One of America's largest retailers, Abercrombie & Fitch, has always lived on the seductive edge. Their titillating photos of tanned bare-chested hunks would cause even the most sexually sober person to stir…down there. And on the the merchandise side, tiny tanks and micro daisy dukes abound in their dark, moody, perfumed-soaked stores. I'm cool with that.
But this spring A & F introduced this item in their kid's spring line–hold on to your fleece hoodie–the "Ashley," a padded push-up bikini for girls as young as 8-years-old. Now, those are three words that should never be associated with little girls: padded–unless we're talking knee pads; pushups–unless we're talking ice cream; and, bikini. Not to mention a push-up for tweens begs the question: "What does an eight-year-old have to 'push up?'"
I readily admit, I land way over on the modest side of the spectrum with my daughter, but a padded push-up bikini top for your fourth grader should bring on an instinctive gag reflex, even for the most liberal of parents. Abercrombie got this wrong and who knows, perhaps out of old-fashioned thoughtlessness or apathy, they have ignited a firestorm of controversy with parents with the release of the "Ashley."
This is not uncharted waters for Abercrombie, back in 2002 they found themselves in heap of trouble with parents–and anyone with a smidgen of sense–when they sold and defended a line of thong panties that read "Wink Wink" and "Eye-Candy," again for little girls as young as 4-years-old. Abercrombie's official–and baffling–stance on the tween wear was: "Any misrepresentation of that is purely in the eye of the beholder." Whaaaa…? Not exactly contrite.
I couldn't find any official comment on the padded bikini tops from the company, but I think it's interesting that yesterday the tops were listed as "Push-Up" bikini tops and now they're simply called "Stripped Triangle." It's my hunch this is the only "comment" we'll see from the retailer.
Here's where as parents you and I might differ. I don't blame A & F, they are just a cog in the relentless wheel that pushes sexualization on our little girls at every turn. Is the "Ashely" push-up bikini despicable? Yes. Should we give the WTF-look to any parent who has a young daughter sporting a padded bikini? Absolutely. But in the end it's best to let it serve as a reminder to moms and dads we have to be vigilant to keep our girls young, innocent and wearing their Target one-pieces with hearts and rainbows as long as possible.
When we take on the responsibility ourselves, we take our daughters back.
Then they could sell stripper poles at Toys-R-Us, condoms at Justice and margaritas from the ice cream truck and it just won't matter, because our daughters will know that's not part of their world, not who they want to be. Here's the deal, shaking our fist at Abercrombie really just gives them some added press and, I suspect, a good giggle about those prudish parents when they're in their boardroom. Sure, boycott them. Write a blog post about how wrong the "Ashley" is, but in the end, it's up to parents to keep our little girls…little girls.
Other thoughts on little girls
OMGwad! I Tried. I Really Tried