I was reminded of one of my older articles today as I was browsing my twitter feed. One of the feminist bloggers I follow linked to this article, which discusses the inappropriateness of a baby onesie with a print of a “sexy bikini body” on it.
Now I am personally sexually inclined toward women. I’m not at all blind to women being sexy, but I’m completely baffled as to what makes this particular image inherently and indelibly sexually charged. The secondary sexual characteristics are mild if they’re even present. It is simply a graphic of a woman’s body in a bathing suit, yet the charges against it are that it is sexually appealing and therefore inappropriately sexualizing young girls who wear it. Of course, seeing as how it will most likely be girls wearing it, this is seen as a normalization of sexual positioning and therefore the beginning of a life-long indoctrination into the sex-class.
We don’t ever see articles like this about young boys’ clothes because boys’ clothes are not tantamount to consent. Even though Spiderman may wear a costume that enhances his muscles and genitals, a boy wearing the same outfit would not be considered sexualized. A boy in a onesie with a graphic of a muscular adult man would be considered funny because we would see a masculine image depicting strength. Even though people who are sexually inclined toward men are typically attracted to their respective secondary sexual characteristics, their refusal to hide their muscles is not considered a sexual invitation.
Sexualizing young women is wrong, but we’re not doing them any favors when we cross the line into slut-shaming. The picture on this onesie is a graphic of a presumed adult woman in pool or beach appropriate attire. A bathing suit is neither an explicit nor implicit statement regarding the wearer’s desire for sex but people are taking offense to the graphic on a girl’s onesie because when we see adult women not covering themselves up completely, we assume they are asking for sexual attention. Makeup, skirts, bras, and high heels, things women feel pressure to wear to the most mundane occasions, are considered inappropriate on women who are too young to have sex because they’re considered sexually inviting. The damage we do to young women is not in allowing them to imitate adult women, the damage we do to young women is when we tell them that looking like an adult woman is the same as flirting.