Recently, I stumbled across a heated blog discussion about Halle Berry’s decision to put a two-piece swimsuit on her 3-year-old daughter, Nahla Aubry, while she played at the beach.
If you think anything at all like me, you just wondered, “Why is this even a topic?” which is what I asked when I read the headline, “Babies in Bikinis: OK or Not OK?” The story included a picture of precious Baby Berry running in the water -- less "Baywatch" and more like a kid splashing in the ocean. The bikini was notably skimpy with two large bows holding the low-cut bottom on, and a barely-there string and two squares covering her upper chest. On an adult with curves (like, say, Tocarra) -- clutch the pearls ‘cause a scandal’s a-brewin'. On a toddler? It’s totally appropriate for a kid to play on an American beach. In Europe, her mother wouldn’t have bothered with the top -- not for her child or herself.
But this isn’t Europe. And perhaps that’s why there were so many people freaking out about the “sexual implications” of a toddler in a bikini.
“The outfit is a lil' bit too revealing for her age,” wrote one commenting Mom. ”In today’s society, with more and more access to the Internet and perverts… you never know who is watching and wanting your child.”
Others objected, believing that a bikini is just “too grown” for a child. “Kids really should be kids as long as possible,” added another commenter. “This skimpy bikini sends [the child] the wrong message about herself, her body, and the appropriate kinds of attention.”
“Perverts, pedophiles and child pimps,” as yet another reader put it, are a valid concern for everyone. However, if someone’s getting turned on over a child, that’s going to happen whether she’s wearing a one-piece, a tankini, or sweats. What the child is clothed in isn’t the problem, the person thinking about kids in a sexual manner is. That issue needs to be addressed and corrected; covering up kids like their bodies are something to be ashamed of isn’t addressing the real issue.
“[A bikini] on a toddler is cute,” wrote another commenter who shared my POV. “Nobody should see anything sexual about a two-piece on a baby, nor should it make any impression on a very young child other than she wants to swim.”
As much as I disagree with freaking out over a toddler in a two-piece, I get where the worry to preserve the innocence of our girls stems from; girls are existing in the midst of a weird cultural push to grow them up too fast. Companies like Abercrombie & Fitch have offered unquestionably adult clothing like child-sized thongs and padded bras for 8-year-olds, and earlier this month another company was put on blast for selling lingerie -- yes, you read that correctly -- for girls ages 4 to 8.
Preserving the innocence of our girls certainly isn’t easy, but freaking out over beach attire, isn’t the answer to very real concerns.
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. She has recently been nominated for an African American Literary Award. Vote for her now on literaryawardshow.com.