I’m undecided about what I think about this. I think children are conditioned to be little consumers from a very early age and hungrily eat up and reproduce the dominant norms of society, including dominant norms about gender and sexuality. I think that it is a misunderstanding of this to assume that sexualised child products are capitalism cashing in on paedophilia – sexual abuse is about the mindset of the attacker rather than the appearence of the victim, and the one indisputable factor about children which makes them attractive to paedophiles is the one factor you can’t change – the fact that they are children.
That said, I can’t say I am thrilled at the prospect of my children growing up in a society where the female body is dominantly viewed as a product. It’s the impossible dream, but I want my daughter to experience her body as just that, her body, not something reified and fetishised in a million different places and a million different ways. If you look at the stats, the vast majority of women – even or perhaps especially women who all around them would see as measuring up well against the norms for beauty – are uncomfortable with their bodies. More UK women diet than don’t, and that’s before you look under the surface of that to eating disorders, where you move beyond disastisfaction to loathing. It’s not just to do with what the media presents us with, but it’s a part of it.
I can’t see how enforceable the reforms are. How will they ever control what is on the TV, on the internet, in the shops, in the age of the internet and illegal sweatshops? If there was some sort of universal package available for parents to censor the internet and TV for their children it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. I don’t think stopping shops from selling sexualised children’s clothes will achieve much though I’m not sure I can be bothered to defend the rights of the capitalists to produce and sell these items. I’m not sure how the divisions would be made, either – what makes one slogan inappropriate and not another? Where is your cut off – mini high heels seem to have been mentioned and while I don’t think they are something I would buy for my daughter (much as we begged our own parents back in the 80s) there is a difference between these and say a miniature thong – isn’t there? It’s all a bit confusing.
There does seem to be a lot of outrage in the comments of the articles I’ve seen so far. I don’t think many of the measure are particularly draconian or Stalinesque, though I’m not sure how effective they will be. I AM a bit suspicous in the sense that there is a very real possibility in the age of Dorries and her ilk that this could be part of a movement towards policing other things – child access to homosexual images (I’m not talking porn here!) for example. That said, some of the changes don’t seem so bad. I’d love to take my children into a newsagent without them being bombarded with sexist images of women and if there is a brown bag policy, who is it actually depriving? The magazines are still available for the people who want them, after all, it’s not an outright ban proposed. It seems similar to me to the smoking ban – people who want to smoke can still do it, they just have to do it in a way that doesn’t interfere with other people’s freedoms to not be exposed to smoke.