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And it’s not just girls who need to be wary of inappropriate messages.
During Christmas 2009, Susan Tucker did her parents’ gift shopping. Her 10-year-old son had taken an interest in lacrosse, so she purchased a shirt at Abercrombie with "my disco stick" — a reference to a song by Lady Gaga — and an image of lacrosse sticks.
"My nieces and nephews (all 20-somethings) said, ‘You don’t what a disco stick is?’ " Tucker said. They directed her to listen to the Gaga CD. Her son never wore the shirt.
"I realized it is not just their ads; it is the content," Tucker said. "Now that he is in middle school, I really have to look at his shirts. I want him projecting the right image."
Mary Ashenfelter, coordinator for Pure Fashion Atlanta, said the organization also helps parents demystify popular culture, Ashenfelter said. They use books and videos to educate parents on the inner workings of the beauty and advertising industries and how certain messages can impact a child’s psyche.
It all makes sense for girls ages 14 to 18, the target market of Pure Fashion, but what do you do when retailers are pushing the same messages to girls half that age?
While shopping for her 4-year-old, Joyce Davis, an author of teen novels and a parenting blogger, has spied everything from high heels to skinny jeans, none of which she considers appropriate gear for little girls.
She was very disturbed by the latest Abercrombie Kids debacle.
"At 7, to be thinking about body image in that way ... It is offensive and unacceptable," said Davis. "Why am I having to have a conversation about appropriate clothing when my daughter doesn’t even know how to add and subtract?"
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