Little girls in bikinis have been getting some press, lately. First, actress Elizabeth Hurley's swim wear line for little girls got labeled “disturbing” and “inappropriate” for her animal print, skimpy bikinis. Then, new mom Jessica Simpson was under fire for posting a photo of her baby girl in a string bikini. Are bikinis ever appropriate for young girls? At what are time are they considered OK?
Personally, I have no problem with a baby in a bikini. I thought Simpson's photo of her daughter was hilarious. Babies are big blobs of rolly polly meat – it's hard to sexualize them. To me, it's no different than dressing your baby up as a lobster for Halloween. They're all costumes when a child is that young.
But when girls get to be a little older, I think that the style of bikini makes a big difference. For example, the site Cool Mom Picks put together a list of “Seven two-piece bathing suits that don't make little girls look like teenage girls” that I love. It includes tankinis and athletic styles which – in my opinion – are totally appropriate for little girls. It's when you have a seven-year-old in a plunging, string bikini that I start to feel uncomfortable.
Do I dictate what my four-year-old daughter can and cannot wear? To a degree, yes, because I am her parent and that is part of my job. But do I also give her room to have her own opinions and to make some of her own decisions about the clothes she wears? Absolutely. That's why my daughter wears so much pink (not my favorite color) and so many dresses (I never wear them).
But decisions about swimwear are less democratic because – unfortunately – that is a type of clothing that can have sexual associations for women and girls based on the amount of skin that is shown. But let me be clear – I am not concerned about my child being vulnerable to pedophiles when it comes to swimwear choices. There are predators out there, but I doubt you would find one who would say, “I kidnapped the two-year-old in the bikini, because she looked like she knew how to have a good time.” Sexual crimes against children are most often perpetrated by someone they know, and kidnappings are most often a crime of opportunity.
But I AM concerned about the image it sends out about my values as a parent. What putting a young girl in risque swimwear does is send a message to those around you that you approve of your daughter wearing risque swimwear. For me, I want my daughter to view swimsuits as “what she needs to wear to be able to swim” for as long as possible. I don't want her to worry about how a swimsuit makes her look, or to view her body through the eyes of others and let THAT influence her choices. As long as she requires my protection from prying eyes, and as long as her choices are still so heavily entwined with my choices, there will be no high cut, low-dipping, short-on-fabric swimwear on that little body.