Banning Bikinis Isn't The Right Answer

Does letting your daughter wear a bikini increase her risk of becoming anorexic or bulimic?

 

If your daughter wears high heels, does that means she’s on the path to sluttiness?

 

As a mother of two daughters, and a former girl myself, I think these questions about apparel are absurd.  Issues facing girls today about sexuality and body image are far more complex than how much material one’s bathing suit contains, and whether your shoe has an extra piece of leather under its heel.

 

But based on conversations with other moms, and recent articles in mainstream media, it seems some people give these age-related clothing values real credence. Take the debate over girls and heels, played out on August 1 in the New York Times:

 

Tina Hambly, the founder and designer of a line of girls’ footwear called Valentina Shoes, not only refuses to let her 9-year-old wear heels, she has taken the moral high ground by refusing to create high heels in preteen sizes.

 

“We as moms have to work at preserving our daughters’ youth,” Ms. Hambly announced to the New York Times.

 

Another mom-retailer, Sarah Cannova of the Sassanova chain of women’s and children’s shoes and accessories in the Washington area, said that she was not going to buy girls’ shoes with heels -- either to sell in her stores, or for any of her three young daughters.

 

“You’re basically giving the green light to expediting childhood and going full speed on to womanhood,” Ms. Cannova said. “Childhood is over soon enough as it is.”

 

True enough.  Girls need to be GIRLS. But sheesh. I remember my first pair of “high” heeled white sandals.  The heels measured perhaps ½ an inch.  But they made my calves swell slightly, and more importantly made me feel the exhilaration of teetering on the brink of tween-ness.  One day, I too would be sexy like Farah Fawcett or the woman in the Anjoli perfume ad! I never became quite that appealing, but those first dreams of womanhood were sweet.

 

So too for my first halter-top, a colorful striped number that I wore all summer until its polyester ties unraveled.  I don’t remember my first bikini, but in my mind’s eye I will never forget a white crochet number I wore the summer I turned 17.  The power of a few inches of clothing!

 

I am so grateful that my mother didn’t try to take that joy away from me.  If she had said I was too young for the white strappy heels, or the hand-me down halter-top, I would have felt put down, embarrassed, and ashamed about my dreams of trading in my childish Treetorns for heels.

 

Here’s a different view from one of today’s moms, quoted in an online Disney publication (do try to overlook the irony of banning a two piece while pushing Cinderella pining for Prince Charming in her castle):