So I’m not the only one who has a problem with Katy Perry’s MuchMusic Awards pre-tween entourage wearing her most famous outfits: including her cupcake bra from the California Gurls video. But why is it so outrageous that a young girl is essentially playing dress up?
Now, I’ve written before that child sexualisation is not an issue I have a lot of time for: it’s always “feminist” extremists like Melinda Tankard Reist worrying about child porn and that children should be “Free 2B Kids” without our sexualised culture hampering their development. And it always seems to be about older teen stars, like Dakota Fanning, or stars who have a younger fan base, like Lea Michele or Selena Gomez, posing sexily on the cover of Cosmo that takes up their time, not actual issues.
I think kids are naturally curious. I remember playing, and watching other children playing as part of a psychology class, the “sex game” at the age of five to about eight. There was nothing sordid about the sex game: it was more of a fun way to use the word without really knowing what it meant.
I developed physically quite early: I grew breasts at about ten years of age, and got my period when I was eleven. I remember being looked at by boys my own age and men who were old enough to know better. I remember dressing in a way to emphasise this, a style of dress I still favour.
But the difference between these two acts and the ages I did them at are innocence and at least seven years. I wasn’t aware of the social implications child “activists” would draw from my primary school sex games.
I dare say the girl—who looks about six—dressed in Katy Perry’s cupcake boobs outfit has any idea how inappropriate her costume is. That falls to the adults around her, a responsibility which they’ve obviously shirked.
Had she been a few years older and was more aware of the kind of attention the costume has brought her, it would be a whole different story.
By the same token, it’s really only pedophiles who are going to get any kind of satisfaction from five year olds playing “mummy and daddy” or “doctor and nurse” and dressing like Katy Perry. Not to trivialise the horrors of pedophilia, but it’s when a girl hits puberty and starts dressing like a 20-year-old that the dangers of acting like and attracting and older set come.
Further to that, maybe a costume is just a costume. Katy Perry is a grown woman with agency and the choice to offer her body up for consumption, but does a little girl really understand this? Is there a difference between her wearing this costume to an event that happens to be broadcast across the world via television, the internet and print media and a backyard birthday party that is photographed by parents and friends? That we make such a big deal about something like this perhaps gives too much meaning to the sartorial choices* of a child and encourages them to put emphasis on an issue that, to them, is non-existent.
What do you think about Katy’s mini-me? Outrageous or some harmless fun? And what about child sexualisation on the whole?
*Yes, I am aware that this little girl didn’t “choose” to be dressed up as Katy Perry and attend an awards show with her.
Image via Zimbio.