If 10-year-olds can't drive to the mall or earn a paycheck, how are they ending up clad in push-up bras, tube tops and low-riding jeans?
It's parents' fault, says CNN contributor LZ Granderson, who chides moms and dads in his column "Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps."
"It's easy to blast companies for introducing the sexy wear, but our ire really should be directed at the parents who think low-rise jeans for a second grader is cute," he writes. "They are the ones who are spending the money to fuel this budding trend. They are the ones who are supposed to decide what's appropriate for their young children to wear, not executives looking to brew up controversy or turn a profit."
Though retailers aren't doing much to help either.
Granderson points to companies like Abercrombie & Fitch, which in this year's spring swimsuit line introduced a "push-up" bikini top for girls as young as 7. However, after the outcry, the company relabeled the bra as "padded" and said it would be best for girls over 12.
"I don't know all that much about the swimsuit business, but I have a kid, and I do know that my 9-year-old needs a padded bikini top the way a two-headed trout needs a bicycle," writes Lisa Ramirez in an editorial for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, NY. "It strikes me as an inherently nutty idea, and I can't imagine why anyone would buy one, let alone allow their little girl to wear it."
Yet some parents have defended the kiddie bikini, saying that the padding helps their developing daughter look "appropriate," and that all bathing suits have padding.
Yet, whether it's a push-up bikini for second graders or a pair of shorts with provocative writing across the bum, the underlying issue is what type of message clothing like this is sending to young girls, Granderson writes.
The American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls reported in 2007 that "If girls purchase (or ask their parents to purchase) products and clothes designed to make them look physically appealing and sexy, and if they style their identities after the sexy celebrities who populate their cultural landscape, they are, in effect, sexualizing themselves."
Such behavior can cause serious repercussions later in life, such as impaired mental performance, low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders, according to the report. It can also lead girls and young women to "place appearance and physical attractiveness at the center of women's value."
In the end, Granderson says it boils down to mom and dad being willing and able to say 'no' when their daughters ask for inappropriate outfits.
"A line needs to be drawn, but not by Abercrombie. Not by Britney Spears. And not by these little girls who don't know better and desperately need their parents to be parents and not 40-year-old BFFs."