Happy Int’l Babywearing Week and then some rant on the sexualization of children…

So it’s International Babywearing Week and thought it was awesome that I just saw this commercial:

It’s Star Wars! It’s entertaining and quirky! It even has a DAD wearing his baby! (Sure it’s the less optimal forward facing “crotch dangler” carrier BUT at least it’s babywearing and normalizing both babywearing and specifically male babywearing! And in a cuter context than “The Hangover”.)

hangoverBWing

However, the more I think about it the more I’m bothered by it. In particular, it’s the INFANT sized Princess Leia “slave girl” costume:/ This costume (link to Friends clip where Jennifer Aniston as Rachel wears Leia bikini) has, since Return of the Jedi premiered, been a very VERY sexy outfit and remains that way today. It’s pretty well known spank bank material for what’s now multiple generations of men. And yet, there’s a freaking BABY wearing that costume!?! Now yeah I don’t find that baby particularly sexy- she’s adorable though! Yet the faux bra bikini top complete with Madonna-esque torpedo cups just seems wrong.

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Then again I really hate toddler bikinis in general no matter how kiddish they are or how many Disney characters are on them. (Funny story- hubby wanted to go into a local sports store the other day. It’s right by our Trader Joe’s and we had never been so was easy to walk over. We walked whole store and only thing we bought was a little girl’s one piece swimsuit on clearance for $5! It was perfect though- no character and no faux sexy cuts. Just a ruffled high neck little girl’s swim suit that in every way said “little girl” and not “inspired by Jonbenet Ramsey”. You know you’re a dad when they only thing you get at the sports store is a toddler swimsuit!)

Anyways so there’s that. THEN upon analyzing it more, I realized that the mom, who looks pretty and seems like she’d have a fit body, is covered head to toe in a desexualizing Chewbacca the Wookie costume. Which is of course totally fitting with society because moms aren’t sexy in any way, right? Especially not if they’ve had a baby in the last year or so-  UGH! So the actual adult woman in the scene has to be in what’s almost the furry George Lucas version of a burka BUT the baby is in a sex slave bikini? Now granted the baby’s costume has a very obvious “body suit” underneath (presumably for warmth) with the actual “bikini” technically on the baby carrier not directly on the baby herself (himself? It could be a boy…) but does this not just keep getting creepier? The carrier pretty much blends right into the baby so it looks like the baby is wearing a pointed bra bikini (and correct me if I’m wrong but I believe the real Princess Leia’s costume was a thong back?). However the saving grace of this commercial is the fact that the pre-teen daughter dressed as a Death Star is fairly non-sexualized. We could argue you can see both her face with hair and her legs despite the costume totally concealing her torso. Yet her face and hair is very natural yet pretty (no Toddler in Tiaras porn make up and teased hair) and her legs while showing are covered by dark tights though the costume does end at what would be a very short hemline if it was a mini skirt. (Not that I don’t love and have always loved mini skirts but it’s saying something when it’s not only a girl wearing one BUT a large corporation choosing to put her in one.)

I’m not sure what to make of it all. I don’t feel babies should be particularly modest beyond sanitation via a diaper and weather appropriate layers. I admittedly don’t do much nakey time here and prefer everyone in the household generally wear something that they could run outside in if there was a house fire or something yet still be decent. However bras are very much a sexual clothing item design to cover (often temptingly and certainly so in the case of the Star Wars bikini) the secondary sex organs known as breasts. Infants obviously don’t have those so it’s just all the odder:/ A bare baby butt or baby in only a diaper is innocent enough but lingerie like costumes which are well known for cosplay sexual role play? Not so much. The need for the baby to be Princess Leia also seems to be “required” because our society so genderizes babies. Gawd forbid if you dress your newborn daughter in anything but pink, pink and more pink! Otherwise people won’t know she has a vagina:/ (Seriously why is it so paramount to know “boy or girl”? Are you putting up a Eharmony profile for your tot?) This is rather new too- in the past boys and girls wore dresses, often handed down from older siblings of either gender and pink actually used to be a boy color. I don’t know why the ONLY feminine costume (which in the Star Wars universe is almost entirely just Leia as Family Guy so hilariously has pointed out) is the most sexualized version. While not as popular as the infamous Bjorn style carrier, they could have had a baby Yoda on a daddy’s back in a carrier as Luke Skywalker training in the swamp from The Empire Strikes Back.

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The Jabba outfit however is pretty creative. I’ll give them that but ironically Jabba never actually “wore” Leia unlike Luke who DID wear Yoda. The back pack type hiking baby/toddler carriers like Kelty’s are perhaps even more well known than more recent Bjorn style, let alone more hardcore babywearing back carries with a woven wrap. Any of those option would have been more authentically Star Wars than the Jabba/Leia duo without icky baby as sex slave connotation. Only thing I can think of is maybe race played into this as Luke is of course white and the family is African American (is that too PC? Can I say black? Erring on the side of caution so sorry if that’s not right…). However the son appears to be Luke as fighter pilot so not like it’s a hard and fast rule. (Lando never was in a fighter pilot costume, was he?) Of course Princess Leia was white too so again no hard and fast rule here. Anyways so many things going on here.

It just seems funny that the commercial is almost subliminally sexualizing progressively younger females. The mom is giant hairy covered beast (not very sexy unless you’re a Furry), the pre-teen is a bit less covered and the baby is in lingerie more or less. So conflicted because I’m glad to see the majority of the females in non-slutty costumes but then the baby kind of ruins the whole benefit of that. It’s encouraging that even the background characters aren’t in stereotypical “sexy whatever” costumes from what I could tell. Featuring the baby in a very sexual costume couldn’t have been done in a void. Overly sexy little girl’s costumes have been an issue for awhile now. So it begs the question, did they do this purposefully? Like seriously Verizon? Granted your ad was noticeable enough that I remembered exactly what company it was for on my first guess when googling BUT really? You “sanitize” almost every other element in the commercial then throw in a “sex slave Princess Leia baby”? WTF!?! I so want to love this commercial but it’s just a little too creepy… and not in the traditional “Zombie whose ear falls off in the phone store” way:/

Post Script- kudos to Verizon on a “color blind” ad. It was almost an after thought in analyzing this that the family was not white and how that plays into things. It’s very easy to relate to without having awkward quasi-racist “we’re specifically marketing to certain ethnicities” vibe many advertisements have when they cast predominantly non-white actors.

2 thoughts on “Happy Int’l Babywearing Week and then some rant on the sexualization of children…

  1. Agreed. My daughter wants to be a mermaid for Halloween this year so I purposefully sought out a costume without bra cups because she’s 4 and it’s not appropriate. I was pleasantly surprised to find one on sale at Old Navy with no bra cups that she will be covered up in. Yay! I don’t like people sexualizing my son either. Like saying things about him checking other girls out, etc. Ick…he’s a baby.

    1. Sweet! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mermaid without bra cups come to think of it. That’s awesome you found that. I think you’ve seen our dollar store fairy wings for our butterfly costumes:) Ironically I had a Little Mermaid bikini growing up and even a Snoopy one when I was a baby- gag! Oh and yes the “oh he’s going to be a heart breaker” and such comments do get weird.

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