It has been an interesting year or two for girls’ fashions. First we had little girls’ underwear with words like “eye candy” printed on the crotch, sweatpants with “Juicy” and “Sexy” on the backside and padded bikini tops for 7-year-olds.
The new rage is Sketcher Shape-Ups for little girls. These Shape-Ups have become famous for their commercials promising lean legs and perky butts for women who wear them. The commercials focus on the backsides of women, as they shake their bottoms wearing skimpy underwear or bikinis. In fact, we often don’t even see a face or any other kind of body part – simply a close up of a scantily clad butt, shaking and shimmying in our faces. What the heck – we’re grown women. We can choose to buy into the hype, or not.
But Shape-Ups are now targeting young girls, with the same emphasis – getting into shape. While the focus isn't on their backsides – it’s pretty obvious if the same sneaker is targeted at a woman’s rear end, then the same thing is going on for her daughter. The commercials feature tall, slim little girls in their butt-shaping sneakers, running from boys who are dressed up as tempting foods like hot dogs.
The positive message is to eat healthy foods and exercise. That’s a good thing, in a country where a third of our children are overweight and puberty is hitting 8-year-old girls due to a combination of hormones in our food, and the girls being so overweight that their estrogen levels are raised high enough to start body development that would ordinarily be a few more years off. Too many of us kid ourselves by referring to our overweight children as having “puppy” or “baby fat” when in fact it’s just plain old fat from over-eating and living a sedentary lifestyle.
But the other message--the one that tells girls that the shape of their legs and bottoms matters--is yet another way to let little girls know that their lack of breasts can be faked with padded bras, that their underwear needs provocative words and that their bottoms need to “shape up” and look as perky as possible. Forget math and science, it's all about their looks. And for whom do they work so hard to shape up? Themselves, or boys their age?