I know, I know, I'm supposed to think it's adorable when I see the picture of Suri Cruise in the New York Times fashion article "'Mini-Me' With High Heels of Her Own" in her flouncy summer dress and mini wedge heels. I don't. In fact, I have a big-time problem with it. At the risk of coming across as an overprotective mommy buzzkill, I think they should burn those shoes.
Why is a 7-year-old wearing mini heels? Forget the problems with heels leading to hammer toes and bad arches. I'll leave that to the podiatrists. What's got me up in arms is that I'm a mom of a 9-year-old daughter and I don't want her asking for heels when we go shoe shopping this fall. I don't want any girl begging for heels from her parents. We parents already have a hard enough time putting our foot down (no pun intended) on tight shirts with words like "JUICY" splayed across the chest, short shorts and lingerie now marketed to tween girls. Cut us a break.
But we can't have it both ways. We can't bemoan the fact that our girls are growing up too fast and are exposed to too many sexual messages while also running out to buy them "silver peep-toe heels" and "rhinestone sandals with heels" because we find "mini-me" outfits cute. No, I don't think wedge heels lead to tween girls having sex behind camp bunks. And I get that they are "wedges" and not stilettos, and that we may be talking about only a couple inches here. That's not the point. Each time we buy our girls clothing styles meant for grown-up women, we blur the lines and push our daughters to grow up a little bit faster.
"Well, what can I do?" some moms will complain. It's what other girls in her camp group or class are wearing." What can you do? Here's what:
You can say no.
In fact, as a mother -- and not her buddy -- it is your job not to cave into peer pressure. It is your responsibility to allow her to be a girl, and not a girl playing the part of a sexy woman. Let her try on your heels and attempt to walk around the room while she stumbles and giggles. Let her put on your lace bra and crack up as she thinks about wearing one of those in the future. Girls have been doing this forever; it's fun to play dress-up. That's different than purchasing these items and sending them out in public wearing them. As Diane E. Levin, Ph.D. and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., put it in their book So Sexy So Soon: The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids, "Children are paying an enormous price for the sexualization of their childhood [...] girls learn at a very young age that their value is determined by how beautiful, thin, 'hot,' and sexy they are."
We don't have to be part of this. If and when my 9-year-old asks me if she can have mini-heels, I'll say no and she'll grumble and that's fine. In fact, I bet she'd be surprised if I even entertained the thought, given our past shopping exchanges. Still, I resent companies like GapKids and Synclaire Brands, featured in this article, for introducing these heels, making our job harder as parents and adding to a culture that's already gone way too far pushing young girls to be sexy. Let's stamp this one out fast.
Stay tuned for my next blog post in a couple weeks: "What to do when your child's friend acts rude in your house."