Attention 8-Year-Olds: You Should Be Pampered, Primped, and Hairless

10 years ago

Last year when I reported on the new Nair Pretty hair-removal product for pre-teens and the outcry it sparked, I had to admit that -- although it's a slippery slope -- it's not exactly unusual for a tween girl to be wondering about when to start shaving her legs. Nair was merely capitalizing on something already common. And as I read various commentary from both the Nair marketing camp and other parents, I remember thinking that surely, the mainstream sexualization and objectification of our daughters had reached a new high.

It turns out that I'm something of an optimist when it comes to America's propensity to push girls into premature adulthood.

My friends, I am now yearning for the halcyon days when I thought that encouraging a tween to use a depilatory on her legs was scandalous, because today I am here to tell you that Philadelphia Magazine is reporting that girls as young as 8 are being taken to spas for everything from massages to bikini waxing.

Take a minute to digest that. 8-year-olds. Getting bikini waxes.

Moe at Jezebel expressed incredulity in the post titled How Many 8-Year-Olds Have To Get Bikini Waxes Before We All Agree The Terrorists Have Won, and quotes the original article just enough to point the finger of blame:

Today's girls aren't looking at posters; they're looking in the mirror. They have a new obsession — a self-obsession — and it's being aided and abetted by their mothers.

Their mothers who need to find something better to do.

At So Unpretty mo cheeks responds to the Philly article with condemnation of the female obsession with beauty:

girl world needs a break. like a serious time-out. all the make up, straightening irons, hot wax, etc. needs to be locked up for 3 months until everyone comes down from their botox highs.

i'm disappointed in womanity.

I am by no means excusing the mothers here, because indeed, I do cringe over what must be a deeply distorted body image and value system that would cause a woman to think this is an appropriate activity for a child. But I found myself nodding even more vigorously as I read BellaSugar's commentary, which points out that there's plenty of blame to go around:

It's easy to just blame these girls' mothers (and, ahem, where are their fathers?!). But I find it just as troubling that spa owners allow these unnecessary (and sometimes painful) procedures to be performed on children. Since the mothers are willing to drop big bucks on a regular basis to keep their daughters perfectly preened, salon owners risk losing the lucrative business should they refuse to perform a service. And from the sound of it, most of them would rather keep their traps shut than jeopardize their profits.

While the business angle bothers me, as well (though the triumph of the almighty dollar -- even in this scenario -- comes as a surprise to no one), I think the wondering where the fathers are is a really valid and depressingly novel point. The assumption is that this is a practice encouraged and abetted by mothers. Don't these girls have fathers, too? Isn't it both parents' job to shepherd our children through childhood at an appropriate pace?

In a comment thread about the article on the LiveJournal site f*ck_shaving (asterisk mine), commenter __nopanuru laments:

It's sad that all these moms can't think of anything else to do to bond with their daughters but go to the spa. What about taking a walk every evening to talk about their day, or cook together, or take up art classes or fucking something else.

[...]

Also, do any other these daughters have fathers? Do any of these women have husbands?
Don't they have some influence in their lives telling them that they're beautiful no matter what?

"Beautiful no matter what." Now there's a concept. I don't know if the women involved feel the need to go to such grooming extremes (themselves, which they then pass along to their ever-younger daughters) because the men in their lives demand it -- overtly or tacitly -- or because they've somehow internalized the "be young, hairless, and perfect" standard which American culture and Photoshop demand.

What I do know is that I am very, very afraid for our daughters' future when stuff like this is becoming the norm.

BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir also blogs at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and Want Not.

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