The Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

September 22, 2010, 1:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Pardon the title, it was the only thing I could come up with. Not a lot of laughter is being had on my part with regard to the story on Ms. Magazine about a six-year-old cheerleading debacle:

…when her six-year-old came home spouting, “Our backs ache, our skirts are too tight, we shake our booties from left to right!” Jennifer said she “was in shock” and didn’t feel the cheer was appropriate for such young girls. Appearing on theToday Show, Tesch explained that she voiced her concerns first to the team manager and then all the way up to the team’s governing board. Ultimately, she was told Kennedy could sit out the cheer, but was also told she and her husband Duane were “perverse” for seeing anything wrong with it.

I hate writing about things like this, because it always opens up an entirely different can (or several) of worms. While the article suggests that things like toddler skinny jeans and suggestive cheers are born of parents forgetting that children are not just tiny adults, I’m wan to believe it has more to do with a “Kids Say the Darndest Things” mentality – that precociousness equates to cuteness.

This is by no means a modern phenomenon:

And maybe we find precociousness cute for the same reason we find babies and fluffy animals cute – children doing adult things tends to emphasize how they are obviously not adults – we are reminded of their vulnerability, and we are drawn toward and compelled to nurture them.

This does not make treating children like dress-up dolls, or thinking it’s “cute” when little girls are coached to gyrate sexually, any less fucked up.

What nobody else seems to touch on that I take issue with, however, is not only are girls being sexualized, but the oft-emphasized idea in the media coverage thereof that they are being sexualized “too early.”

This implies that there is a right time to be sexualized.



Back on the topic of precociousness: if a child were to step into their parent’s oversized workboots, it would theoretically be considered just as adorable as if they were to step into high heels, non? This is where the accusations fly, such as in the case of this little girl’s cheerleading coach, who found the judgment that the cheers were inappropriate “perverse.” Per her point of view, to see something sexual about the childrens’ behavior must mean you’re looking for adult sexuality in a situation where there is none, which is perverse.

But this judgment totally misses the mark – the cheer is a mimicry of adult female behavior, and because women as a whole are inevitably sexualized, the behavior is considered inappropriate when adopted by children.

So what would be a more appropriate cheer?  Should the young cheerleaders even be wearing the skimpy cheerleading uniform? Is it even appropriate to allow girls as young as six to cheerlead when it is such a sexualized sport? Is it okay at ten? At sixteen?

For a more visceral and easily located example of this debate, look up any dance video of an all-girl troupe on YouTube and read the comments. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Observer: This is absolutely inappropriate. The way those girls are dancing and the skimpiness of their costumes is much too sexual for their age.

Former dancer: I was in a dance troupe, and this is just the way it is. It isn’t supposed to be sexual.

Observer: But it is!

And on, and on, and on. The reason these arguments never get anywhere is because they never address the real problem – young dancers, cheerleaders, etc. are simply younger renditions of adult performances.  Don’t get me wrong – the sexualization of children is caboodles more harmful than the sexualization of adult women, simply because adult women have the luxury of being adults. But the sexualization of children becomes a factor that creeps into the public consciousness via the sexualization of women – the mimicry of adult female performances under the patriarchy, where sexualization of anything female is inevitable. The problem is not the sexualization of children, it is sexualization in general.


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