children/youth

I took a picture of this bikini at a children’s clothing store in L.A. It is size 12-18 months:

NEW! (May ’10): Reagan B., Tara C., and Ma. Elí C.L. told us about a children’s bikini for sale at the chain Primark in the U.K. The bikini came complete with a top sufficiently padded to make girls look as though they have breasts:

The chain quickly pulled the bikinis after a public outcry about the sexualization of children.

NEW! (July ’10): Naomi sent us a link to Babi-kini, a website that sells string bikinis for little girls. Not only is the girl on the homepage in a bikini, but she’s in a typical swimsuit-model pose, too:

They sell a variety of styles, including one similar to the zebra-print one I originally posted above.

I went to the “one-piece swimsuits” section, but an error message came up saying there were no items matching my search. Sigh.

This is a doll Mattel put out as part of the Barbie line a few years ago. Her name is Midge. Apparently she is Barbie’s long-time friend. If you notice, Midge is pregnant. Her belly opened up and there was a baby inside. The line Midge is part of is called Happy Family.

This is Alan, Midge’s husband, and Ryan, their son. Midge and Alan were married in 1991, according to Mattel.


This is the whole Happy Family line–Alan and Ryan, Midge and baby, and grandparents.

The pregnant Midge doll was quickly pulled from the market because of protests that Midge might be interpreted as a single mother. Mattel argued that Midge and Alan had been married for years, but conservative groups argued that since she was sold separately, girls could get the wrong message and think she wasn’t married.

The centaur scene in Disney’s highly acclaimed cartoon Fantasia (1940) clearly communicates gendered expectations for men and women, but there are also racial politics. First, note that, in the film as released, all of the centaurs end up in color-matched heterosexual pairs.  Second, most people do not know that the original centaur scene included a pickaninny slave to the centaur females and exotic, brown-skinned zebra-girl servants.

Here’s a link to the whole thing (embedding disabled, but it works as of Feb. ’11).

A clear still in black and white:

Fuzzy color stills from the youtube clip:


Don’t miss our post showing bugs bunny in blackface, too.

The images below are fake ransom notes designed to encourage parents to get their children into treatment for autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, asperger syndrome, and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (click image to enlarge). They were commissioned by the New York University Child Study Center, but quickly attracted enough outrage that the campaign was abandoned (see a summary of the controversy at Mental Illness Watch). They are interesting to me as a sociologist because of the way they construct mental illness (like a kidnapper who steals your child… so the child you have is not your “real” child), pharmaceuticals (the only way to get your real child back), and parenting (you are a bad parent if you don’t do what the experts tell you). It’s fascinating the way they use threats to “help” (“ignore this and your kid will pay,”this is only the beginning,” and “It’s up to you now”).

Text: We have your son. We will make sure he will not be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives. This is only the beginning. -Autism

Text: We have your daughter. We are making her wash her hands until they are raw, every day. This is only the beginning. -OCD

Text: We have your son. We are destroying his ability for social interaction and driving him into a life of complete isolation. It’s up to you now. -Asperger Syndrome

Text: We are in possession of your son. We are making him squirm and fidget until he is a detriment to himself and those around him. Ignore this and your kid will pay. -ADHD

The 30-second (or so) videos below have been interspersed with MTV’s regular programming as part of Black History Month. MTV got Cornel West to be their superstar academic and expert on the Black American experience. The videos serve as the occasion for some interesting questions:

First, how do we evaluate the use of Black musicians, actors, and personalities by MTV? Is “representation” enough? Or does contemporary representation look uncomfortably like the representation of the past? (If you haven’t seen it, watch Spike Lee’s Bamboozled.)

Second, what does it mean that Cornel West signed on with MTV with what is, in effect, a mutual endorsement? Do we approve of Cornel West using his significant influence and importance in this way? Is this good from a reformist perspective? Problematic from a radical perspective? Did he “sell out”?

Third, how effective are these spots? I know little about the audience of MTV, but I imagine there are a lot of people who do not know who Cornel West is and are not inclined to offer him immediate respect. Cornel is idiosyncratic. Does your average MTV viewer see a gap-toothed, afro-wearing guy with odd mannerisms called “Professor” (which, we know, could mean anything) as authoritative? Or a buffoon?

Further, what do we think of the spots themselves? Is their content helpful? Do they teach us anything? Do we like what they teach us? Or is it just more empty lip-service to Black Americans?

Watch and tell us what you think:

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/63979709[/vimeo]

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/63979813[/vimeo]

Thanks to Richard for the heads up on this one.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A commercial, this one French, to go with our most recent condom ads.This was a tip from an Anonymous commenter.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.



I don’t have kids, but I am made to understand that childen both are and aren’t a screaming burden. In any case, these ads draw on the idea that kids are a drag, instead of a blessing. This points to contemporary contestation over the meaning of children and their role in our lives, in addition to historical change in the relationship between adults and children (i.e., this compared to the pre-industrial role of children as family labor).

This commercial affirms the notion that only women can be expected to do housework because children and husbands are absolutely useless.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fwTtJZ6Db4[/youtube]

I find the wife’s acceptance of her husbands ass-ish behavior (still her “best friend”) particularly disheartening.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.