Tuesday, December 04, 2007

All dolled up

Forget the brain... it's the wardrobe, stupid!

With 'Crimbo' approaching, how many of you are already pulling your hair out in clumps because of the onslaught of high-pitched, hyper-irritating children's toy adverts? How many of you who are parents are fending off squealing requests for the latest gadgets from your flapping kids?

Yesterday, one of my 10-year-old students thrusted the Carrefour Christmas brochure into my face and insisted that I looked at the toys with her. She then went on to point out all of the dolls (nothing like the innocent Polly Pockets and Sylvanians that I remember as a kid) she was going to get whilst I looked on with a mixture of disgust and horror. Most of the young learners that I teach (female, of course) are obsessed with 'Super-fashion', mobile phones, Zara's latest revealing kid's collection and the list goes on, and on.

This was nothing, however, compared to an article I read not so long ago in The Sun. As I flicked through, I came across a picture of what looked to me like some sort of munchkin glamour model. A mini Barbie doll with poker straight white-blonde hair (with extensions, naturally) Day-Glo orange tan and more make-up than the average pissed-up shaz on a Saturday night. Fair enough, you might think, that's the usual sort of girl you see in any tabloid. The worrying thing was, however, that this was an 11-year-old girl.

Sasha Bennington lives with her parents and brother in the north of England. Her mum Jayne, a B-class glamour model herself at one time, treats her daughter to the type of treatments only WAGs can manage to afford: spray tans once a week, acrylic nail extensions once a month and regular trips to the hairdressers to top up her highlights and have new extensions fitted. Each morning, she plucks her eyebrows and spends an hour before school applying full make-up. At weekends, she enjoys wearing her favourite outfit, a tight, white satin boobtube, mini-skirt, heels and a white Stetson.

The girl's idol is inflated, outspoken shagger Jordan, who in Sasha's words is "My obsession... I want to be a model like her when I grow up, be famous and have loads of money."
When her mother was asked how she feels about people criticising her daughter's appearance she charmingly replied ''They're just jealous do-gooders who probably have fat kids they can't do anything with... She can't help being good looking. I want her to use it to achieve something."

Most terrifyingly, Sasha isn't a one-off example of 21st century childhood and parenting gone bad. More and more primary school age kids are obsessing about celebrities, WAGs, unsuitable fashion and beauty products. Shops such as upscale French beauty giant Sephora have introduced a whole aisle of products aimed at the under 13's. Perfumes by Escada, Moschino and even Dior are given child-friendly names, cute bottles and are marketed to the new wave of little women. Sephora's own brand of make-up has now extended to the kids market, selling mascara, nail varnish and even powder to their new target audience. Once-wholesome-now-slutty Barbie has for a few years now been selling its own range of beauty products. The horrendous, hookeresque atrocities known as Bratz (of which I would rather burn my own genitalia off than give to any child of mine) have amazingly given their name to a manicure and nail-drying kit, and finally, the 'Pampered Bratz' body lotion and perfume set marketed to ages 6+, no less.

In the age of paedo-hysteria, eating disorders and the perfect image, the message this undoubtedly sends to girls is that if you don't wear tons of make-up, dress like a Bratz doll and follow high fashion trends, you're simply not good enough. Girls like Sasha Bennington and countless others are being brought up in a vacuum world of vanity and self-obsession which will no doubt ruin them in later life.

If children like this are told every day by their parents, no less, that - forget the brain - the only way to succeed in life is to be pretty and done up like a dog's dinner, god alone knows what he next generation of kids will be like.

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