The Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Leopard Print Bikini

Leopard-print designs, pink frills, ruffles and bows. In the eyes of young girls, what’s not to love about Liz Hurley’s new line of swimwear? Judging by the angry backlash of Tweets from parents, obviously quite a lot, with labels such as “skimpy”, “disturbing, “sexualizing” and “unsuitable” (Cable, 2014) all circulating in the public arena.

It is believed that these pieces, and the poses of the girls, are "very adult" and contribute to the sexualisation of young girls. All I seem to notice is the poor Photoshopping job...

It is believed that these pieces, and the poses of the girls, are “very adult” and contribute to the sexualisation of young girls. All I seem to notice is the poor Photoshopping job…

Featuring the “Mini Cha Cha Bikini” for girls under eight and the “Collette Bikini” which is described as being “great for girls who want to look grown up” (Cable, 2014), it is no doubt that Hurley’s latest children’s swimwear collection is controversial. Since posting a picture of the range on Twitter two weeks ago, Hurley has been bombarded with online insults (Cable, 2014), the mediated public sphere rife with criticism:

Triangle and side tie bikinis on little girls is not a good look.. Sorry. Why sexualise them. Let them be children. (Velez, 2014)

Children have to be trendy too? What for sexual predators? Nope. This is silly! (Velez, 2014)

Amongst all the discussion and debate, it seems as though the only opinions that have been excluded are from the children themselves – the socially constructed, innocent, sexually corruptible beings (Faulkner, 2010) who will forever be the “inept victims of products” (Gauntlett, 1998). After all, is this not how we perceive children? Do we not impose our own connotations to these images? Do we even have our own interpretations or are we victims ourselves, subject to an ideological system which requires us to view these images through a paedophilic lens and thus, identify a (non-existent) sexuality in the children (Faulkner, 2010)? One user certainly thinks so:

I think the problem is the people who see something sexual when they look at kids in bikinis. They are the weirdos! (‘Liz-Hurley accused’, 2014)

It must be recognised, however, that we are only part of the problem. While it is only natural for parents to worry and express their concern, hardly any efforts are ever made to address and resolve such anxieties. Instead, the media creates alarming stories, exaggerated through claims of ‘corporate paedophilia‘ and the very selective referencing to research reports, which provide gratification for parent’s fears. This, in turn, escalates public concern and triggers a “moral panic” which is both unfinished and ongoing in the mediated public sphere (Turnbull, 2014).

Whilst arguing that the sexualisation of children in the media is often a shared ideological interpretation at the point of viewing rather than representation, this is not to say that such exploitation does not occur. In fact, it is through reading fellow student’s posts, such as Natalie Cupac’s discussion of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’, as well as Tiarne Blackwell’s research into a seven-year old girl who was given a voucher for breast augmentation surgery on her birthday, that I have become more aware, and accepting, that child sexualisation is not always a perceptual issue, but can often be a reality that has significant implications.

Overall, I have found this week’s topic to be the most fascinating and personally rewarding. Writing this blog post has assisted me in reaching a new level of engagement with the concepts and issues discussed over the past six weeks, which I feel have all cumulated into my greater awareness and interest into the media and its role in our everyday lives. Thank you BCM110 students for making this learning process ever the more pleasurable and exciting!

Giverny

Interested to find out more about Liz Hurley’s controversial swimwear line? Watch this video.

Reference List:

Cable, S., 2014, ‘Backlash over Liz’s bikinis for kids: Actress bombarded with criticism on Twitter over skimpy designs for the under-eights’, Mail Online, retrieved 12 April 2014, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2595600/Backlash-Lizs-bikinis-kids-Actress-bombarded-criticism-Twitter-skimpy-designs-eights.html>.

Velez, A., 2014, ‘Girls’ Leopard-Print Bikini Brings Out the Tiger Moms’, The Stir, retrieved 12 April 2014, <http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/170687/girls_leopardprint_bikini_brings_out?next=11>.

Faulkner, J., 2010  ‘The Innocence fetish: The Commodification and Sexualisation of Children in the Media and Popular Culture’, Media International Australia, No 135, pp. 107-108.

Gauntlett, D., 1998, ‘Ten Things Wrong with the ‘effects model’ in ‘Approaches to Audiences – A Reader’, Arnold London, retrieved 12 April 2014, <http://www.theory.org.uk/david/effects.htm>.

‘Liz-Hurley accused of sexualising kids’, 2014, Australian Women’s Weekly, retrieved 12 April 2014, <http://www.aww.com.au/news-features/celebrity-stories/2014/4/liz-hurley-accused-of-sexualising-kids-1/>.

Turnbull, S., 2014, ‘Relating media theory to media issues’, notes from Lecture 6 of Introduction to Communication and Media Studies at The University of Wollongong.

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2 thoughts on “The Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Leopard Print Bikini

  1. This cultural obsession with the commodification of sex has gone too far. When do we draw the line? Is there even a line to be drawn?
    Like you said, the only opinions that have been excluded are those of children, the ones who are, in some cases, being exploited. I think as a society, we should start considering what children can do, the capabilities of their forming brains and personalities, rather than what they are incapable of, and that’s what’s being done here.
    I really enjoyed reading this, it is evident that you enjoyed writing it too! It’s such a thought provoking subject, that really deserves to receive more media attention.

    • Thank you for your comment Ebony. You make a very important point about the way society perceives children and this liminal stage in life. I found this interesting upon reading David Gauntlett’s article at the very beginning of session. Children can think thoughtfully and critically, it is just nobody gives them the chance. Their voices are often unheard and they are marginalised in that they rarely participate in the mediated public sphere. I definitely agree that it is a very thought-provoking subject.

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