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Pole dancer outfits for 8 year-olds? At the risk of sounding like the totally old fart I am, allow me to register my dismay regarding the dance costumes of girls aged 8 and younger at national dance competitions. Fortunately, the dance team that my daughter belongs to wears T-shirts and track pants. They were the exception at the Rainbow Nationals dance competition held in Las Vegas last week.
While the quality of the choreography and its execution was generally very good and sometimes amazing, considering the youthfulness of the dancers, many of the outfits were what you might expect to see at a strip club. Imagine a 7 year-old girl in a black vinyl, skintight bra top and matching panties, with a touch of black lace. Now put 10 of these girls to the music of M.C. Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This.” The “this” in the title was the dancer’s body, made explicit with hand and body gestures.
Who thinks it’s a good idea to have little girls perform in sexually suggestive ways? What’s the point of the tittie-shake move when the dancer has no breasts? Yes, the little ladies could bump and grind like pros. They even won an award. Do the folks who choreograph and dress these girls want the audience and the judges to perceive the girls as slutty? Frankly, I felt embarrassed to be in the audience and sorry for the kids.
The black vinyl clad troupe was among the more tasteful of what I started thinking of as “micro-sluts.” I know that’s wrong. In their everyday lives, these girls are no doubt very much like my own daughter, preoccupied with their friends, school, dance class and families. They don’t think or care about sex and boys. That will start some number of years in the future. Yet I wonder whether these sexy dance routines and slutty costumes have a psychological effect. Will these girls learn that appearing to be available sexually is a good way to get the attention of men?
I’ve read that some women think that wearing overtly sexual clothing is one way to exercise female power. I get that, and I agree that adults should be able to dress however they like and dance however they like without implying that want to be leered at or, worst case, raped. We all understand that in some non-Western cultures, such as Arab, Persian or Afghani, women are expected to be fully under wrap in public lest men get the “wrong” idea. While indoors at home, women can be more exposed. In these cultures, women who bare most of their bodies and dance suggestively are considered available for sexual activities. To a limited extent, that same concept exists in Western culture, but found primarily in strip clubs and topless bars.
In all Western cultures, women are free to appear in public with most of their skin exposed, especially at the beach. Young girls are free to do the same. This freedom is not the issue here. The issue for me is sexualization of children. It’s one thing for adults to flaunt their sexuality and another thing entirely for children to emulate that. By their nature, kids are not mature enough physically and emotionally to deal with sexual relations.
I’m not proposing that all young dancers perform in turtlenecks and overalls. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that dance costumes for kids under 16 not expose any more skin than would be permitted in a classroom environment. One more thing: Let’s drop the bump and grind dance routines, too.