Guest Blogger: Kathryn Bowering

My (7-year-old) Boyfriend’s Back??

Okay so here’s a little back story on this (ridiculous) video clip. This was posted on my facebook wall by a good friend as a joke. My reaction–laughter, disgust, disbelief–caused me to post this on the blog.

This sort of over-sexualized dance performance by very young girls is becoming alarmingly common in the competition dance world. Growing up a competition dancer myself, I can tell you that times have most certainly changed. When I was younger, it was unheard of to see 7 and 8-year-olds wearing such revealing costumes and performing movement that is potentially harmful to their bodies. Young dancers were often taught to look “cutesy,” but they were never objectified to this extent. Aside from the fact they they are basically wearing bras and underwear, these girls are grinding with each other, sticking out their flat chests, and shaking their tiny prepubescent asses like women in a music video. It’s out of control. And the craziest part of this whole scenario is that this dance won the top award/highest score at the competition. Now these girls are indeed talented, but what kind of message is that sending to other little girls, their dance teachers, and the general public?

Not to mention, some of the actual steps they are performing are downright unhealthy for growing bodies–pushing flexibility too far can damage the hips and overusing the spine at such a young age is harmful for growth and development. Whoever is training these girls is exploiting their talent to win awards at dance competitions instead of considering their best interests as dancers and training them properly.

Finally, let’s think about the song, “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Some of the lyrics are not only objectifying to women but also suggestive of sexuality way beyond the scope of a 7-year-old’s life (hopefully.) The entire song talks about telling another man to “step off” because he’s going to be in trouble when her boyfriend finds out. “My boyfriend’s back; he’s gonna save my reputation” is one of the lyrics. Of course, the female needs to be saved by the male, and her reputation as a “good girl” has been tarnished in his absence.

I can’t help but wonder about one question: Where are the parents? Are they crazy stage-moms who want to win awards regardless of the damage it can do to the child? Who knows. All I have to say is that while watching this video is certainly entertaining, it really left a bad taste in my mouth. The art form of dance itself has been degraded by such objectification and exploitation of young dancers, and this sends a terrible message about gender roles to society.

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12 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Kathryn Bowering

  1. JoJo Ragon says:

    It may be frowned upon to curse on the blog, but what the f@$&?!

    This growing epidemic of sexualizing, wait…hyper-sexualizing the presentation of female children is a type of socialization that gives me personal grief. While watching this performance, I had to remind myself several times that I was watching 7 YEAR OLDS. I agree with Kathryn, that although very much talented, these dancers are in no way, shape, or form fit to engage in such gender role behavior.
    For the past few years, I have always been bothered by the idea that young female children are targeted to perform in a way that imitates an older generation—particularly in terms of fashion. This mediated expectation to act and look like women of a much older age when you should be playing games deeply saddens me. Perhaps this comes from being the oldest of five in which three are girls. When I think back to when I was 6 or 10, I remember I had these overalls that I loved and sweaters with fun characters. Of course I had my own jewelry which consisted of chokers (which can be another topic in itself) and sparkles; but it does not compare to how it is now. Call me crazy, but when I am out shopping with my younger siblings, we should not be looking at the same clothes in different sizes!
    As a personal observation, this generation gap can be easily seen when it comes to female students in middle school, high school, and college. Growing up, for me, the older kids were girls that I knew I would someday look like. A brand in particular (that to this day my mother does not want me to shop in) is Victoria’s Secret (PINK). When we see commercials and/or shows for this company, these women are all older in their 20s (maybe 30s). Again, this is a personal observation, but I see a heck of a lot more young females wearing their under garments and clothes rather than older women. I know this may not be the case for everyone; but be aware that acts such as these, children’s pageants, Bratz dolls, etc. are not healthy for their socialization.
    There are enough pressures and expectations that children experience while growing up that to add on such extremes to identities they are already trying to figure out is repulsive.

    P.S. found this, thought it was interesting
    http://thegirlrevolution.com/dear-pres-make-the-media-stop-sexualizing-kids/

  2. Kathryn, my initial reaction to the video was the same as yours—laughter, quickly followed by disbelief and disgust. I couldn’t believe the girls were 7! They obviously look young, but their movements, attitudes, and personas depicted a much older age.

    I used to dance back in the day. Granted it wasn’t anything super intense or competitive, but I gave it a go. Thinking back to the types of costumes and leotards I wore – flowers, Dalmatians, something Easter/spring-themed, and the Nutcracker – I’m shocked to see how much dance attire, and dance itself, has changed.

    I was probably four or five for my first dance recital. I remember dressing up as a yellow flower (yellow leotard, yellow tutu, and a yellow flower headpiece). The dance itself was basically an improv—The oldest girl in the class had a different costume, and she went around and tapped the flowers to life. (The flowers were all crouched on the floor.) After she touched us, we came to life, danced around for a bit, and then return to our original position when she poked us again. Thinking about this innocent type of dancing I participated in, and how its such a starch contrast to the video, it says a lot about the hyper-sexualization/rapid development and maturing of children, specifically young girls. You can tell a lot about a society from its activities (sports, dance, popular books), in addition to its children. If someone from a different country saw this video, what would they think about the US?

    I didn’t even think about the physical/body aspect in the video. You brought up a good point, Kathryn. It’s neither smart nor safe for these young girls to be pushing their bodies to these limits. It’s a similar concept to lifting when it comes to sports: Athletes shouldn’t enter a weight room until they are nearly done growing. (I remember learning how to lift when I was 15, but I didn’t actually start until I was 16.)

  3. Kylie B. says:

    I watched this video before break and just decided to come back and find some way to comment on it. Initial reaction: WOW. These three letters to make up one very small word are pretty much all I could think of. Now I am sure many women who have watched this video remember dance classes of the 90’s which many of them probably attended–personally, I took a “modern” dance class which performed a number to Ghost Busters at the end of the course.

    In trying to dig deeper into this visual text the first thing that jumps to me are the costumes. 10 years ago it was “cute” to dress as a little ghost or a flamenco dancer but now we feel the need to dress our 7-year-olds like mini prostitutes or music video dancers. I do not find this right in any way.

    In this course we speak often of media and technology. This video, being pulled from a youtube account, is exactly what I am talking about. When we were growing up these videos would be kept in the family home for the family to watch as the child grew. Now these videos are plastered over youtube for ANYONE to watch–yes, that includes the pedophile down the street or a kidnapper across the country. It is this type of sexuality in children that creates more problems than we need.

    Lets look at the dance moves that these girls are performing: humping and sexual moves that are done by dancers in videos seen on MTV and VH1. There is a reason that the women in those videos are of age, or at least 16, they are old enough to decide their own sexuality and how they want to be perceived sexually.

    I want to know what the parents think and how these young girls lives are influenced by this in the future. It will certainly be interesting to see how the next generation of teenie-boppers acts in society.

  4. Sheba Morgan says:

    They are being “suggestive”, to whom?? Honestly they do not know or understand what sex is. No one says to the little girls, “Yeah, do these dance so you will know how to have sex in the future.” First they probably have no clue what sex is at seven and do not know what people are suggesting but that is not what they are promoting. Honestly those girls are not suggesting anything. All they want to do is move their body and have fun jumping and spinning on stage. The only person suggesting something is the people with sex on their mind. I do not see how their dance suggests sex anymore than gymnastic or playing a sport. In gymnastic people are in very tight clothes flipping, doing splits, jumping on poles and stretching in very “suggestive” ways but no one says gymnast promotes sex. Or many sports like volleyball, for example, requires a lot of jumping, bending over and tight uniforms shorts, is this suggestive too? In that case, any type of interesting movement with the body can be suggestive. Should we be like the puritans and call dancing a sin?
    These young girls dancing like this is not tarnishing them. They are being tarnish when they sit at home and watch cartoon network. They are being tarnished when they see cartoons that are not for kids and they are actually having sex. They are being tarnished when their parents do not talk to them about right and wrong. That’s tarnishing them

  5. mh2105 says:

    I’ve never been a dancer, but I think that this type of sexualization in young children is absurd. I have seen in manifesting itself in other areas of society as well, especially in social networking sites like Facebook. Until recently, I thought I was just being naive, and that children were acting as they always did, but I was viewing it differently as I was getting older. Now I’m not so sure that’s the case.
    It certainly does seem like kids are growing up faster than ever these days. I used to be a camp counselor for 10 and 11 year old kids, and I’ve seen them on Facebook communicating with other counselors that have inappropriate content and pictures on their profile page. I have no doubt that this is contributing to the rapid maturation process of many kids, and they are becoming more interested in sex at an earlier age than ever. It’s not good for kids to have this kind of exposure to the world. When you’re that young, it’s best to live in your own little world instead of being concerned with what your 20-year-old friends have planned for their spring break.
    It troubles me that kids are being pressured into growing up so fast. What ever happened to the days of innocent dance recitals that involved blooming flowers, as Carrie just discussed? I guessed blooming flowers have been replaced by sexual dance moves and striped bikinis. Forget about morning cartoons, I guess it’s all about bras and underwear now.

  6. Tom Baker says:

    I think we will continue seeing more and more of this in society. Unfortunately there are far too many reasons why this has happened. I will try not to make this comment a novel, but as a newlywed who has been thinking about becoming a father and examining the world around me; I am disillusioned. Parents want to be friends with their children and not be the adults they should be. Hollywood uses actors and actresses on children’s television shows that are usually seen on SNL or even musicians that have sexually charged or suggestive lyrics and videos. Facebook and other social networks won’t close accounts by minors when parents who forbid their children to have an account, set one up anyway. Commercials are starting to look like European commercials because the FCC has relaxed their regulations ever since the fallout over Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction.

    I could go on but I won’t. Children aren’t given the chance to stay children. I had a friend in high school and he found sexually explicit novels under his sister’s bed. Some included homosexuality, bestiality, rape, incest and it really messed him up. Sex is all he thought of. Males think about sex six times an hour anyway but at ten years old, it was overload for him. Today he reminds me of Sam Malone from Cheers. He started having sex years before most of us even knew our bodies were changing.

    Kids have it rough today, not just in this aspect of life and is weighs heavy on my wife and I. I’m not so sure we want to bring a child into this world, but love and doing the best as a parent is all we can do. It’s hard to control what kids see and do when not in the presence of parents…

    Let’s see how over sexed the Halloween costumes are this year. Thanks for allowing me to comment. I hope the name of my blog doesn’t make you think I’m a hypocrite. Hope I didn’t bore anyone.

  7. Amaury Ramirez says:

    Ah this is scary!

    There are so many thing wrong with this it isn’t even funny. First of all, what is wrong with these little girls’ parents? Parents always tell their kids not to grow up so fast, so what is the reason behind dressing these young girls the way they are dressed. These parents must know that there are many sick men out in the world that are interested in watching little girls dressed this way. This is so disturbing that I couldn’t go through the whole video. If the daughter in the future wants to dress that way to go out, how can their parents say no?

    The problem with our culture is that sexy becomes famous even if they don’t have talent. Now I am not saying that these girls don’t have talent, but I am saying that some attractive women become famous because of their attractiveness. With this said, I think some parents try to dress up their daughters provocatively hoping an agent sees them and tries to take a chance in making them famous. This could happen but it could have terrible repercussions in the future for the young lady. There are many entertainers that are grown ups and don’t dress this way. I would never have my daughter dress this way.

  8. Liz Liebman says:

    I think we need to get better at sending a message to children that it’s okay to be a child. Girls now are so preoccupied with wanting to grow up and emulating what they see older teens and women doing, especially the women they see in the media. And I guess the message doesn’t just need to be sent to children, but it needs to be sent to everyone: the media, parents, the economy, etc. We need to stop pushing a forced ‘maturity’ on these girls because they aren’t emotionally mature enough to understand it. I can understand that girls want to emulate female stars they see and female stars have every right to dress how they choose. We just shouldn’t exploit this interest the girls have and make clothes that are much more provocative than is appropriate for their age or teach them dance moves that look like they come straight out of a music video. We need to provide them with the resources they need to stay girls and move on to more mature things when they mature and not years before that.

  9. Courtney Waugh says:

    I want to try to add something that has not already been said above so here it goes. First I need to restate some of what has already been said, this is suggestive and overly-sexual. I do not think it is girl’s fault that she is being portrayed in such a suggestive dance. She is resembling older dancers who very obviously try to be sexual. Some dances are appropriate for this age group to participate in that are not suggestive or overly provocative. I do not know how dances such as the above, are not seen as wrong. So yes, where are the parents? You want your child to be successful and happy in everything they do, but there should be a limit. There needs to be a serious look at the welfare of the child. In addition, are there any legal protections for children in this manner? As long as they are clothed (even if this means in a mini-shirt and basically a bra at 7 years old) is it considered legally okay? I wonder if there are any set guidelines on what is allowed for children performing and if they are reinforced. As we are seeing, something needs to protect these children.

  10. Tristan Bartsch says:

    I’ve seen this video a number of times, but never cease to be amazed, disgusted, and terrified. It was not until my most recent viewing, however, that I began to take notice of the comments other YouTube viewers made after watching this glitzed-up display of young girls’ sexuality (can you even call it sexuality at the age of 7?). Screen names like “mileylover128”, “bootyshaker101, “GHETTOGLAMIFY,” “whiteluvable,” and “popthtcherry17” ferociously commented on the girls “impressive” and “fabulous” dance skills, costumes, and CuT3 Stylzz. “This is amazing! They are sooooooo cute!” almost every commenter agreed.

    When I watch this performance, I see something different. To me the girls look like little mini sex robots, mindlessly moving their bodies to naively prescribed choreography. Good question, Amaury, what IS wrong with these little girls’ parents? I remember a brief belly-shirt craze in Elementary school in which I hopelessly wished to participate. My tactful attempts to hide my midriff-revealing tops under coats and sweatshirts before school never escaped my mom, and I was never allowed to leave the house in anything even slightly “provocative” Embarrassingly enough, I thought it was normal to wear turtlenecks until 6th grade. I didn’t know what I bra was until 7th. My mom taught me about sex with a book depicting Arthur the Aardvark characters. Maybe mine was a different more modest childhood. It certainly appears so. But back to the image: these little girls, dolled up in costumes resembling bras and underwear, are sad little creations of very confused and troubled adults. I hope they were allowed real childhoods, and I wonder if they do this dance on the playground?

  11. Kelly- Ann Smith says:

    No doubt these girls are talented and will probably go far if they continue dancing. However, this performance is a little too much: the costumes, certain moves being done, especially the COSTUMES. I would like to know who is the choreographer as well as the person who picked out theses outfits for these little girls. Thigh high stockings? Really??? Are you telling me a cute sequined leotard would have been too modest? I understand this is a dance competition but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Certain moves these little girls are doing are impressive however I don’t think any seven year old should be popping her booty like that. No. I don’t care how well she can do it.

    Truthfully I think our society gets a kick out of little kids acting like adults. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos of five year old girls rapping Nicki Minaj verses and obviously someone though it was “cute” or they wouldn’t have upload it on YouTube. It’s the same with these little girls. Let’s dress them up in these costumes and show them these suggestive moves because people think it is “cute” for a little girl to act like a grown woman.

    Just look at this recent video:

    http://www.worldstarhiphop.com/videos/video.php?v=wshhmDtv42S95J526jMp

  12. Richard Jarrett says:

    These girls are already ultimate betches at age seven. I’m sure there diet consist of liquids, ice cubes, salads and air. At least put some clothes on these girls. I know people in our society are looking at this video as if it was child pornography, but I actually think these girls have some talent and the energy to be great dancers, at least in some slutty music videos. I would like to know the lead betch who choreographed this production and who it was supposed to be for. I am pretty sure it was intended to be a Britney Spears music video, or maybe it was written for Michael Jackson, but when he died he made sure three little children performed the highly sexually drived dance.

    I believe that if they were dressed in something slightly more conservative it would have changed this video drastically, but in this day and age everyone’s trying to post the most shocking videos they can through youtube. I am pretty sure they gave these girls some high doses of caffeine right before they went onstage so they could really shake what there momma gave them, which hasn’t even developed yet because these girls haven’t hit puberty.

    These girls will be viewed as slores to most people who watch this video, but I hope they show it at one their weddings just so society knows seven year olds who grow up dancing like Madonna can still have a semi-normal life and it was just a phase that they can laugh about in the future.

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