UK retailer withdraws padded bikini bras for kids

2010-04-15 10:52

A major British clothing retailer has withdrawn a children’s

bathing suit from sale after a front-page tabloid story criticised the store for

selling padded bras on bikinis aimed at 7-year-olds.

The bikinis also angered children’s advocates and top candidates in

Britain’s upcoming national election, who say it was yet another product that

sexualises children and encourages them to grow up too fast.

“It’s a shame it was ever put on the shelves in the first place,”

said Justine Roberts, founder of the Mumsnet, a parenting website that attracts

a large, vocal audience. She nonetheless praised the decision to pull the

bathing suit from the shelves.

Primark, a popular discount chain, is not the first retailer to

draw criticism for offering padded bras for kids younger than 10. But the outcry

of protest is prompting a growing number of companies to pledge support for

Mumsnet’s “Let Girls Be Girls” campaign.

The popular online forum said such clothing indoctrinates the idea

that sexiness is the most important quality for girls and “encourages a culture

in which children are viewed as sexually available.”

Announcing the immediate withdrawal of the product, Primark

promised to donate any profits already earned from the item to a children’s

charity. The product line, it added, “sells in relatively small


The retailer acted within hours of a front-page article in The Sun

denouncing the product as a “paedo (paedophile) bikini.”

Politicians swiftly joined the clamour.

“Completely disgraceful,” Conservative Party leader David Cameron

said of the bikini. “The sort of country I want is one where it is not just the

government (that) feels outraged about the early commercialisation and

sexualisation of our children, but companies should stop doing it, they should

take some responsibility.”

Primark refused to discuss the bikini’s padding but a source

familiar with the product said the extra fabric was designed to preserve a

girl’s modesty and prevent any signs of a developing breast from showing

through. She spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the


There has long been a global concern that products and images may

encourage the sexualisation of children or direct sexual abuse at them. Barbie

dolls have often been criticised for being unrealistically curvaceous.

The American Psychological Association, in a 2007 report on the

sexualisation of girls, said: “If girls purchase – or ask their parents to

purchase – products and clothes designed to make them look physically appealing

and sexy, and if they style their identities after the sexy celebrities who

populate their cultural landscape, they are, in effect, sexualising themselves.”

A British government-commissioned report in February on the

sexualisation of young people said: “By over-emphasising their sexuality through

fashion, it may make it harder for girls to value themselves for other aspects

of their identity.”

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