As if B-roll of murdered 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey at her child beauty pageants wasn't enough to turn your stomach for a lifetime, the Washington Post's Libby Copeland reminds us that the practice of sexualizing kindergartners is alive and well. She takes us to the world of Club Libby Lu in the Tysons Corner mall, which specializes in birthday parties featuring little-girl makeovers.
There, the girls, whom the staff are required to call "princesses," try on makeup, pink headsets, hair extensions and rock-star costumes. "Many choose low-slung pants and sequined spandex tops cropped just under where their breasts would be, if they had any," writes Copeland. Then they're led in a dance and taught to "shimmy down" and "shake it, shake it" for photos -- to a song with the lyrics "Wet your lips/ And smile to the camera."
Becoming a "princess" is not cheap; a makeover costs $21.50 per girl at one of Club Libby Lu's 83 locations, which target girls between 5 and 12. And there's plenty of stuff to buy, such as miniature stuffed dogs with "The Royal Heiress" T-shirts and couture dog carriers à la Paris Hilton. "The whole store seems pilfered from the pages of Us Weekly magazine -- the clothes cheap, shrunken versions of what real starlets might wear," writes Copeland. "Is this business of pretend headsets and pants so low the waistbands of little girls' underwear shows -- is this business a girl's fantasy or is it a marketer's fantasy? Would little girls be as satisfied to dress up like 19th-century frontier women? Would they be content to play clowns?"
You don't have to visit teen clothier Abercrombie & Fitch (Broadsheet wrote about the success of a "girlcott" against offensive T-shirt slogans) or pick up Bratz dolls to notice that children are being sold skanky at a younger and younger age. What's really disturbing, though, is that while several years ago parents might have railed at the thought of lost childhoods, many of the mothers Copeland interviewed seem to have accepted this as inevitable. "I wish they were excited about a Lego party," mom Rebecca deGuzman laments to Copeland. "Do they have to show their bellies?" Publicist Monica Blaizgis tells Copeland that the Chicago company has been accused of "forcing girls to grow up too quickly" and wants to emphasize their mission of "fun and pretend." That's all fine and good. But when did pretend get so gross?