe it doesn’t. For some, maybe it’s just an article of clothing that’s useful for swimming. Maybe for some it’s an excuse not to have to wear a bunch of clothes, which also doesn’t necessarily have to be a sexual choice in nature. Maybe sexualization is part of the history of bikinis, but it doesn’t have to be why someone wears one now. Maybe your assumption that bikinis are inherently a sexual display is a little bit sexist.

    And if it’s not always inherently a sexualizing article of clothing, then maybe it doesn’t have to be so bad that little kids wear them too. (Although a little part of me wonders if it is kind of weird too.)

  • Liz @ at 3:27 pm, December 14th, 2011

    Here’s a quote: “the emancipation of swimwear has always been linked to the emancipation of women.”

  • Miriam @ at 3:53 pm, December 14th, 2011

    I agree with Leah. I was with you 100% until you started saying that bikinis are tools of female oppression. Bikinis show a lot of skin because that’s what you do when you go swimming. Men’s swimwear is just as revealing, and in fact, in many parts of the world it’s customary for men to wear just a tiny speedo when they go to the pool or the beach. That shows even more skin than women.

    Let’s continue to oppose the sexualization of children without taking agency away from adults who choose what to wear.

  • Astarael @ at 4:11 pm, December 14th, 2011

    I’m not sure what cultural background/experiences you have but from my experiences bikinis aren’t so sexualised. I do however have an issue with bikinis for toddlers. A toddler on the beach with only a nappy (diaper?) on isn’t sexual, a bikini suggests breasts and makes them sexual. This certainly isn’t the message we want to give to our children or the people around them!

  • Alexa @ at 4:51 pm, December 14th, 2011

    I agree with both Miriam and Rebekah. I think that, while bikinis are almost always sexualized, although it can be both empowering and/or objectifying sexualization. Regardless, I think that sexualization of young children is awful, and if not giving infants bikinis can slow that sexualization, I think that’s a good thing.

  • Sarah @ at 8:06 pm, December 14th, 2011

    Are we forgetting that when the two-piece bikini was first introduced into mainstream fashion they had to hire a nude dancer to model it because the models thought it was too scandalous. Actresses popularized it buy using these small pieces of clothing to launch their careers, not to become liberated as women. They’ve always been a tool for sexual appeal. We’ve come a long way since then, further eroding what clothing is acceptable. Now we have teenage girls walking around with skirts and shorts so short their butt cheeks hang out and tops so low you can their bras… how is this not moral erosion? To Miriam’s point that it’s what you do to go swimming… would you find it acceptable for adults to just take off street clothes and swim in their underwear? And if not, how are bathing suits any different? Because they’re made out a different material but cover the same or sometimes even less skin, but are tagged “swimming suits” instead of “underwear,” they’re morally acceptable? It isn’t morally acceptable to let a new guy see you in your underwear on a first date; why is it morally acceptable to let complete strangers see you in essentially the same thing? And how does that liberate us as women? While I’m all for embracing your body and your appearance and loving yourself the way you are, that’s not what bathing suits are for… they’re for showing off how firm your butt is and how well you can push your boobs together. The fact of the matter is, society has trained women to judge their worth by their sexual appeal to men, and Rebekkah and many others who have posted are right to raise the red flag when we are starting to expose this acceptance to our children. Let’s further hinder their ability to base their self-confidence on anything but their sexual appeal.

  • Johannah @ at 9:10 pm, December 14th, 2011

    I know what you mean; I’m a lifeguard and I feel the exact same way whenever I see anyone under the age of like 15 wearing them. It just makes me super uncomfortable and I don’t understand why babies or six-year-olds are wearing bikinis. Or why parents are buying them. Plus, babies sunburn REALLY easily.

  • Kristen A @ at 11:22 pm, December 14th, 2011

    Sarah, I don’t think anybody here was suggesting bikinis for young children and babies are okay. Also I really object to the way you keep referring to moral erosion. Plenty of men and women have seen me in my underwear whether we’re on a date or having a one-night stand, and that doesn’t lower my level of character or make me immoral. Nor do I base my worth on how sexually appealing I am to either gender and I certainly don’t wear a bikini to express that.

    Please, if you’re going to sexually shame others do it elsewhere. Not all people are so afraid of the sexuality of others that we have to attack it as being something evil or wrong.

  • Leah @ at 6:55 am, December 15th, 2011

    Sarah, Your entire comment is the very definition of slut shaming. Look it up if you don’t know what it means. It’s feminism101.

  • Candice @ at 2:11 pm, December 15th, 2011

    Bikinis aren’t necessarily symbols of women’s objectification. Most women choose to wear one just because they want to, and indeed men’s swimming gear is often just as revealing. Women should have the choice of wearing whatever they want to and not be shamed for it, whether that be a burqa or a bikini.

    Perhaps it would be better to attack some people’s expectations that women wear bikinis even if they’d prefer to wear a full suit, because if they don’t they’re apparently prudish.

    I don’t think it’s acceptable for babies to be wearing bikinis. I think it’s sick that we are sexualising children that are just a few months old. But I do think it’s different with adults.

  • Niloo @ at 2:56 pm, December 15th, 2011

    Hmm, so i actually have to disagree here. When I was a little girl (2 years old) my mom bought me a little kid bikini and I always thought it was cute. But now as an ADULT my parents (strict, and coming from a different cultural background) would never want me to wear a bikini. In their view….as an older woman wearing a bikini…you actually have “stuff” to show off and make yourself an object. But on a little baby who has no breasts a bikini is just a something “cute”. Even my super conservative parents never saw it as something sexual. I’m not saying I agree with their ideas about adults…women can wear bikinis if they want…just saying that I find them harmless on babies precisely because babies AREN’T sexual. And if some man finds a baby sexual HE is the problem and not the baby or the parents. That’s just sick.

  • Johannah @ at 3:35 pm, December 15th, 2011

    I agree with Kristen and Leah. This post started out drawing our attention to the sexualization of our children way too young, but quickly evolved into a slut shaming fest. I do not think that babies should wear bikinis. But I am nineteen years old, and if I want to wear one I see no reason why that makes me morally eroded. Babies wearing these have no choice, and that is a problem. But I do, and isn’t feminism all about having a choice?

    And what happened to erasing the double standard about sex? “It isn’t morally acceptable to let a new guy see you in your underwear on a first date; why is it morally acceptable to let complete strangers see you in essentially the same thing?” There are so many things wrong with this statement. First of all, it’s a blanket statement using one person’s opinion of morals. And secondly, there’s the word “let.” Assuming all men are horny and we should only allow them to do so much.

    Well, again, feminism is all about my right to choose, and I reserve the right to choose my own morals, eroded or no. And I don’t think I deserve to be slut shamed for it.

  • Liz @ at 8:00 pm, December 20th, 2011

    1) I know plenty of girls who wear bikinis because they think they’re adorable/have really nice designs.

    2) Women oggle men in their swimsuits, yet no ones complaining about them being objectified. I mean, seriously, you can’t just get up on a pedestal and complain about women being objectified in swimsuits when men are objectified in swimsuits as well; are you really going to tell me you have not once in your life admired a guy with a nice six-pack at the beach?

    Also, the “corruption of America’s moral structure?” Really? Because adults and teens wear bikinis we have now lost all morals and the apocalypse is upon us? You could have had a totally sound argument about toddlers wearing bikinis had you not gotten up on some silly soap box and proclaimed to be morally superior to most of America. Don’t try to deny it, that’s exactly what you did when you started whining about the loss of an entire country’s moral compass, and let me tell you something, your morals are no better than mine just because my swimsuit shows off my stomach and yours doesn’t.

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