This is a tough one. On the one hand, I want to scream at how ridiculously prudish society is becoming. On the other, there are some cases which scream an undeniable yes. So where exactly do you draw the line?
Now I live in a country where these extremes are not so well defined as of yet, so I bring my mentality to the table here. I remember when I worked for a summer in a girls camp in the US, a "lovely" place with 8 showers, 2 of them outdoors, to be shared between about 100 kids and staff. Because of this, two of the little girls came up with a brilliant idea, let's shower together to save time. Well, the staff leader freaked. That's inapprppriate!! It doesnt matter whether or not they had bathing suits on!! You CANNOT allow it!! One thing I did agree with was that yea, it didn't matter whether or not they had bathing suits on. However, what I thought was inappropriate was shaming two 9-yr old girls as if they were doing something wrong. To me, this was an extreme case of the prudes, to the point that it might even hurt the kids their warped ideas where meant to protect. If anything, the overly-prudish behaviour seems to me to be sexualizing them more, because you're projecting sexual ideas onto children when they are nothing of the sort. Once again, this comes from the mentality of a European, where 2-4yr old kids regularly run around the beach naked, where 4-9yr old girls only wear the bottom half of bathing suits, and brothers and sisters or even friends have baths together until they decide they're too embarassed to do so themselves. It's normal, they're kids, no one thinks twice about it.
The line became much finer to define when I watched the following two videos:
When I saw the first one, I didn't care, and yet the second one made me sick. I got to wondering, why is that?
OK so I had to make a few assumptions about the first video. Ana is obviously very biased in her opinion of the pole dancing classes, so she gave very little concrete information about what it entailed. Basically the information you get is that these girls were taking pole dancing classes, some pictures were posted on facebook, outrage ensued.
Disclaimer: I don't want to hear anyone drudging out the old "what about the perverts" argument. It's a dead horse, lay off it. First of all, the day we modify our behavior to satisfy a bunch of crazy freaks is the day the crazy freaks win. Secondly, perverts will get aroused by any picture of a kid, be it in a bathing suit at the beach, at a gymnastics class doing the splits or in a burka. There's no point thinking about what a perv is going to think when choosing your pictures.
Putting that aside, I had made a few assumptions based on A. the picture they showed of the instructor of the class and B. what I know about pole dancing classes from personal experience (obviously if any of my assumptions turn out not to be true, the following argument does not apply). Firstly, based on the extremely innocent picture of the instructor, the outfits that I presume the girls were wearing were not sexy or skimpy, they were at worst the classic gymnast costume. Secondly, from my own experience in dabbling in pole dancing in Ireland, I assumed they were not being taught stripper moves either.
Pole dancing classes started becoming popular because it was realized that pole dancing is AMAZING exercise which works out every single part of your body. Also, it's freaking hard. If any guy decided to look in on the pole dancing class that I went to in order to get off would have been sorely disappointed to find a group of sweaty red-faced ladies in leggings and baggy shirts trying to keep up with the instructor and not fall flat on their faces. They would have gotten much more gratification from watching a belly-dancing class. But of course as soon as people hear "pole" they think "stripper", so when it got out that mothers would ever let their daughters participate in pole-dancing classes made both the hosts and the comments section go bezerk. However, if my assumptions are true, i say pfft PRUDES! leave them alone!! Just because the pole is vertical rather than horizontal doesn't make their gymnastics any more or less sexy. GET OVER IT.
Then I saw the second video, and I thought I'd be sick. A woman dressing up her 3yr old as a fucking hooker?! Disgusting. Outrageous. Immoral. That poor child. But what made me react so differently to these two different situations? Where do I draw the line in my own subconscious, for me to have such a visceral reaction to one but nothing to the other?
It comes down to what we project onto our children. When a woman intentionally sexualizes her child, that's disgusting. Kids will be kids, and we forget that they have a completely different mentality before puberty. Sex does not factor into the life of a 7yr old, and yet it's hard for us to get it out of our heads. So as long as kids will be kids, let them be. If by age 6 they're still not embarassed to take a bath with their brother or sister, let them. If they want to put on a dance for you in their bathing suit at the beach, there's nothing wrong with that. However, when adults take their own sexualized thoughts and stick them onto their kids, whether it's to dress them up like a prostitute or to chide them for swimming naked with a friend, to me that is disgusting in equal measure. If a 3-yr old gets into her mother's makeup and slathers lipstick on her face it's cute, laugh and take a picture. If a mother puts red lipstick on her fake-tanned 3yr old in order to turn more heads at a beauty pageant, it turns my stomach. That's where I personally draw the line.
Where do you?