What kind of mother parades her baby on TV in a string bikini
07:53 GMT, 13 September 2012
Misguided: Jessica Simpson and her four-month-
old daughter Maxwell wearing a crocheted yellow two-piece bikini
There are many important milestones in a baby girl’s life — her first tooth, her first steps, her first word.
Now it seems there’s one more landmark moment to celebrate — the day your infant daughter is pictured in her very own string bikini.
This week, singer Jessica Simpson showed off a baby photo with a difference — her four-month-old daughter Maxwell in a crocheted, yellow two-piece.
When I first saw the picture, I felt a
momentary pang of sympathy for the 32-year-old star. After all, how
many of us mothers haven’t popped a Santa hat — or a pair of bunny ears —
on the heads of our hapless infants for a silly photo
But sharing pictures of your baby in a
bikini with three million TV viewers, as Jessica did when she appeared
on an American chat show That is nothing short of inexcusable.
Look at the picture closely. A
cute-faced baby in a halterneck bikini, her nappy encased in the tiny
knickers, leans back in what can only be described as a disturbingly
adult pose, her chubby hand placed on her creased little baby thighs.
Even more creepily, there’s an adult
male hand coming in from out of the shot, posing the helpless tot in
the style of a centrefold model.
Given that Maxwell’s bikini was
crocheted, I had hoped it was a one-off, never to be repeated in the
real world. Maybe a jokey gift from a well-meaning fan or relative
But no. When I searched the internet, I found dozens of different styles of so-called ‘babikinis’ for sale.
The most popular are animal-prints,
including ‘classic velvet leopard’, which is apparently ‘the perfect
first bikini for the little jungle girl from newborn to the age of one’.
One of the women behind the trend, Jennifer Gill — who has a website peddling the items — says she sells 10,000 of the tiny suits every year for around 20 each.
But just in case this is not hideously adult enough, I also stumbled across websites selling satin high heels for babies not yet old enough to walk.
When, two years ago, I wrote my book Where Has My Little Girl Gone about the sexualisation of girls, one of the chapters was about the fact there were padded bras on sale for seven-year-olds on our High Streets.
Back then, I never dreamed how low we would soon sink — and that a day would come when proud mothers bought bikinis for newborns.
Both Dolce and Gabbana and Dior offer a range of swimwear for babies
Of course, the irony is that the picture of Maxwell would be much less troubling if she was wearing fewer clothes.
If she was just kicking her limbs in her nappy, it would be a sweet, innocent image that would have us all cooing.
But bras and bikinis were invented to cover and support a woman’s breasts. Putting them on a baby is plain wrong.
In itself, there is nothing wrong with a toddler running around in a two-piece bathing suit. In fact, it’s easier for nappy-changing to have a separate bottom half rather than an all-in-one swimsuit.
But a string bikini is something else entirely.
A history of bathing suits shows that since they evolved from the pantaloon-style bloomers of Victorian times, they have become smaller and smaller, until the most risqu styles are little more than three judiciously placed triangles.
Inexcusable: Jessica Simpson shared pictures of her daughter in a bikini with three million TV viewers
The most provocative of all is the string bikini — designed to be titillating on adults because it is just a hair’s breadth away from protecting a woman’s modesty.
Of course, the makers of babikinis — and the misguided mums who buy them — will claim until they are blue in the face that they are simply cute and funny, just like when little boys wear mini-dinner suits.
But dressing up baby boys in titchy little tuxedos sends a different message, because these outfits are not designed to draw attention to the private parts.
We have a duty to ask ourselves at what point it became acceptable to impose adult style on to babies not yet old enough to walk and talk. Our children deserve to be treated with so much more respect than this.
We wouldn’t humiliate our wheelchair-bound relatives by dressing them in a silly hat, for example. So why do we feel it is all right to humiliate our babies in this way The time has come to redraw the boundaries around our offspring’s childhoods before it is too late.
For those idiotic souls who think dressing Maxwell in a bikini is funny or cute, how about considering the next logical extension to this trend Baby thongs perhaps Or a range of shape-wear nappies to flatten out those little rounded tummies
Consider the emotional and psychological impact on the children whose parents — famous or otherwise — think nothing of dressing them up in super-tight or super-revealing outfits.
It’s only a short hop from being a baby to becoming an impressionable seven-year-old who quickly learns she gets more attention and praise from adults for being ‘cute’ and ‘pretty’ if she dresses up provocatively.
While Jessica may think her daughter looks adorable, there’s nothing sweet about the host of research showing the devastating impact on young girls of being judged primarily on how they look — ranging from eating disorders and self-harm to anxiety and depression.
Pictures like these remove the essential taboos that surround the exploitation of very young children
And that is to say nothing of the fact that the normalisation of images of children pouting in swimsuits plays insidiously into the hands of child abusers.
Pictures like these remove the essential taboos that surround the exploitation of very young children. As internationally acclaimed pornography researcher Professor Gail Dines has pointed out, the age at which it’s become acceptable to view children as fitting subjects for pornography is being pushed lower all the time.
Type ‘teen porn’ into Google and you will get 160 million results. ‘Barely legal’ sites have become so popular that they are a genre in their own right.
In the constant search to extend the boundaries, where else has pornography to go but to push the age limits ever downwards
As Professor Dines says: ‘We are chipping away at the norms that define children as off-limits for male sexual use.’
Child porn is becoming so prevalent that it is rising from the hidden depths of our society to its surface.
Dark trends: Normalisation of images of children pouting in swimsuits plays insidiously into the hands of child abusers (posed by model)
AND THE world’s largest social network, Facebook, has become a den for paedophiles trading graphic images, despite its best efforts to police such activity. Twitter, too, has become a paedophiles’ playground, with offenders using the site to swap images and videos of children.
In a recent investigation, one criminologist found, within two minutes of going online, 20 users who openly expressed their interest in under-age images and child abuse.
As we speak, nursery worker Vanessa George is behind bars after she took pictures of herself abusing her charges at Little Ted’s nursery in Plymouth.
George took pictures of herself interfering with children while changing their nappies every morning and evening.
It was revealed she took photographs of babies because she thought it was ‘much easier’.
Yes, all this is far removed from one loving but misguided mother sharing with millions of TV viewers a jokey photo.
But as Claude Knights, director of the charity Kidscape, says about the picture of Jessica Simpson’s young daughter: ‘It is very disturbing to see a young baby presented to the world wearing a bikini.
‘We should not be compromising the sanctity of our children’s early years.’
Consider, too, the NSPCC’s findings that, even taking into account improved reporting and detection rates, child abuse is going up.
In its recent annual figures, it found that one in seven of the victims was younger than ten, while 1,000 were five and under.
So bearing all this in mind, look again at that picture of Maxwell with her dimpled arms and wide-eyed gaze, dressed in an outfit that would be more fitting on a Page Three girl.
And ask yourself, what kind of world are we creating for little girls like this