Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Training Bras" and the Sexualization of Young Girls

Oh, yes.

Have you stopped into your local Target or Wal-Mart lately? I have.

While there, I was walking through the children's section, particularly the "little girl's" section, and noticed something disturbing.

I was standing in the bra aisle of the "little girl's" section, and I found this. (Due to copyright issues I was unable to have the picture inserted into my blog. Please follow the link.)

Since when do padded bras become a right-of-passage for young girls who are just beginning to develop their breasts? Even more disturbing were the "training bras" that actually had under wire in them. I mean, really?

I don't ever remember even having the option to purchase a padded, under wire bra, and that wasn't THAT long ago. My first bra, aka "training bra," was just a rectangular piece of cloth that went completely around my chest with two flimsy straps. Just as simple as that. No cute little designs, no under wire, no little clasp in the back to fasten it together, and definitely no such padded material to "enhance" my blooming breasts.

To, partially, satisfy my curiosity, I opened Google and typed in "training bra," and the first website that shows up is titled, "My First Bra - Training Bra Basics." Now, before I clicked on the link to the web page, I read the description, which is, "My First Bra: A helpful guide for preteen, teens, and parents concerning training bras, and issues surrounding puberty & breast development, in young girls..."

Now, that sounds somewhat legit, right? You would click on that if you were a parent, right? Or even a young girl? I thought so. So, I decided to click on it and explore the website. I wanted to see the type of information was out there.

Would you like to know what I found?

The website was misleading. Entirely.

I clicked on the tab labeled, "buying guide" and the site offered different types of bras. Of course, they started out with the "training bra," which didn't surprise me, and looked like an actual bra I would approve of, and then they had sports bras, and what really disturbed me is that the list didn't stop there.

They had a soft-cup bra, which the site said was used to keep the natural shape of the girl's breasts, but it was entirely made of lace. The next option was the padded bra, which basically "adds a cup size," says the website. And last, was the strapless bra, which is a "bra specially designed to make your breasts look larger and fuller," the website says, oh, but don't worry - they also said that the strapless bra may lack proper support. Um. Duh.

Firstly, if I was a parent, which I am not, the last thing I would want my pubescent daughter looking at is lacy, padded, or strapless bras.

Isn't it enough that young girls in our society have to be faced with puberty at such an awkward age? The age where developing your breasts and getting your period isn't convenient, nor is it something that most young girls and their parents actually talk about.

Why on earth would this website promote padded and under wire bras for girls who barely have any breasts to support?

For Target and Wal-Mart to be selling such bras is appalling, and the fact that both companies are solely driven by money doesn't exactly justify anything - it shouldn't. Target and Wal-Mart are just aiding society in the sexualization of young girls in our Western society. Young girls' clothing is getting smaller, tighter, and more revealing.

The first thing I thought of when I saw those "training" bras in Target, was the November GQ issue with three Glee cast members on the cover. The media's portrayal of high school students, mainly the young "girls," were shown definitely over-sexualized. If you view all the photos from the photo shoot, there is one in particular that really is disturbing to me. Actress, Lea Michele (aka Rachel from Glee), is shown as "peering" into her locker, "sucking" on what appears to be an over-sized lollipop. Oh, and let's not forget she's not wearing pants. Because that would actually happen in a real life setting.

I realize my input isn't as thorough as I want it to be, but I'm not really an expert on puberty or sexualization of young girls, so I found a really good analysis of this issue with GQ at a really cool feminist-friend website.

Anita Sarkeesian, writer and founder/feminist cultural critic of this article, stated that, "the latest issue of GQ includes some highly sexualized photos of select members of the Glee cast.  Namely, the white, straight ones.  I’d say they have created a new public controversy but it’s really just the same old argument about whether images of sexually objectifying women are acceptable.  The reason this photo shoot is different from the thousands of half naked women that grace the pages of men’s magazines is that this one is crossing the line into simulating pornographic pedophilia."

For more information on Anita's critique, please watch her video below. Don't forget to check out her website, as well!


  1. Ugh.

    My mom didn't let me wear a bra until I was 13...and I needed it, too. My flat chested friend, got a bra when she is 10...

    and adding a cupsize for young girls? what is that for? I'm pretty sure guys that age don't even look at girls. (My brother is 14 and I'm pretty sure he doesn't even think girls exist.)So then, they are trying to get older guys then, statutory rape much?

    As for the parent thing, as much as we want our 'future' children not feeding in to this kind of sexualized objectification, it is impossible. Even if your daughter is a 'tomboy' watch ESPN sometime and the commercials are disgusting. I don't want to sexualize my future daughters, but I don't want them to be wearing clothes that are out of style and cause them to be 'teased' all the time. :( It's an impossible lose-lose choice.

  2. I don't even think I ever had a training bra... I probably wore sports bras until I actually needed one. Or rather, until my older sister decided I needed one.

    I think my older sister dictated what I did and didn't do. But back then, training bras didn't really come into play. If they did, I probably had a hand me down from her.. Cute huh??

  3. As the mother of a young daughter just now starting puberty, I have checked out both Target and Walmart. I can assure you, the bras in the girl's section of both stores are very appropriate for that age group.

    As for the so-called "padded" bras, they aren't padded, but molded cup. The reason for the "molded cup" -- which I LOVE for my daughter who wears a school uniform consisting of very see through white shirts -- is to hide your nipples, as opposed to more traditional training bras. She's absolutely TERRIFIED of her new budding nipples showing through her clothing and these really do the trick.