4 Jan 2010

CHILDREN, GROWING UP TOO SOON?

Oh dear I feel a discussion coming on.

To give some background information. I know how it is to be a young girl 'forced' to be a woman before her time, except my story has nothing to do with peer pressure or marketing/media pressure but everything to do with the fact that I went through puberty at the incredibly young age of ten. So there I was, five foot, three inches tall (I never grew after this), a dress size 10/12 with, what must have already been, a 'b' sized chest. As you can imagine I got my fair share of male attention, how horrified most of them were to discover I was only 10. And discover they did. Usually the minute I opened my mouth for though physically a woman, mentally and emotionally, I was still a child, a young girl who still played with her dollies.

Clothing was, of course, a bit of a problem and I probably did dress a little more maturely than many of my peer group but I certainly wasn't dressed in some of the clothing now available to children as young (and younger) than ten. No, there was no (what we in the UK call) thongs, push-up bras, nor tee-shirts with rather risque slogans (remember the case in the British press about the seven year old girl wearing a top with the legend 'sexy at seven'?) but still I had little choice but to dress in styles that added to the illusion that I was older than I actually was.

Going on to the part the media has to play in how we perceive children.

Not like me I know but on this occasion I was at a loss as to what to say, words failed me as to how I felt seeing these two articles in our local newspaper. Talk about giving mixed messages. On the one hand, on page 3 we had an article all about "Sophie, Queen Of Pageants", which sang the praises of a 13-year-old already the 'winner' of several 'beauty' contests and then on page 30, "Modern Image Of Beauty Is A threat To Young", an article all about how children as young as 11 would undergo surgery in search of the body beautiful.

This north teenager jetted to America and beat its beauty queens at their own game. Sophie Watson became the star of a series of pageants in the US last month. The 13-year-old from Spennymoor, County Durham, is also the reigning Mini Miss UK 2009.

Her proud mum Joy said "A few years ago she had low self -confidence but she has blossomed with all these activities.

"She's now a really out-going girl and she has friends all over the world.

"I think she's an inspiration. She's different to me. I couldn't have been so confident when I was Sophie's age."

Now you can call me a kill-joy if you wish but surely the beauty business isn't really such a good idea for a young girl who we are told had low self-confidence. Being the notorious business it is, surely any knock backs would be devastating to any person let alone a sensitive soul such as Sophie.

That aside, in this day-and-age when physical 'perfection' is seen as so very important by both boys and girls, when eating disorders are on the rise, surely special care must be used when dealing with our ever younger fashion conscious children.

In a new survey of social attitudes commissioned by GIRL GUIDING UK, nearly half of secondary school-age girls said they would undergo laser treatment, liposuction or some form of plastic surgery to change the way they look.

And that is because they feel the need to change; they want to be thinner.

Some say that things are the same as they have ever been; that girls have always wanted to be thin and attractive, but I'm more convinced that we've been on a sliding slope - that slim morphed into thin and then skeletal chic.

It may be true that girls have always loved make-up and dressing-up, but wanting to have themselves cut open to adhere to an image of the perfect body is a different matter altogether.

Now I don't know Sophie, yesterday was the first time I had ever heard of her, and I don't have any reason to believe she will find herself in this situation but, life today being what it is, a great deal of pressure IS felt by most youngsters as to how they look. Surely this pressure can only be intensified for Sophie who, after all, enters competitions in which the person deemed to be the most attractive wins.

FOOTNOTE: Just to avoid any confusion, I believe that what we commonly call a flip-flop here in England is known as a thong in other places.


Both of today's articles appeared in yesterday's Sunday Sun. To view the first article in full click HERE, for the second HERE and for the results of the survey by Girl Guiding UK as mentioned in the article HERE.

14 comments:

chitra said...

In India the craze is to get size zero. I don't know what it really means but those who opt for it look like a sack of bones covered with skin. I hope better sense prevails in youngsters before they play havoc with their life.

Tina said...

Well said, Petty. Surely all those pageants should be for adults or no younger than seventeen. I didn't know about the sexy at seven business, but it's obscene! What is wrong with people!!!

themethatisme said...

My goodness dear, serioous commentary all of a sudden. Not that I disagree with you of course.

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

I 'm with Tina.WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.!!
Thanks for your sweet comments on my blog.
hugs hugs

Vivienne said...

Speaking purely from the point of being a mother to 10 year old twin girls, I can tell you that due to the media and the change in the style of children's programmes, books and magazines, children are growing up a lot faster than we did. My daughters are obsessed by Iphones, computers, lip gloss and hair straighteners! At that age, I was happy with a book, some pens and colouring book. I can't say I have influenced them at all, as I still don't use a mobile and the way I look has never been a big issue to me. Peer pressure has a lot to do with it and it does worry me that they are growing up faster than they can handle.

Kissed by an Angel said...

I have a 31 year old daughter!! When she was about 10 or 11 some of her friends dressed in the most precocious and inappropriate clothing!!! In the end you have to blame the mothers for allowing it!! I didn't buckle - we compromised!! Trendy was ok - good even!! Sluttish however, was not!!! Keep children as children!!! As you can see - I have a definite opinion on this type of thing!!! Arrrgh!!!
xxxx

Smileyfreak said...

I agree with you that it seems more now than ever girls would consider going under the knife but has opportunity a part to play? 30 years ago not many people could afford cosmetic surgery but now prices have dropped immensely and surgery has become common place as a result

Kelly said...

I'm in total agreement with what has been said here. It worries me how obsessed young girls have become with their weight, looks, etc. I blame the media in large part for this. I have two daughters and an 8 year old granddaugher (and a son, but we're talking girls here). My older daughter, despite how I raised her, is too worried about looks etc. and has already (at age 29) had several "procedures" done. All on her dime, of course. I just wonder, though, what example that is setting for her daughter! My younger daughter (age 22) is more like me.

I'm comfortable enough with myself not to worry about coloring my hair or wearing makeup. Now I do struggle with my weight, but that's as much a health issue as trying to look good.

UberGrumpy said...

Food for thought. My 17-year-old daughter has been trying to be 18 for years - now she's almost there I think she's quite disappointed.

Traci said...

My husband and I discuss this a lot as we have an almost three year old daughter. We already see some of the clothing options skew older and trendier in a way that makes us very uncomfortable.I want her to be a little girl for a while not a young woman in a child's body. No seven year old should be associated with the word sexy. Okay, okay. I better put away my soapbox before I dominate your comment box with my rant. But I am with you -- there is something very wrong here.

Kathryn said...

We have a show here called Toddlers & Tiaras...basically about very young girls in the beauty pageant circuit. The moms always say it's to help with their self esteem....I think it's the moms living vicariously through these poor kids.

Jenners said...

That must have been very hard for you to experience puberty at such a young age.

And I agree with you 100% .. there is an incredible pressure on girls today to look more grown up than they really are. The clothes they have for young girls are just ridiculous. I see some of the way the girls are dressed at the bus stop and I am just agog. And don't get me stared on little kid beauty pageants ... ick.

Alice in Wonderland said...

Petty, I watched a documentary here a few months ago about three young girls in England doing this Beauty Pageant thing, and this girl was one of them. She looked so sad! She was told, by her Mother to hold on tight to her teddy while she was having her eyebrows plucked! I believe that her Mother was trying to re-live her life through her daughter. It was so sad.
I'm 5'2" and a size 8/10. I can't put weight on, I am so cold all of the time, and can only eat tiny amounts of food. But, other than that, I'm healthy and fit, just small!
I remember one of these girls saying that she only did it because her Mother needed the money! I wonder how much her Mother spent on doing these things to her daughter? Maybe the Mother would have been better off having a Barbie Doll than a real child with feelings!
I think you have stirred up something here!

kys said...

I agree with you. I work with preschoolers and you wouldn't believe some of the stuff the girls wear to school. It makes me thankful for my crazy boys.