Let Them Be Young: The past five years
Living in an increasingly sexualised society results in heightened social issues that has the potential to affect young girls in the United Kingdom.
From John Lewis selling bras for two-year-olds, to Primark retailing padded bikinis for children, this interactive timeline outlines various events regarding the sexualisation of children’s clothing in the last five years.
January 2010 – UK’s largest parenting website Mumsnet launch ‘Let Girls Be Girls’ campaign
In January 2010, the UK’s largest parenting website Mumsnet launched its ‘Let Girls Be Girls‘ campaign. The main goal was to challenge retailers and ensure that they did not sell or advertise products, which would contribute to the premature sexualisation of children.
Mumsnet spokesperson Jane Gentle stated that the campaign was not a way of demonising particular people or retailers, it was more of a way of joining forces all together to make a change.
“We’re pleased that a number of major retailers have backed the campaign and that our key asks were endorsed by the government’s Bailey Review into the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood. I think that Let Girls Be Girls has shown that change can certainly be achieved.”
14th April 2010 – Primark withdraws padded bikinis for young girls
Retailer Primark faced severe scrutiny after they released padded bikinis for girls as young as seven. At first the store supported their product stating “every girl wants to look her best and at Primark we make no exception for the younger ladies. All the high fashion trends can be found in our girlswear section, no matter what age you are.”
However, the company were eventually shamed into withdrawing the bikinis from sale, and apologised to customers, promising that they would ‘donate all profits to a children’s charity’.
6th June 2011 – The Bailey Review Released
After being asked to lead the independent review six months prior, Reg Bailey, the Chief Executive of Mothers’ Union released The Bailey Review of Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood – aptly named ‘Letting Children be Children’.
6th June 2012 – 86% of parents still concerned about sexualised products
One year on from The Bailey Review, a poll conducted by the Chartered Institure of Marketing revealed that 86% of parents were still highly concerned about the marketing of over sexualised children’s products despite government’s promise of action.
Part of the response to concerns was the creation of ParentPort, a website run by British media regulators where parents could find out the rules on content for children or make complaints about inappropriate material. Nevertheless, another poll created by Censuswide showed that out of 1,000 adults and children only 15% knew about the site.
A spokesman for the Department of Education states that they “look forward to working with the Chartered Institute of Marketing in exploring what more can be done to tackle the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.”
May 2013 – Letting Children be Children: The Progress Report
Two years on from the Bailey Review: Letting Children Be Children, Mr Bailey published a progress report. Since it was first released, it is believed that there was significant progress in regards to retailing to children.
Initially, retailers and trade associations were encouraged to develop and comply with the voluntary code of good practice for all aspects of retailing to children. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) was asked to continue its work as a matter of urgency and encourage non-BRC members to sign up to its code of practice.
July 2013 – Redditch School becomes first to ban school skirts
A school in Worcestershire became the first of its kind to ban girls over the age of nine from wearing skirts as uniform.
Walkwood Church of England Middle School in Redditch decided to ban the skirt after a sharp increase in the number of young girls copying the ‘sexy schoolgirl’ look, which has been popularised by celebrities, and pop stars including Rihanna and Katy Perry.
Headmaster of the Worcestershire school, David Doubtfire, said that the ban would eliminate ‘unladylike’ short skirts.
October 2014 – ‘Let Clothes Be Clothes’ campaign is created
Ruth Lopardo and Francesca Aitkin initiated the campaign ‘Let Clothes Be Clothes‘ after they found that most of the children’s products on the market were over-sexualised and gender specific.
Both ladies already owned children’s wear businesses that are based around unisex and age appropriate clothing, however; they were inspired by ‘Let Toys Be Toys‘, a campaign which sets out to stop the toy and publishing industry from limiting children’s interests by promoting gender-based toys. Ruth said that as a duo, herself and Fran approached Let Toys Be Toys and asked permission to use a similar name as both campaigns have very similar goals.
“I have two daughters and just felt that most of the clothes marketed on the high street towards kids are so gender-stereotyped. Everything is pink, with slogans like ‘little princess’, and ultimately the sexualisation of products concerned me and led to the creation of my business.”
Through the use of social media, the campaign has managed to create a large movement both sides of the Atlantic, including here in the UK and in Canada. Most recently, they campaigned heavily against John Lewis selling bras for two-year-olds.
17th October 2014 – Huffington Post journalist Stephanie Giese creates a movement in America
A mother in America used her position of power as a Huffington Post journalist and owner of blog Binkies and Briefcases to create an article which went global within a matter of weeks. Stephanie Giese was out shopping for clothes for her daughters when she became very concerned about some of the young girl’s products that were sold at the American store – Target.
She wanted to make the issue a matter of public interest and decided to bring attention to the long-term psychological effects it may have on children. “We are normalising ‘sexy’ before our children even understand what sex is.”
9th December 2014 – John Lewis sell bras for two-year-olds
When contacted, John Lewis stated ‘that there was an error loading the item onto the site, and they were meant to be labelled by size, not age.’ Only a few hours later, the website altered the product name to ‘crop tops’.
Thankfully, after further complaints, it has now been changed and displayed in size-order.