Girls in the news…It just has to get better than this. I’m a bit deflated with the amount of time and energy going into three stories this past week or so.

Last week it was the push-up-padded-bra bikini marketed to young girls (age 8 years) from a big retailer in the US. The company has a bad track record and nonetheless, outrage ensued about early sexual images, contorting body image, and simply pushing girls to “grow up too fast.” This month, I started to hear murmurs about a group of  8 year-old girls in a national dance competition, dressed in bikinis dancing to a Beyonce song with controversial choreography. The dance hit sparked thousands of comments on media Facebook pages and the blogosphere lit up like a sunbeam. And then this week it’s about a breast-feeding baby doll that mechanically sucks on nipples (via a bib worn by the doll’s owner). Concern about young girls being asked to act like grown women, perversion by the doll’s manufacturers, and a too-soon anatomic education about physiologic breast function before kindergarten…

But wait a second. What is this really about? We get so lost when this chatter fills our water-cooler moments we remember all the wrong things:

  • The name of the US retailer that made those hideous padded bikinis for 8 year-olds.
  • Beyonce’s name, her song, the controversy. Or the position that these 8 year-old girls would somehow be to blame.
  • The mommy wars bubbling up again: breast-feeding versus formula feeding, with a doll as the excuse to revisit our differences.

What we forget:

  • The great reminder to think about how we help girls understand the capacities of who they are, what their potential contains, or the tiny value of the shape of their chest compared to their voice when we think about their future.
  • We forget the exceptional talent of a troop of 8 year-athletic phenoms dancing to an iconic song. The 2.6 Million views they have secured on YouTube. How this success will perpetuate the tactic.
  • That little girls and little boys like to mimic their moms. That propping a doll up to their breast bone really isn’t something in which a 4 year-old should find shame.

It’s chatter. But it quickly and efficiently becomes newsworthy around here. Enough so to sell a huge stack of (electronic) papers or enough so for a network to share the idea to millions.

My take? I don’t really worry about the doll. I find it a bit awkward, a try-too-hard gimmick to sell more dolls and make more money. A stir the pot type thing. But I don’t think little girls are sexualized by using a doll designed to feed. They already do this with their other dolls, minus the weird bib with the flower nipples. The bikini and the dancers, they worry me…

The trouble is, these material objects, these advertisements, these dolls, they are fundamentally just platforms and channels used to divide us along the lines of our parenting philosophies. And they carry an agenda all of their own.

What About This Girl In The News?

Clarissa, a cancer survivor and blogger providing camaraderie to her peers and advice for enduring a cancer diagnosis in high school. Or what about how March 10th was the 6th annual women and girls HIV/AIDS awareness day? I’m not naive. I just think it would be better to listen to things we really care about like health, friendship, and stories that change our lives and construct our hope.

When will we figure out how to make the stories we treasure most seductive enough for the talk-show circuit, the morning news, or the late night tables? Help me figure it out.

What do you think about all this–distracting or relevant?