Ten years ago, I was crammed in the back of a small car with my sister and her friend, driving to Punchestown race course to see our favourite rapper live in concert. During the drive down, we blasted the Marshall Mathers LP with the windows open, rapping along to all that vitriol. In my defence, he was super-talented. A further excuse is that I was 15. Eminem was rebellious because he used curse words and his CDs had parental advisory stickers. I won’t lie – his music was a vehicle for my teen angst. We knew that his lyrics were a bit off. Like he wasn’t serious about murdering those women right? He...he...that stuff was unreal. We didn’t read into it.
Padded bra available in the girls section of Dunnes
The children’s section of a department store should be filled with toys, clothes, and coloring books…so why is Dunnes Stores marketing lingerie to preteens? A walk-through of the kids section of Dunnes’ Stephen’s Green location yields several clear examples of padded bras and matching frilly knickers available in childish prints, a combination that seems incongruous and just plain disturbing.
The sexualization of children is an issue that crops up all too often these days, with the likes of baby beauty pageants and Bratz dolls routinely making headlines. Earlier this week, the Metro Herald reported that Take That singer and X Factor judge Gary Barlow had to ban music videos in his house because their content had become too racy for his three children to watch. Barlow linked this to the bawdy dance moves displayed by young X Factor hopefuls, presumably culled from such videos. Children imitating Beyonce or Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas seems harmless enough until you realize how much our society has latched on to these images and turned them into marketing tools aimed at what is arguably the most impressionable demographic. Dunnes peddling padded bras in the kids department is a prime example.
Padded bra available in the girls section of Dunnes
That a preteen girl is now expected to have (or look like she has) breasts is worrying. So is the lesson that a young girl’s power is derived from her sexuality – now taught before she even fully grasps what sexuality is. We have somehow skipped from bras, which after all serve an anatomical function, straight to lingerie, which is intended for titillation. That’s grand for adults, but when a girl who has not even started her period yet is expected to pad her bra, something is very wrong. When the first brassiere she ever wears is designed not for her own comfort, but to render her attractive under a male gaze, what is that telling her?
Furthermore, it teaches young boys that it’s okay to regard girls as sexual objects. When I was a preteen back in the mid-90s our only option was the classic white cotton ‘training bra’. Nothing else was made in our size, because, as my mother phrased it, ‘you have nothing to put in it!’ But I suppose my generation was lucky in that we didn’t live with the expectation that girls of 10, 11, or 12 years of age face today to don frilly knickers and matching push-up bras. Of course there are some girls that age and even younger who genuinely need to wear a bra. This is not the issue. It is the design and the marketing of products that are indistinguishable from adult sexual attire wrapped in pink, bubbly, childish packaging and sold in the children’s section next to fuzzy slippers and teddy bears.
This is hardly a new issue. In September the Irish Independent published this article citing Dunnes’ (and Penney’s) sale of children’s padded bras. But considering that this week we found several sets of them prominently displayed in Dunnes’ St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre location (though it should be noted that Dunnes did not appear to have such products for children as young as three as noted in the article), it doesn’t seem to have done much good.
Blame who you want in Hollywood or the music industry for sexing-up the popular culture consumed by today’s ‘tweens’ and teens; that is a far wider issue. The truly ridiculous thing here is that a popular family brand like Dunnes is participating in marketing such attire to girls who are simply too young for it. I know people will say we’re grumbling here, that we have no sense of humour, or that it’s simply a fashion statement, but you wouldn’t see, say, men’s boxer shorts adorned with lip prints in the boys section. Admittedly, there are few comparable products which could be aimed at young men to illustrate the point, which should only highlight their inappropriateness.
Unless people speak up and tell Dunnes Stores that selling padded bras to children and preteens is not acceptable, nothing will change. The IFN will be sending a letter to Dunnes Stores to voice our outrage over this issue and we’d encourage anyone who agrees with us to do the same. They can be reached at: email@example.com
Erin - IFN Co-ordinator
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