Last week, my kids and I were strolling the aisles of a Connecticut Wal-Mart looking for diapers and t-shirts. Instead I found something more surprising, and it was my six year old that brought it to my attention. As I schlepped my box of diapers to the cart, I heard Maverick cackling. “Mommy, bras for little girls? That is ridiculous!” I dropped the box and went to see what he was referring to. There on the shelf, were several “padded” bras.
He was right. There were little girl bras. Ridiculous little girl bras. With monkeys on them. And candy. And they were padded. (Did you catch that? Padded. Bras. For. Little. Girls.) Oh, and they weren’t in the “Tweens” section, they were right next to the toddler stuff. I was incensed.
I am all for feeling good about your body. I started developing in the fourth grade and was in a bra by fifth. And I was the first one in my grade to wear one, and the first girl in my grade to have her period. I understand how hard it is to love your body when it seems like it is happening all too quickly, and under the very watchful gaze of all of your peers.
But I try to use my experience to reshape how others view their development. I spend endless class hours (especially with my younger students) talking about feeling good in your own skin and getting girls to love their breasts, or getting them to respect the privilege (yes, privilege) of being capable of menstruation and/or pregnancy if they so choose. I don’t want my students to think that sexual development is a “curse” or an unfortunate side effect of growing up. I want them to embrace it, even if it takes them a while to appreciate it.
That being said, I understand that my students’ discomfort, much like mine was, isn’t really about growing up too soon. It’s about being looked at differently, being watched as your body starts to show signs of sexual maturity. It’s about people looking at your chest instead of looking at your face. And that is different. That type of discomfort isn’t about adolescence, it’s about being sexualized, and not having the power to do anything about it.
But girls today do have options. When I was a kid, bras were traditional and basic; if you wore one, everyone knew it. I remember running the mile for the Presidential Fitness Exam and not seeing a boy named Michael slowing up behind me to deliberately snap my bra. I didn’t pass the exam; I walked the rest of the mile.
So I do empathize with my students that developing in front of the world can be embarrassing and uncomfortable, But it can be more discreet. Developing girls can wear tank tops with hidden bras built in, sports bras, layered shirts, their options seem endless.But the little girl padded bra? That’s a curveball I didn’t expect. And one that I don’t like. It’s hard enough for developing girls to experience puberty. To suggest that younger girls need to cover their breasts up, and in turn draw more attention to them, is ludicrous. And the thought that young girls need to add a little more cup size is grotesque.
We should teach our girls to love their bodies on their own terms, as they are.
The Real Cougar Woman is a 5-carat diamond who knows the importance of taking care of her health, beauty, relationships, finances and spirituality. Linda Franklin says,”there is no stopping a woman who has a strong belief system, passion and a dream. All things are possible”. Linda’s book, Don’t Ever Call Me Ma’am helps women of all ages tap into their power and live life to the fullest.