You’re never too young to be ashamed of your body – if you’re a girl!

Another day, another story about the sexualization of little girls…

You're never too young to be body-shamed if you're a girl - Another day, another story about the sexualization and body-shaming of young girls.

You’re never too young to be body-shamed – if you’re a girl.

An impromptu family visit to a wading pool in a public park in Guelph, Ontario left an 8 year-old girl embarrassed and her parents angry when staff told her that, unlike her brothers, she could not be in the wading pool without a top.

Watch the CTV News report here.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Little girls are not sexual. Little girls showing more skin than *you* are comfortable seeing are STILL not sexual. Bare female skin is NOT offensive, whether it’s a high-schooler’s shoulders, a breastfeeding mama’s briefly exposed areola, or god forbid, an 8 year-old’s (to use Molly’s term) “nickels.”

People are crying, “It’s not about body-shaming,” but that is exactly what it is about. When you tell a young girl that she has to cover up a part of her body that looks exactly the same as the little boy beside her, you are telling her the issue is her femaleness. We’re not talking about breasts here. We’re talking about a little girl’s undeveloped chest.

When the city representative delivers the party line, “This rule was introduced to provide a safe, enjoyable recreational experience for all,” she is saying that somehow bare-chested little girls – but not little boys – impact other people’s enjoyment.

In an article in The Guelph Mercury, Kristene Scott, general manager of the Guelph Parks and Recreation department doubles down with, saying the city wants to ensure lifeguards are not put in an uncomfortable position if they need to touch someone to save them. I can’t….even….with that logic. In the interest of public safety I strongly recommend that they make that an interview question: “As a lifeguard, there is a possibility that you may be in a position to touch bare skin when performing a rescue. Is that going to be an issue?”

Female skin upsets people <—- This is body-shaming.

Now let’s just stop for a moment and head off a few of the comments before they start:

“Some 8 year-olds are already hitting puberty and so she could have had breast buds or breasts.”

The rule cited was that girls over 4 must have their chests covered; no-one said anything about this particular 8 year-old’s level of development so it is irrelevant to this conversation.

“They [parents/staff/government/the world] have to protect kids from the weirdos/pervs/pedophiles/stock image photogs who could be snapping pictures and/or getting aroused.”

Just like I have a responsibility to protect myself from getting raped by not dressing slutty/walking at night/testing my drink for roofies with my magic nail polish/being female? Maybe while we’re making rules to protect kids we could focus on the people who are actually in the wrong. Instead of “cover your body so people don’t illegally/ickily photograph it,” a more appropriate rule to enforce could be “No photography.”

Another point to consider is weirdos/pervs/pedophiles – at least of the lurking stranger type – are simply not as common as Lifetime Movies would have you believe. They are too busy leading Scout troops, coaching hockey teams, or babysitting their nieces to hang out around wading pools hoping for a glimpse of 6 year-old nipples.

“She should be covered up to protect from sunburn anyway!”

That’s her parents’ call, not the pool staff. And presumably if we were basing a rule on that reasoning we would want to protect boys from melanoma too?

“I TOTALLY agree with the rule. *I* wouldn’t let *my* child go without a shirt.”

As one commenter put it so succinctly: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” You do you. That doesn’t give you the right to say how they do them.

I give this family total props for acting completely appropriately in an unsettling situation. They didn’t realize when they arrived that there was a rule stating girls over 4 had to wear “appropriate attire,” (whatever that means). They were advised of the rule, and although they didn’t agree with it, they complied, since the staff member there didn’t make the rules and didn’t have the power to change them.

After their children had enjoyed their visit to the wading pool, the parents went through appropriate channels – the county, the media, the mayor – to address what they felt was an inequality between the treatment of boys and girls.

Interestingly enough, the parents are not demanding the rule be changed to give them the right to let their daughter go topless – they are simply asking that, if this is an issue of public safety and not sexism, the rule be applied equally to all. When interviewed by CTV, mother Anika Warmington states, “If they want children to wear clothing from the neck down, then all the children should have to wear it.”

Sounds pretty reasonable to me.


~ karyn

3 thoughts on “You’re never too young to be ashamed of your body – if you’re a girl!

  1. What a novel idea. If girls and even women (because let’s be honest, the sexualization of women’s breasts makes it naughty to have boobs or show them off in any way) can’t be topless, why should it be okay for boys and men to do it? Otherwise, I’d like the ability to walk around topless without being shamed. And I’m kinda serious.

    • Funny story – it IS legal in Ontario for women to be topless in public, so long as it is not “commercial” – based on a ruling by The Ontario Court of Appeal in 1996 overturning the 1991 indecency conviction of university student named Gwen Jacobs. The Court of Appeal ruled that the act of toplessness is not indecent in and of itself and that no-one who was offended by the act was forced to keep looking. The city where this all took place and where Gwen Jacobs’ victory is celebrated every year? Guelph, Ontario.

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