UK Retailer Withdraws Padded Bikini Bras for Kids

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

UK retailer withdraws padded bikini bras for kids Eds: UPDATES with details. Moving on general news and financial LONDON (AP) - A major British clothing retailer withdrew a children's bathing suit from sale Wednesday after a front-page tabloid story revealed it was selling padded bras on bikinis aimed at 7-year-olds.

The bikinis angered children's advocates and candidates in Britain's upcoming election, who say it was yet another product that sexualizes children and encourages them to grow up too fast.

"It's a shame it was ever put on the shelves in the first place," said Justine Roberts, founder of the Mumsnet, a parenting Web site that attracts a large, vocal audience. She nonetheless praised the decision to pull it from shelves.

Primark, a popular discount chain, is not the first retailer to draw criticism for offering padded bras for kids younger than 10, but a growing number of companies are pledging support for Mumsnet's "Let Girls Be Girls" campaign.

The popular online forum said such clothing tells girls that sexiness is the most important quality, and it "encourages a culture in which children are viewed as sexually available."

Announcing the immediate withdrawal of the product, Primark promised to donate any profits already earned from the item to a children's charity. The product line, it added, "sells in relatively small quantities."

The retailer acted within hours of a front-page article in The Sun denouncing the product as a "paedo bikini." Politicians swiftly joined the clamor.

"Completely disgraceful," Conservative Party leader David Cameron said of the bikini. "The sort of country I want is one where it is not just the government (that) feels outraged about the early commercialization and sexualization of our children, but companies should stop doing it, they should take some responsibility."

There has long been a global concern that products and images may promote the sexual abuse of children. Examples include whether Barbie dolls push girls in the wrong direction, what message Disney star Miley Cyrus' bareback shot for Vanity Fair sent, and the effects of 15-year-old Brooke Shields saying for Calvin Klein: "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing."

The American Psychological Association, in its report on the sexualization of girls in 2007, raised concerns about other campaigns, such as Skechers' "naughty and nice" ad featuring Christina Aguilera dressed as a pigtailed, lollipop-licking schoolgirl. The association also fretted about thongs sized for 7- to 10-year-olds with slogans such as "wink wink."

"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," the report said.

Researchers such as Penny Nicholls of The Children's Society, a British charity which promotes child protection, argue that their research showed that commercial pressures toward premature sexualization and unprincipled advertising was damaging children's well-being.

Primark, owned by Associated British Foods, has 138 stores in the United Kingdom, 38 Penneys stores in Ireland and shops in Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

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