Babies in Bikinis: Is This a Problem?

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Frida in Hawaii, May 2013

I recently saw the cutest tie-die baby bikini on Amazon. We’re heading to the Hamptons in June for a warm weather getaway, and we’ll be at the beach a lot, so I’ve been thinking about getting Frida and myself suited up. This particular toddler bikini was reversible to an adorable boho pattern, so while it seemed a little much to spend on a 2-year-old’s bathing suit, it was really two for the price of one (always rationalizing). So I purchased it. When it came in the mail I was so overcome by its cuteness that I took a picture and posted it on Instagram and Facebook, like any good social-media-obsessed mother would.

I quickly got what seemed like disapproving comments on Facebook. I was 100% confused for a minute. I hadn’t linked to Amazon or mentioned the price, so that couldn’t be the issue. Then it hit me. Is a bikini inappropriate for a little girl? Am I a bad mother for buying her one? OMG? But wait, why? Are you telling me an exposed baby tummy is somehow… it pains me to say it… sexual? Is that it?

If that’s where our minds go when we see a child in a bikini, then something is seriously wrong.

So of course I Googled “babies in bikinis controversy.” Turns out Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Simpson have both been bad mom shamed for putting their girls in bikinis.

After Jessica Simpson posted her photo, an organization called Kidscape said: “We remain very opposed to the sexualization of children and of childhood. The dangers have been discussed at length, so it is a great pity that such trends continue and that they carry celebrity endorsement.”

I wore a bikini as a kid FORTY (literally) years ago, and my mother would have a thing or two to say to anyone who suggested she was trying to make me look sexy. I’ve done an unofficial survey of friends around my age, and all of them wore bikinis. None of them felt bikinis were inappropriate for babies or little girls.

But a conversation I had last night may have elucidated why folks have this knee-jerk reaction, and it can be summed up in three words: “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Perhaps upon seeing my kid’s bikini, friends feared I was veering into padded bra and lipstick territory. And if we didn’t live in a world where such things existed, then perhaps no one would be alarmed by a baby bikini.

But fear not, Frida will not soon be learning to walk in teeny-tiny heels. I shan’t be dressing her as a prostitute (yes that happened) or putting a “flipper” (yes that exists) in her mouth.

And while I now better understand where the Facebook comments may have been coming from, this commenter on Perez Hilton (whoda thought?) sums up my thoughts on the subject.

I have more thoughts, too, like how it seems that there’s this assumption (for adults and kids) that if you’re a straight woman (maybe this happens with gay men and women too?) and into fashion and getting creative sartorially, that you’re doing it to be sexy. That you’re somehow doing it for men. Which I would love to discuss but that is another blog post! In the meantime I’d love to hear what you think about babies in bikinis (the un-padded kind).

  • Sarah Liller

    I think it’s interesting that if it had been a little boy in a speedo, no one would have blinked and eye.

    Frivolity in fashion, whether it be a bikini, or a pink dress, or high heeled shoes, should be viewed as more of a statement of the wearer’s personal expression, not that they want sexual attention. You’re teaching your daughter that clothes are an expression of her personality. That’s empowering.

    Wouldn’t the world be such a boring place if we all wore black one pieces and had the personalities to match? :)

    • kp

      Sarah, I could not agree more, thanks so much for your comment!

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