Are Young Girls Dressing Too Provocatively?

Patch takes a look at the media's role in sexualizing girls at an early age, and wonders where to pin the blame.

explored the idea that young girls may be dressing too provocatively for their age. It’s not a new subject; since Barbie came on the scene in 1959, parents have been concerned that the doll established an unrealistic idea of body image for young girls. Fast-forward a couple of decades and you have controversies surrounding Madonna, then Brittney Spears and now Katy Perry. Children are bombarded with images of women dressing and acting sexy in everything from Victoria’s Secret ads to Sesame Street.

The Huffington Post last month tackled the subject of how to raise girls with a positive image of women’s bodies and sexuality when the young celebrities marketed to them "evolve" from portraying themselves as sweet 16s to seductresses. In her book "Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture," Peggy Orenstein discusses the idea that urging girls to be pretty in pink may indoctrinate them into the idea that they have to be attractive to be happy.

Diane Taylor posed it this way in Mercer Island Patch:

“When you enter an Abercrombie & Fitch store you are bombarded with bigger-than-life photos of bare-chested young men and scantily clad young women, often together and touching in the same poster. It seems that the low-cut, the tight and the short have hit extremes and are the 'IT' of teen fashion. A perfect petri dish in which to observe this trend is at   where many skirts barely cover the derriere, and strapless is the norm. But that is high school.

"It is not unusual for such trends to trickle down to the middle school-aged kids, who are starting to shop at trendier stores and view more cable television where the shocking is what sells, whether it's fashion, language or 'reality' conduct. There is a dress code at the public middle school on Mercer Island, but enforcement in this area might require one more FTE (full-time employee). The girls, who are ahead of the boys in this arena, drive this train. Boys are still wearing (and will continue for quite some time) T-shirts, basketball shorts, no-see-um socks and on, high-fashion days, jeans.

"Some concerned parents think the sexually suggestive has trickled down dangerously far, even to elementary-aged kids. Are kids at this age more aware of boy-girl relationships than ever before? Are they wearing suggestive outfits? Do you think it's due to media coverage like MTV? Reality shows? Even Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel seems to expose younger kids to sexuality.”

What do you think? Are you girls dressing too proactively for their age? Are images in the media imposing the idea of sexuality on them at too early an age? Are parents to blame for letting their daughters emulate their celebrity idols by wearing clothing that is not age-appropriate? And what about boys? Are they being conditioned by the media to view women as just sexual objects?

Kat Stremlau March 09, 2011 at 09:21 PM
What always strikes me when reading articles on tweens and teens dressing in any fashion (sloppy, provocative, gangsta, grundge, preppy) is the question, "Where are they getting these clothes?". Clearly, some adult with a paycheck is on the other side of the register at Abercrombie...or American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. Dress codes at school? Sure, why not. If you can't get your kid out the door wearing appropriate clothes and the school has to get involved, you need a conversation with your child. Am I a prude? Nope. I grew up in the Madonna "Like a Virgin" days. Did my parents allow me to wear fishnets or my underpants on the outside of my clothes? Nope. I also didn't have the Disney Crew of inappropriate girls to model after - complete with their own clothing and fragrance and anything else branded to tweens. Someone is buying these clothes for these kids...skinny jeans with sparkles and the flirty scrawled on the back for a 6 year old? Someone is letting young, pre-tween watch shows that are inappropriate. Is that someone you?
Oriana Hammerstrom March 10, 2011 at 08:54 PM
I agree that girls are dressing far too proactively for their age and while the media isn't helping matters in any way shape or form it really comes down the the parents. I grew up with mini skirts & crop tops, but I wasn't allowed out of the house in any of them. My Mom always held veto power and taught me how to dress well, she was my home version of "What Not to Wear" Even going so far as to "fix" a Home Ec. sewing project I had in high school. My Dad was even worse, sending a friend of mine home one day to get a pair of shorts that "covered her". I was mortified of course, but to their credit I've never thought my self worth was based on my body and that has allowed me to walk confidently away from some real losers who were after just that.
Kat Stremlau March 10, 2011 at 11:57 PM
Thanks for sharing your personal story Oriana! I'd like to see some PRACTICAL advice to deal with the "but everyone else is wearing it" excuse.
Oriana Hammerstrom March 11, 2011 at 01:18 AM
If you haven't guessed my parents didn't allow us to question their authority much. I was told from the start what was appropriate, what wasn't and why. I think that's the key. It was expected that I would look and act like a young lady and they made it clear that the alternative was not to be tolerated or respected. They did so many things to reinforce this that I honestly can't give you practical advice for the "everybody else" excuse because it didn't come up. This might sound weird, but by high school I knew I looked better than my peers. Although I did buy a bikini which I never wore around my Dad. Mom covered for me on that one; you just can't get a good tan in a one piece.
#OneDirectionLover December 10, 2012 at 12:33 AM
I am a 14 year old girl who is doing a essay on young girls dressin too reavealing and I agree with every person who thinks girls are dressing to revealing now a days.I can also say that young girls who dress this way, thier parents might have a history for dressing this way as well. My opinion on this issue is young girls should enjoy their young lives before they start dressing like hookers and have fun with thier live before they start wondering bout boys too


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