Shirley Temple Black, who as a dimpled, precocious and determined little girl in the 1930s sang and tap-danced her way to a height of Hollywood stardom and worldwide fame that no other child has reached, died on Monday night at her home in Woodside, Calif. She was 85. [New York Times]
THERE IS no resemblance to the time of Shirley Temple to today’s little girls and how they compete for attention on the stage and in our culture. Even when I was a kid dancing and performing, the costumes I wore were provocative by comparison. Today little girls are dressed up as young starlets, precocious replaced with sexualized.
Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau is 10, but an issue of French Vogue, in which she wears heavy makeup, stilettos and a come-hither look has stirred up an adult-sized controversy.
The images of Thylane, which appeared in the magazine’s December/January issue but were brought back into the spotlight in a “Good Morning America” segment on Thursday, are firing arguments about the sexualization of young girls. Some see it as part of an overall recent trend toward younger models. (Although one might argue that it is hard for a young girl to get a break, given all the fortysomething movie stars hogging covers nowadays.)
After the photo spread shown above a movement in France started to ban child beauty pageants. On February 3, 2014, it became law.
Anyone who enters a child into such a contest would face up to two years in prison and 30,000 euros in fines. A pageant organizer lamented that the move was so severe.
The Senate approved the measure 197-146 overnight, as an amendment to a law on women’s rights. The legislation must go to the lower house of parliament for further debate and another vote.
Such beauty pageants, involving girls of all ages often heavily made up and dressed up, regularly elicit public debate in France and elsewhere. While such pageants are not as common in France as in the United States, girls get the message early on here that they are sexual beings, from advertising and marketing campaigns — and even from department stores that sell lingerie for girls as young as 6.
Nothing today comes close to what Shirley Temple was in her day.
Today it’s Honey Boo Boo.
As someone who’s done my share of beauty pageants, the notion that my mother would have dressed me up in make-up, a push up bra, or had my teeth bleached, is unthinkable.
Who can forget JonBenet Ramsey?
In the 21st century, acknowledging the sexualization of girls for media consumption is important, but no more important than also realizing that teenage girls know what they’re doing when they vamp it up to seduce a man. These are subjects that collide in the American mind, because we cannot come to grips with real sexuality of a girl blossoming into the power of her own being versus the contorted depiction of children sexualized as dolls.
With the subject turning to Monica Lewinsky again, it’s unfathomable to me that our culture still judges a 22-year-old female as too naive to know what she was doing when she set her eyes on an older married man at the seat of world power. Of course, Ms. Lewinsky didn’t think of the down side, but she sure had visions of conquest and pleasure dancing through her fantasy-filled mind.
You might think all of these things aren’t related, but you’d be wrong, even if most of America is equally misinformed. It is the continued unrealistic downplaying of a woman’s sexual nature, her libidinous ego, which has never been appreciated as being equal to men. It’s one of the fundamental mistakes in understanding human nature, which you’d think literature going back to Cleopatra would have helped educate progressive generations.
Shirley Temple makes us smile and remember a forgotten America, even if for women back then things were not nearly as good as they are today.
That doesn’t mean we are anywhere near respecting a girl’s dormant sensuality, while according a grown woman’s sexuality the respect it deserves that includes acknowledging its force upon our own actions once a girl is through puberty.