The Sexualization of Little Girls: Breast Milk Baby doll, or Push-up Bikini Tops?

Fox and Friends recently aired a segment on a new doll that is about to hit American shelves: the Breast Milk Baby which mimics the act of breastfeeding to young girls. The dolls come in several ethnicities, genders, and skin colors.

On the segment Fox News frequent collaborator Dr. Keith Ablow declares that the new doll is “destructive,” works to “turn little girls into adults…blurs the boundary between children and adults in society…contributes to the sexualization of children and it makes them targets of assailants.” Contributes to the sexualization of children? Dr. Ablow, there is nothing particularly sexual about the act of breastfeeding (unless you have some sort of fetish). Although society has come to worship breasts as sexual objects, those two things on a woman’s chest are actually designed to provide infants with the sustenance of life. Sure, the doll is kind of weird, but I would hardly say that it sexualizes young girls.

Self-desribed “Mommy blogger” Jessica Gottlieb counters Dr. Ablow by pointing out that it’s totally natural for young girls to mimic their mothers who have previously breastfed them and may now breastfeed younger siblings. Girls see their mothers feeding babies, and they want to be like their mothers. The doll’s official website monitors the media’s response to the doll, even publishing a post on how Bill O’Reilly and other Fox News commentators express opposition to the dolls, and breastfeeding in general.

In case people have forgotten, breasts are biologically designed to deliver milk, not to simply turn men on. So if we can teach little girls to think of their bodies as nurturing entities rather than objects of desire, I don’t see any major problems with this new doll. Goodmenproject.com has a list of “11 Insanely Sexualized Chidlren’s Products” on their website, and a similar breastfeeding doll is featured on their list. I was glad to see so many commenters pointing out that breastfeeding is not sexual. Here is a sample of some of the comments on the blog post:

“…Breastfeeding is not sexual, it’s nutritional. It’s a sad reflection on this society that anything to do with breasts is seen as sexual.”

“…don’t see the sex behind the breast feeding baby doll. It’s weird, but not sexualized. Same with the pregnant barbie. Unless you find fetuses attractive–and I’m not judging (yes I am)–then again, not sexualized, just weird.”

“The breastfeeding doll shouldn’t be included in your list of  ‘sexualized products’, for the simple reason that breastfeeding is not sexual. Like other body parts, breasts have more than one function. The main function of human breasts is to feed babies and young children. In Western culture, they also have a sexual function. The two functions are separate. To label a breastfeeding doll ‘insanely sexual’ is to mistakenly associate the two separate functions of human breasts.”

However, you know what does sexualize young girls? These underwear found in the juniors section at Walmart, which read “Who needs credit cards” on the front, and “When you have Santa” on the butt. Ah, Santa. The ultimate Sugar Daddy.

Credit: Feministing.com

Or how about Abercrombie & Fitch’s Abercrombie Kids line, which marketed padded, push-up bikini tops to girls in the 8-14 age bracket? The SF Gate ran a story on the bikini line, quoting a mom who declared, “[The] use of the word ‘push up’ is unbelievably inappropriate. The push up bra is, effectively, a sex tool, designed to push the breasts up and out, putting them front and center where they’re more accessible to the eye (and everything else). How is this okay for a second-grader?”

Credit: SF Gate

Or how about lower back tattoos for your little girl which you can pick up at Toys R Us?

There is no shortage of examples of sexualized clothing for young girls. A recent study reveals that:

“…up to 30 percent of young girls’ clothing available online in the US is ‘sexy’ or sexualizing. The study was carried out by Samantha Goodin, a former Kenyon College (Ohio, USA) student and a research team led by Dr. Sarah Murnen, Professor of Psychology at Kenyon College.

In their view, this has serious implications for how girls evaluate themselves according to a sexualized model of feminine physical attractiveness. It makes them confront the issue of sexual identity at a very young age. Their findings were just published online in Springer’s journal, Sex Roles.

According to ‘objectification theory’, women from Western cultures are widely portrayed and treated as objects of the male gaze. This leads to the development of self-objectification, in which girls and women internalize these messages and view their own bodies as objects to be evaluated according to narrow standards – often sexualized – of attractiveness. Bearing in mind the negative effects of self-objectification such as body dissatisfaction, depression, low confidence and low self-esteem, Goodin and team looked at the role of girls’ clothing as a possible social influence that may contribute to self-objectification in preteen girls.”

What do you think about the Breast Milk Baby doll? Do you think it sexualizes young girls, or should we mostly be concerned with push-up bikinis for children, thongs for ten-year-olds, and high heels for toddlers?

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