This winter, Walmart announced that it is introducing a new line of cosmetics, specifically designed for girls 8- to 12-years-old. The mass retailer wants a piece of the tween make-up market, which earns more than $24 million per year.
And we aren't talking about Chapstick. The top sellers to kids are lip gloss, eye shadow and mascara. Picture some eye shadow and mascara on your eight-year-old daughter, and then ask why boys view her as a sexual object in second grade.
"I like blush, lipstick, um, mascara," 9-year-old Haley Solomon said to ABC News.
Of course she likes blush, lipstick, and, um, mascara. She is a kid. Katie asks me for make-up all the time. I hand her a tube of bubble-gum-flavored Chapstick and tell her to have fun.
Toy, clothing and make-up manufacturers have a name for this phenomenon: KGOY (Kids Getting Older Younger). They market along strict gender lines: sexualized products for young girls and macho or violent products for young boys, boxing kids into gender-based stereotypes that harm their perceptions of each other.
As soon as your oldest daughter needs a bra, the clothing stores are right there pushing a bra to her younger sister, telling her that she, too, needs breasts to be sexy and attractive. Forget being a little kid. Abercrombie and Fitch offers string bikini push-ups for girls age 7 to 11.
It is really hard on parents, because the stores enticingly market these products to our kids, and we are in the difficult position of having to say no. Once one girl in the class starts wearing make-up, the other girls beg to wear it too. Exhausted from picking their battles, some parents give in, and now we have a generation of nine-year-olds who wear mascara to school.
Make-up on young girls is just one example of the hypersexualization of children in our culture. I'm not talking about playing dress-up at home, where all make-up is wiped clean immediately after the playtime ends. And I'm not talking about eliminating face-painting games where children paint bunny whiskers or rainbows on their faces.
What makes me cringe is the fact that little girls are applying blush, lip shadow and mascara as part of their regular grooming before leaving the house. Can't a ten-year-old be free of the social pressure to feel suitably attractive before going to school?
I know a woman who refers to putting on her make-up as putting on her "face." What does that tell her daughters? That without painting herself up, their mother doesn't even merit having a face?
Makeup is not where tweens end their beauty regiments. There are now spa treatments, eyebrow waxing, facials and massages marketed towards kids age 8 to 12. Some parents are on board with it all.
"I feel it's part of hygiene. I do all of these types of things myself and I think they're better off starting young," one mother told ABC News.
Part of hygiene for a ten-year-old does not need to include spa treatments. Heck, I am a grown-up, and my very good but affordable hygiene does not include facials and massages. Giving kids spa treatments teaches them to feel entitled at a very young age and contributes to discrimination against those girls who simply get their nails trimmed by mom's clippers.
I thought about my kids and what constitutes my list of good basic hygiene. You will see that it is long on wiping and short on waxing:
BASIC GOOD HYGIENE HABITS FOR YOUNG GIRLS
1. Proper wiping, flushing and hand-washing after using the bathroom.
2. Wiping runny noses on a Kleenex instead of a shirtsleeve.
3. Wiping hands on a napkin or towel instead of the front of a shirt.
4. Baths or showers once a day or at least on the days where we have time.
5. Shampooing hair as needed according to hair type.
6. Brushing teeth twice a day, unless we are having a meltdown at bedtime and must skip it.
7. Keeping nails trimmed and scraping the dirt out from under nails after playing in the mud.
8. Washing hands before meals.
9. Always wearing clean underwear, and, if the laundry is up to date, fresh outer clothes.
10. Blowing noses instead of picking noses.
If my girls can do all of the above, it has been a very good, hygienic day. I'd rather they focus on these habits than on waxing, make-up application, facials and anti-aging treatment, all of which focus on appearance more than health and hygiene.
Our kids deserve a chance to just be kids. This is the first in a series of posts about the hypersexualization of children.