The word "underage" in the title really means prepubescent, or outwardly nowhere near puberty.
If you live in the West (and/or in the U.S.), have you ever gone to the beach or swimming pool and noticed that not one little girl, say under 8 years of age, is topless, that aaaaaall the girls, from toddlers to, say, 8-year-olds wear a two-piece swimsuits? Why do you think this is?
Well, in July, I had a Facebook status and a tweet that went something like: When I go to the
beach/swimming pool, I never see little girls (oh, say ... from toddlers
to around 7, 8 years old) with bare chests; they're always wearing mini-bras or other tops that cover their flat chests, even though they are nowhere close to developing breasts. So why do they always have a
top on? It's not like they've anything to cover. What's the logic behind
I got some very interesting responses, which I want to share here.
1. I was talking about the same
thing earlier!! My aunts were like "boys its alright (1 yr olds) if
they've nothing on and somebody walks in but girls you always have to
make sure they are clothed" i mean what the heck!
2. I think that our first
instinct is to protect our girls from the prying eyes of pedophiles
which unfortunately leaves our boys more vulnerable to the pedophiles
who prefer boys. I think that covering the girls at that age is just
grooming them to do so later. Double standard...
My response: Good point that it leaves the
boys more vulnerable to the pedophiles. With that kinda logic, if
that's how most parents reason in it, what, so make these itty bitty
girls cover their chests, even though they got no breasts and are not
even about to have them yet? Definitely another maddening double
standard of our society.
3. What's worse is when they
actually have mini bras on. If anything, I think, it's bringing more
attention to them from pedophiles, increasing wring kind of attraction,
which defeats its intended purpose.
My response: Mini-bras! YES! What's with
the swimsuits for these little girls? And, true, it does attract more
attention than it repels it. It accentuates their would-be sexualized
parts of the body. And I highly doubt all the women cover their chest so
as to repel pervs.
4. You guys are discussing a very important topic here.
I would include, even making 7.8 years old girls wear Saadar [hijab] is also
sexualizing them. You actually want them to cover those breasts (which
are not even there).
My response: true - in fact, I think one
way to look at the whole hijab/niqab is that it sexualizes women; this
is true particularly for those who do it for "safety" purposes. [But this is only one of the many, many ways to view the hijab/niqab. They serve different purposes for different people.]
how is that even an issue?Do u sit around inventing things to be pissed
off about? Why do girls play with dolls? Why short-hair?
Then later on: no seriously, i usually get what you're angry abt. Im totally lost on this one.
My response: Those r equally legitimate questions. But they've been asked before.
Meh, it was just a wonder. Not for u to think abt, dont worry.
1's response: i still think little kids are told 2 cover not bczof perverts, but
mostly to cultivate haya; it should be done in boys/girls
Me: it sexualizes little girls who really have nothing sexual abt them yet. Does this make sense? If not, wait till u blog on it. But you see, women covering chest makes sense. Girls who don't have breasts yet
doesn't. "Cover it anyway. So men don't look at ur bare chest"?
[later on]: Haya? At th beach/swimming pools in the u.s.? Little underage girls
wearing tops flat-chested? R we talking abt the same thng here?
How does having the girls
cover their flat chests teach them anything about modesty? And,
honestly, I highly doubt it's a modesty issue. It'd be really weird if
modesty ideals were set to be the same for both little girls/toddlers
and prepubescents AND adult women! Don't you think? Also, how do you
teach the same thing to boys? If boys their age (under 8), also flat-chested, had to wear tops when
swimming, too, there'd be nothing to discuss. But they don't.
2. Its a good question. They learning to wear the costume:)
it isn't socially accepted if they show their chests I guess. Helps
give them identity. Same reason some families force their daughters to
wear hijab at a young age. Gives them the identity for a 'Muslim woman'.
But surprisingly I remember seeing my 5-year-old cousin wearing just partoog [pants, bottoms] when swimming!
question. Probably the same reason they wear skirts and not trousers:
reinforcing identity in terms of their gender..?
[Then later:] they can wear pink trousers too. It could just be that the
swimsuits are that way to reinforce the fact that she's a girl-
My response: becuz you can't tell she's a girl unless her not at all developed chest is covered? ;) They can wear pink n "cute" swimsuits to assert
their identy! But they're too young to be wanting to do that, no? But
even so, what about all other ways a female can be identified? Looks,
hair, the "cute" pink bottom she can wear, voice? More importantly, why
is this identification so important to begin with?
can't find the exact tweet, but someone asked me why this mattered at
all. And I replied that, as a Gender Studies student, I cannot help but
observe how different genders behave in public (or in private), what
sorts of lifestyles are imposed on each gender and for what purposes.
And, of course, I cannot tolerate the sexualization of little girls.
6. There r those sick people who are still able to see it even if it does not exist.
Then: little girls want to copy their mothers, just like in Pak they want to wear dopatta [hijab] here they want to hv the the whole costume
My response: ya, thats when girls grow up a bit that they imitate. What abt when they're toddlers? Once in a while, fine; every time, prob! Plus, I highly doubt these young girls know what's going on--their parents and others around them impose this style of clothing on them. Otherwise, what else explains why *every* single girl does it, right?
7. we dont see them like this becuase that is what our culture is like and to me this is neither bad nor good its just the way we r
My response: I'm a gender studies studnt; its my job to make such observations n
question these norms. Thers always mor to it than jst culture.
were so many other great replies, but Twitter is taking forever to take
me to my tweets from late July and early August when I tweeted about
this subject. So I'm sorry I can't share the rest. I will if I can ever access them.
If you've got
other thoughts, please feel free to share them. I really would like to
know why it is culturally unacceptable in the West for flat-chested girls to go
topless when swimming.
So. To restate the issue, in case it is not already very clear:
Very young girls, who are nowhere close to reaching
puberty--from toddlers to, say, 7- or 8-year old girls (or older - not
all girls physically mature at the same age)--go swimming in mini-bikinis that
cover their chests. They are just as flat-chested as boys their age (or all
males) are, but they have to cover their chest while men don't, even though
neither of them has anything that needs to be covered. Why is this so?
I take Kashmala swimming (she just turned three, by
the way), and poor thing - she's always the only girl with no top on there. Worry not: she doesn't realize it matters, and I am not going to have her do something completely pointless that is actually harming her as a female (explained below). This one time,
people thought she was a boy. What the hell? You can't tell she's a girl unless
I pretend she's a prepubescent girl and cover her completely flat chest,
putting a min-bra on her? That's ridiculous. 1. Why do you even need to
know whether she's a girl or a boy? 2. What are your criteria for
determining the gender of a human? 3. What about her looks, her colorful
bottoms (totally gendered), her hair length, her voice--everything else that
makes her femininity very apparent?
In Pakistan, when we'd go swimming (we as in little
girls and boys, all of us under 13), all of the boys and the girls would have
only pants/bottoms on. None of us, even the girls, had any tops on, even when I
was 12, during my last months in Pakistan, I didn't wear a top when swimming.
Yes, yes, it is very interesting how these things are dealt with in both
cultures, especially if it's to do with modesty; it reveals a lot about our
ideas of sexuality as well as how we sexualize women from the time they are
very young. You talk about pedophilia? This disease is rampant in every
society, and Pakistan is no exception to it. You can't be serious when you say,
"Look, our girls have to be protected, okay?" Really? First of all,
these girls are never alone at the beach or swimming pools and whatnot; they're
always surrounded by family members and/or other adults. Second, a pedophile or
another pervert is not going to not stare at a little toddler's or any other
flat-chested girl's chest just because she has a top on; in other words, that
top is no help in preventing pedophilia, and you know that very well.
Why little girls shouldn't be wearing mini-bras
and otherwise covering their flat chests
Little girls, including toddlers, are made to cover
their completely flat chests because of the expectation (and the fact) that
they are going to grow up and eventually develop breasts and will have to cover
therm when swimming. We do it to set women and men apart, reminding these
little girls of ours that "Hey, you're NOT a man, okay? You're not a
boy--and this is why you have to cover your chest. You have to be identified as
a female, as a girl...." as if it her sex or gender really matters at this
age, or at least while she is swimming!
When a physically mature female covers her chest, it means that she and others recognize the signs that her body has developed, she acknowledges the existence of something that is actually there. But why does a little flat-chested girl have to wear a bra for? What is she covering? Again, if it's an effort to repel pedophiles or negative attention from her of any kind, understand that it's actually attracting negative attention because she's covering something that's not really there.
Is this about "freedom"? Absolutely not.
At least not for me. I think it has nothing to do with freedom, although I
would understand anyone who does believe it is about freedom--the freedom to go
topless at a stage in your life when you can. But this is about making sexual
entities of women from the time they are very young, physiologically immature;
this is about a cultural expectation and "practice," if you will,
that we have that really has no benefit and no purpose at all but instead harms
an entire gender. How does it harm this gender (the women)? By bringing attention
to their body rather than repelling attention from it. Again, this has nothing
to do with pedophilia; it's not a response to pedophilia; it's not a
preventative measure against pedophilia. If it were even remotely related to
pedophilia, then you wouldn't be giving me these evil and judgmental glares
when you see me playing in the pool/beach with top-less Kashmala.
In reality, we do this because we want girls to grow up
and see themselves as nothing more than sexual objects. They don't object
because they can't object. They probably even like it -- remember when you were
a kid and couldn't wait to grow up and would wear your mother's clothes and
shoes and make-up and all? My siblings and my cousins and my friends would
always do this when we were kids, and most other kids do the same thing.
Kashmala, too, sometimes will refuse to wear anything her own and wear
something of mine (or my sisters'), and she loves make-up. But the kids
have no agency in this; we don't let them do this because they like it;
we have them do this because of the different cultural expectations we've set
for each gender (and remember: we recognize only two, man/boy and
woman/girls!). And this is how we institutionalize gender roles and
expectations; this is how we set standards and determine whom to exclude and
whom to include.
And then when I go swimming fully covered (yes, I
swim fully clothed), everyone stares at me. Let's agree that I'm confusing you
(since I'm totally covered and my niece, also a girl but barely 3 years old,
only has a bottom, and you probably expect her to be completely covered as
well, knowing nothing about how my culture and religion work) as much as you're
confusing me. But understand this. I'm actually fully covered for the same
reason that my 3-year-old niece is not covered. Does this make
Bottom line: You got nothing to cover? Don't cover
it. Why cover it? What's the logic behind it? I would appreciate any answers,
especially from those whose little girls dress like this when going swimming.
Surely, you've thought about this before; you wouldn't do something without
thinking about the reasons behind it, right?
If, however, it's simply that: "Look, dude, this is how our culture works, okay? Love it or leave it," then you've totally missed the point.