Next Twitter Chat 10/13! What to do about Pornified Halloween Costumes for Girls?

You probably don’t need someone to tell you that there has been a major shift in the “point” of Halloween lately as it pertains to young girls. We’ve moved from creative, scary, or funny costumes to sexy, sexier, and sexiest. Even childhood favorites, known for their youthful innocence have been pornified.

Just check out Red Ridinghood and Alice in Wonderland. Interestingly, when I pressed on these tween/teen costumes, the costumes that came up under “compare similar items that customers also browsed were: “Red Hoodie- Sexy” and “Disney Aladdin Sassy”. Uh huh. That says a lot.

One of the things I find deeply disturbing is that marketing and wording is saving the butts of the advertisers. Remember when the ad for the sexualized push-up bra for 7 year olds became the fodder for firestorm a few months back? The advertisers merely changed the label of this item to “triangle swimsuit.” Somehow this was supposed to address the sexualization issue. Not exactly the solution we were looking for.

Well, here we are again. Take a good look at these two “Little Bo Peep” costumes. The first is labeled “Little Bo Peep Tween Costume.” The second is labeled “Sexy Little Bo Peep Costume.” The first is size “preteen”, obviously, for tweens. The second is meant for adults. See a big difference? No? Hmmm. Look again.  Still no? Yeah. Me neither. The teddy bear is a nice attempt to making the whole costume feel a bit more Read more

Fighting Weight Obsession: Good Girls Don’t Get Fat Revisited


It’s been a year since the launch of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It. The book, based on 10 years of my own research, was born out of my dissertation at Tufts University and morphed into over 200 interviews of girls and women around the US who told me their personal story about weight, body image, struggles and triumphs. The video was born out of the book and was launched on October 5, 2010.

As I just spoke to a room full of Girl Scout leaders for the Power of Popular conference this past Sunday on this topic, I had to wonder, are things getting better or worse?

Well, perhaps it’s a bit of both.  I still talk to girls and women on a weekly basis who are struggling to accept themselves as they are.  Sometimes it’s more formal, like in a speaking setting or in a coaching session. Other times, it’s very casual– reiterating that the body bully within, as I call it, it alive, well, and sabotaging the well being of our girls. In fact, I just walked into a store on Saturday to get some moisturizer for my face when one of the young women who worked there started talking about hating her body, feeling fat, and not being happy…with herself…because of it.

And that’s representative. It still is true that the majority of girls and women wish Read more

Mud, Leaves & Bark: How Nature Can Help Combat Sexualization & Dumbification of Girls

I went to the park with my 2 ½ year old on Monday.  We ran the length of the soccer field.  We talked about baseball.  Ran the bases. Went on a nature walk.  Picked up leaves and chatted about the changing colors. Looked at bark. Moss. Sticks. Dirt. And bugs. She loves bugs.

Yes, I’m talking about my daughter.

In a world that tries to box in our children with neat tidy gender boxes, I am refusing to close the lid.  People often ask how to combat the problems of body image issues, sexualization, dramatization and dumbification, when it comes to our girls, I think getting a little dirty, sweaty, and back to nature can help.


Well, for one thing, we are far away from media.  Trees are not grafitied with photoshopped physiques of too-thin models. Demeaning messages- “nothing tastes as good as feeling skinny feels,” “I’m too pretty to do my homework,” or “future trophy wife” are not written in the dirt. The sounds, the sites, the smells, are wholly positive.

Getting dirt on our knees and hands is also like a big assertion that society can’t define us.  I encourage it.  It’s like a natural school when children can put their hands in the mud, pick up worms, and see that something fascinating lies right Read more

Dumbification, Dramatization & Sexualization: Messages we send to boys when we downgrade girls

There has been a very consistent downgrading of girls happening lately.  It seems like one thing after another telling them that their looks are most important, that smarts are to be hidden (if they even had them in the first place) and that they need to hurry up and dress like, behave like, and believe they are ready to be “a woman” all before they hit…kindergarten? Fourth grade? Yes…certainly before middle school.

We know that it affects our girls negatively—as studies highlight links to eating disorders, body image issues, and a host of risky behaviors. And we know, intuitively that consistently stressing looks above all else– and downgrading all other qualities, robs our girls of their true assets and replaces the vacancy with fat talk, poor body image, low self esteem, and insecurity.

But what message are we sending to our boys… about our girls? Read more

A Twitter Party is Born: Sexualization of Girls Discussion on September 8th, 9pm EST, 8pm CT #SaveGirlHood

Two weeks ago I was on The Today Show talking about the “loungerie” that 4 year old models were wearing in a French advertisement.  The children were made up to look much older and we posed in very inappropriate and sometimes alarming poses.  It felt like de ja vu. I had just been on The Today Show and GMA the week before talking about 10 year old Thylane Loubry Blondeau who was posing in French Vogue, an adult fashion magazine, in a spread that caused a collective gasp in several countries.

These are only some of the most recent incidents of known, blatant sexualization we’ve seen and heard about lately.  But this year has been a doozy of examples. Here are just a few others:

  • Monster High Dolls with their fishnets, exaggerated skinny bodies, and skirts the size of belts on the toy shelves in popular children’s stores (in fact, I was in “Justice” with my 9 year old niece and 2 ½ year old daughter on Sunday and there they were, perched at perfect height for young back-to-school shoppers).
  • Skechers Shape Ups for young girls, which prompted one Mom to write me this message: …It is DISGUSTING that sketchers is making and marketing their line of SHAPE UPS for young GIRLS! Now the toys and/or music that may have some implicit layer of influencing girls self/body-image are one thing BUT sneakers designed to tone and shape their legs and BUTTS marketed to 8 year olds?!?!? Inexcusable!!
  • Push-up bikini bras for 8 year olds by Abercrombie and Fitch: When I was on The Today Show for this story, they actually had a the very padded, push-up bikini top right there in front of us.  This was not lightly padded. This was designed to position a young girl’s chest where others can see and evaluate them.

And it was only a little over a year ago when the video of 7 year olds gyrating on stage to “All the Single Ladies” emerged to a media firestorm.

So when I got into a discussion on twitter with Amy Harman (@BeABetterWoman), Melissa Wardy (@PigtailPals) and Audrey Brashich (@AudreyBrashich), the day of the “loungerie” segment on The Today Show, we all were beyond disgusted. We discussed the need for change. For answers. For a collective shout.  It’s not surprising, that this tweet came along:

BeABetterWomen (Amy Harmon)

@DrRobyn If parents are concerned and asking questions, maybe a Twitter party about #sexualization of young girls is called for.

We all said yes. Yes, I think we all think it is time too.  So…let’s do it! Join us!


This Thursday Sept 8th at 9pm EST/8pm CST for a chat on Twitter. Follow hash tag  #savegirlhood for the conversation. Add it to the Read more

From 10 yr old Models in Vogue to Loungerie for 4 yr olds?


This morning I was on The Today Show talking about sexualization of girls, particularly as it pertains to the latest images we’ve seen (loungerie, push up bras for teens, 10 year old model in Vogue).  What do you think?

We have been bombarded with sexualized images of young girls over the last few weeks, just in time for back-to-school season.  Ten year old Thylane Loubry Blondeau in Vogue Magazine. A bra aimed at teens to help them appear 2 cup sizes larger (along with saucy music in the background of that commericial; “Do you want me? Do you need me? Baby!)  Now, “loungerie” for children as young as age 4 years.  Are we comparing apples to oranges?

No. I feel that we are seeing thread of sexualization of girls in all of these images.  Meaning, that sexuality is inappropriately thrust upon these children through adult styling, adult make-up, and adult positioning that is incongruent with & harmful to our children. Read more

Where is the Line Between High Fashion & High Risk? 10 Year Old Vogue Model, Thylane Loubry Blondeau


By now you probably have heard of the controversy over Thylane Loubry Blondeau, a 10 year old model who recently “graced” the pages of Vogue Paris. An absolutely beautiful girl, made up to look much older, to sell clothes to adult women.  Make sense?

As a parent of a girl & a child dev specialist, I’m continually disturbed by the images put out there by the fashion industry—and it is an industry—in the pursuit of being “fashion forward” or edgy.  We cannot go after edgy (if that is indeed what this is) in exchange for common sense.  A continual stream of images such as these is not healthy for the girls in the photos or the girls who may choose to emulate them. Read more

Skechers Shape Ups for Girls: Crossing the Line or Just a Pair of Shoes?

You know the commercials.  They provide tight shots of taut bottoms and long, shapely legs.  Skechers “shape ups” were given an extra jolt of “sexy” when Kim Kardashian was shown, part by part, sweaty and heavily breathing, in the Skecher’s commercial named “Break up to Shape Up” that aired on Super Bowl Sunday 2010.


There are certainly a slew of other commercials that push the envelop when it comes to (typically female) body panning and sexual implications that get the, albeit sometimes begrudging, OK from the female public (and often the enthusiastic thumbs up from the young male public). But what if, the same company made the same shoes touted for their body firming and body shaping properties, for your 8 year old daughter? Would that still be OK with you? Read more

Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Today Show: Abercrombie’s Push-up Bikini Bras for 7 year olds?


We had a great conversation on The Today Show today with Meredith Vieira, talking about the very controversial Abercrombie and Fitch padded, push-up bikini tops for the 7-14 year old age bracket.  I’ve been receiving some questions about this, so here, I answer a view of the big ones.

Early sexualization of girls is wrong and sick and has enormous repercussions.

Are there really any repercussions or are we blowing this all out of control?

Girls feel hurried by society to “grow up” and act like an adult. The early sexualization of girls has been linked to several negative effects; body image issues, mental health problems like eating disorders & depression, poor self image, low self esteem, and sexual health problems. As you can imagine, when girls are receiving unwarranted sexual attention that is not developmentally appropriate and that they are not developmentally ready for, it can taint the way they see the opposite sex and how they regard sex and sexuality now and in the future.

So this garment can do all that?

No. It’s not just the push up bra. It’s the push up bra, plus dolls that are supposed to be “sexy,” plus fashion that has adult sexual messaging on them like “flirt,” or “So many boys so little time.” Girls are learning that society Read more

Tarty Toys for Tots: A Pound of Flesh too Much or Much Ado About Nothing?

We’ve been hearing about it for years.  Same argument, same market. Different doll, different “wolf” in sheep’s clothing. You would think we’d get used to it by now.

But we don’t…do we?

Between the mock-celebrity party limos for birthday girls (with pink virgin cocktails for the ride!) and the “fabulous” and heavily made-up Monster High Dolls that have been causing a renewed outcry, it’s enough to make any parent scream.  But isn’t this just like…???

The More Things Change

Playing dress up and playing in Mom’s Make-up VS Boozy-licious Birthday Bashes

Why people think it’s the same: Girls dress up and pretend they’re older in both scenarios.

Why they’re different:

I used to love playing in my Mom’s make-up.  She even had a separate bag for me of make up she didn’t use anymore.  My friend Jen and I used to put it on each other.  Sometimes I’d make her look like a circus clown, other times I tried to make her look like a Mommy.

Mom’s clothing and shoes were also of fascination. Her dresses were, of course, falling off the shoulders and dragging on the floor. I thought I looked great. I’d clomp around in her high heels and tell people I was off to the store or taking my baby dolls to the park.  It was fun, innocent, and totally unsexy. The message was clear: You can dress up and be anything.

When girls get dressed up in their OWN “sexy” clothes, spa treatments to look older and more “desirable,” get into limos to drink virgin pink cocktails, this is not the same thing as playing dress up.  A third grader getting her eye-brows tweezed is not the same thing as putting on your Mommy’s jewelry. No; it’s dressing up to Read more