In 1981, I was seven years old. Looking back, it was a very interesting time to be a little girl. I was still treated to cartoons ONLY on Saturday mornings – and those cartoons were things like The Smurfs, The Super Friends, Richie Rich and Bugs Bunny. The T.V shows that I enjoyed were Alice, Little House on the Prairie, M*A*S*H, The Jefferson’s, Magnum P.I. and Private Benjamin. I was listening to Journey, Pat Benetar and the Go-Go’s. My favorite toys included Strawberry Shortcake – a cute little doll that smelled like strawberries, the Rubik’s Cube, Barbie Dolls, my brothers Dukes of Hazzard matchbox cars, and of course Kenner Star Wars Figures. I was, by most accounts, a normal little girl.
But I grew up right before the Television deregulation happened. Basically, in the early 1980’s the TV networks were allowed to start “marketing” to children. This is when you saw the birth many popular TV shows that were devious little vechicals aimed at Mom and Dad’s wallet. The Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles Television cartoon was created as a way to sell the toys. Not the other way around. Same with The Care Bears, My Little Pony, Pound Puppies and Master’s of the Universe. These cartoons were created AFTER the toy as a way to hook the kids, and get mom and dad to pop for the toy. It didn’t take long for companies to start marketing directly to an untapped market – little girls. “Companies noticed girls’ love for ultra-feminine programs and their product tie-ins, and played it to the max. In the flush 1990s the media pushed harder, with the teen dial moving more toward sexy with sitcoms like Saved by the Bell.” (http://www.familycircle.com/teen/parenting/sex-talk/growing-up-too-fast/?page=2)
Flash forward twenty-some years, and seven years old does not look the same. Actually, it biologically isn’t the same. In the 1970’s and 80’s, girls hit puberty between the ages of 10-12. I myself was mortified to be the only girl in my class at 11 years old wearing a full on bra. Back then, a bra was still something to be embarrassed about. Today, many girls are showing signs of puberty by age eight. EIGHT!
There are a lot of people out there that complain of little girls growing up too fast – and they might be. But, the world is not the same world as it was. Being an eight year old today is a far cry from being an eight year old in the 1980’s. I remember causing a stir at the fourth grade talent show when me, Sarah Broberg and Catherine Parsons dressed up as Madonna and did a dance. By today’s standards it seems silly, but back then Madonna was considered slutty and not “age appropriate” for little girls. I gotta say, Madonna was wearing FAR more clothing than Beyonce or even little Miley Cyrus. And, back then there was no such thing as a TWEEN. (Thank god)
The fact is that the we have let the media, the markets and the culture influence our girls. Girls today worship what they see on TV and in music and in the movies (just like I did), but what they see is a world CREATED and marketed just for them. From Hannah Montana to High School Musical, little girls are being sold an image, and that image is SEXY. Of course little girls want to shake their booty like Beyonce, or the Pussy Cat Dolls – thats what we are offering them. Stardom is a bona fide career choice today. Today media is a 24/7 reality. The internet, TV, movies, magazines and music are always with you. there is no escape.
So, can we really point the finger of shame at these little girls (or their parents) for what they are doing? Personally, I don’t think it is fair. First off – notice that this video was taken at a DANCE COMPETITION. This was not a little school talent show, or a national TV talent show. This was a World of Dance performance. WOD is a traveling competition that features local and professional dance crews competing for cash prizes. Next, let’s take into account that these (obviously well trained little girls) are not competing in a dance competition in 1981. They are performing in 2010 – and I would argue that those little girls don’t want to do out of date dance moves or wear out of date costumes. I would also argue that they would not win the cash prize if they did.
We have created a world wherein little girls grow up fast. We cannot hold today’s little girls to the same standards as we had when we were young, because the world is a completely different place. MTV was first aired in 1981 when I was seven years old. That means that it would be another three years before Madonna could scare the crap out of parents everywhere by rolling on the ground in a wedding dress. Little girls today are born into a world that has not ONE but SEVERAL channels to watch music videos on. They are born into a world where they can see a famous person who is the same age as them. Little girls are encouraged to be HOT, and WE are encouraging them.
Don’t like it? Well, Tough luck. Unfortunately the trend is not going anywhere.
Pointing the finger at a few little girls and accusing their parents of low morals is’t the solution. I think the responsibility here has to be a personal one. You know, think globally – act locally. If you are indeed TRULEY offended by this growing trend, then I would suggest that you stop listening to the radio in the car when your kid is riding with you. Don’t take little Sally to the market so she won’t be exposed to all of the diet foods and magazine covers. Throw out your TV and computers so that she won’t be able to see the crap the media is selling. Not possible? Of course not. But maybe we can start by not judging. The world is what it is, and if we want to change it we MUST start in our own homes and not by criticizing what we helped to create. We wanted our MTV – and now we are paying for it.