On Babies in Bikinis

The first time I heard about little girls wearing bikinis, it was about 2 years ago when some of my friends were concurring vehemently that it was a thing that happened that did not need to happen. It had not previously crossed my mind because, as far as I knew, really small children (ages 5 and below) wore nothing, or underwear to swim or bathe in a pool or on the beach. And as they got older, then the girls could opt for the one-piece bathing suit. Apparently, this has changed. Now bikinis are being marketed to little girls. If this was a perfect world, this would not be an issue. But this is not a perfect world. So it is an issue, one that Causette, a French magazine, chose to treat in its 49th edition. Below is a translated version of the article.

Itsy-bitsy Bikini

Evicted for an Exposed Chest

It is August at a public swimming pool in Montreal, Québec.  A trouble maker defies the rules of decorum by baring her nipples. This unruly behavior is quickly put in check by two female lifeguards, not without violence and police intervention to restrain the exhibitionist’s mommy. Ah! We forgot to mention: the “exhibitionist” is 3 years old. But that didn’t stop the two lifeguards from forcibly removing her from the paddling pool. How did we get to this point? When exactly did it become normal to hide a bosom that won’t even exist for years, and on top of that, using hyper-sexualized clothing?

Age Inappropriate

Triumphant tits on beaches, a symbol impossible to dissociate from the female emancipation movement after ’68, are no longer popular. If 87% of French people think that going topless is a sign of women’s liberty, only 18% of French women actually do it today, a drop from 38% in 20131. “We are currently witnessing a trend toward more modest dressing”, confirms Frédéric Monneyron2, fashion/style sociologist. “And if mothers are going back to wearing two-piece bathing suits, it is quite logical that their young daughters would want to imitate them by also wearing bikini tops.”

Still, you would have to be completely wasted not to see that the bikini is a sexualized item of clothing. So, why impose sex where it does not exist by covering breasts that aren’t there? According to the sociologist, adults seem to be pre-anticipating the “risk” of pedophilia: “The Outreau affair really left a deep impression on the collective imagination, and parents no longer see things as they once did.” This was the reason given by the female lifeguards at the Montreal swimming pool to justify their actions towards the little girl– even though there is no written rule that mandates the wearing of a swimsuit top. In short: to keep pedophiles away (like the RATP who advises Parisians “not to ‘tempt’ pickpockets… honestly…), we should make little girls wear women’s clothes.

 “It’s ridiculous !” responds Corinne Destal, associate professor of Information and Communication Sciences at the University of Bordeau III, and specialist in gender stereotypes. “It’s unreasonable. A bikini top on a 3-year-old is not going to deter a pedophile. Imposing restrictions on what a little girl is allowed to wear in public is a recent phenomenon. They’ve established rules in Mini Miss pageants, and certain secondary schools have banned girls from wearing shorts… except if they wear them on top of tights. These people often look for arguments to support their actions: some of them make sense, and others don’t.”

Even though slight effort is made these days to surveil what boys are wearing (jeans below the buttocks banned in certain schools), it is done with less vigour. Nothing surprising for Frederic Monneyron: girls’ clothing is culturally closer scrutinized than boys’ clothing. “Fashion is more a feminine concept. In the 18thcentury, men’s fashion was described as ‘non-fashion’! Today, there are still traces of this. And we’re projecting this on children: for the last 20 or so years, children’s fashion has become an important market, with little girls’ clothes taking up a big portion.” Between tight-fitting dresses for 8 year old girls and padded bras in size 75A, on has to admit that there is a general tendency to dress little girls like grown women. Corinne Destal corroborates this: “Increasing sexualization in our society inevitably manifests itself by a tendency to make little girls dress up as adults”.

Clarence Edgard Rosa

Translated from French.

  1. According to a BVA survey conducted for Le Parisien published on the 30th of July 2013
  2. Author of La Frivolité essentielle (Essential Frivolity) [re-edited by PUF – Presses Universitaires Français – in September 2014]

The article covers everything my friends had to say about it two years ago, and more. A bikini top is specifically designed to cover a woman’s breasts. A little girl does not have breasts, ergo, a bikini has no business on a little girl (nor does a padded bra). It seems that our world is not satisfied with hyper-sexualizing women – little girls have been thrown into the mix as well. Because the bikini is a sexualized piece of clothing. I googled the word “bikini” and clicked on images and what I got was not pictures of average everyday women wearing their two-piece bathing suits having fun on the beach, but airbrushed models, with the words “sexy” and “hot” brandished here and there. One of the pictures wasn’t even of a bikini but of a trikini which I guess is the short form for a-few-pieces-of-string-that-don’t-really-cover-anything-so-why-bother? And I am not exaggerating: The trikini in question was literally a few pieces of string. I clicked on the image and traced it back to the website it was originally posted on, and it was an online sex shop. Go figure…

I am NOT saying that little girls look ‘sexy’ and ‘attractive’ when they wear bikinis and that’s why they shouldn’t wear them. I AM saying that taking clothing that is currently linked to sex and the idea of sexiness and putting it on little girls is very, very disturbing. These girls have the rest of their lives to tackle society’s overwhelming desire to objectify [read, sexifiy] them ; I think they should be left to enjoy their childhood free of (at least) one unnecessary worry. Which is why I commiserate with the mother of the 3-year-old whose baby was evicted from a swimming pool for not covering her chest. I can’t even begin to analyse the ridiculousness of that situation.

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