I did something the other day that I’ve never done before.

I put the kibosh on a shirt my 5-year-old daughter picked out.

We were at Target, and we were doing a little light shopping. We picked out some Valentine cards and treats for their parties on Friday, and I thought it would be nice if they each got a special little shirt, too.

In general, I let my kids pick things for themselves. Usually I give them two or three choices, just to make it easy. On this particular day, Dan was with Flora in the ‘girls’ section — not toddlers, which is where I was with Kate.

When I found them, Flora was holding a purple t-shirt, in her size, that said “YUM” on it.

And I said, “No, you can’t get that.”

Dan looked surprised; Flora was downright distressed. “But it’s my size,” she protested. “I know,” I answered, “but you have to pick another shirt in your size.”

I didn’t make a huge deal about it, but I did take it away from her and put it back. We picked out another shirt, and then Dan saw the Paul Frank shirts, and picked one of those out for her. We also got matching leggings.

I didn’t like the shirt because the message I saw on it was that my daughter was a consumable. That she was the something yummy.

And I am intensely disturbed by that.

I don’t want my daughter to be seen that way — especially when she’s only 5 years old. I imagine I’ll feel the same way regardless of her age. And I certainly don’t want my daughter to see herself as something to be consumed, either.

Am I making too big a deal of this? Would you have let your daughter pick out and wear this shirt? Where and when do we decide what is appropriate, and when do we let our children (not just girls) decide?

Further, how do we send the ‘right’ messages to our children? In other words, how do I enable Flora to either not pick the Yum shirt because of the message, or to pick it because she embodies the IRONY of the message? (Admittedly, not when she is 5 years old. She grasped sarcasm pretty quickly; I’m hoping she gets irony at least by the time she’s a teen.) Or is that latter point too much to ask? At any age?

23 thoughts on “Yuck

  1. No way. No how.

    The word is entirely too intent on sexualizing girls way too young. I realize that at some point I’m going to have to deal with it, but not when my kids is 3 or 4 or 5 or even 12.


    • I think we do have to start dealing with it now, though. Teach our girls (and boys) to value themselves not for how they appear, but for who they are. A shirt that says ‘yum’ says, “I am delicious; come taste me.” A book about being a flower girl (which my daughter has) teaches a girl that shopping for pretty dresses and making herself attractive is what she is supposed to do (ostensibly to win a man). (I hate that book, and I won’t read it more than once a week.) I think by steering our children to what is appropriate — not just now, but for the future — does have to START now. You know?

      Thanks for the comment.

    • I feel lucky at this point I still have the power to just say no without explaining it. When she is 10? 12? ‘because I said so’ isn’t going to fly. Then I’ll just have to clearly explain myself. And tough out the eye rolling and foot stomping. And heavy sighing.

      Thanks for the feedback though. It was just a total gut reaction: no way are you wearing that, child.

  2. I will be no help at all; I agree with your choice; I can see someone trying to justify it as “i like yummy things” rather than “i am a yummy thing” but no 5 year old will understand and advocate that, so… yeah. I have no idea how you explain it.

    • As I said in my reply to Kim, I’m glad I don’t have to explain it now; “mommy said no” will suffice. It’s later that’s freaking me out a little.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. In my opinion, you are 100% right.

    Sorry if that makes you cringe. 😉

    I go even further though. I have a “no words on your butt” rule too. I don’t care WHAT it is. I don’t see the need for it.

    I also have issues with Bratz dolls or anything that looks like them too. They’re not allowed in the house. I’ve had that rule since the doctor said “Congratulations, you have a daughter!”

    • Sometimes I think my husband thinks that having two daughters is karma biting him on the ass. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he ADORES them. But we both worry about all this other stuff! Like clothes that send messages we don’t want them to send, and Bratz dolls.

      As far as cringing, it seems that you and I have a lot in common. Probably not politics, but the stuff like taste in books and how to protect our daughters from themselves. You know, the important stuff.

      • It’s scary having a daughter – especially in today’s world. Watch 5 minutes of the Jersey Shore and tell me you don’t seriously consider locking your daughter in her closet. When we had our son I was excited that maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about “these things” with him but it’s different.

        Now it’s vital that he’s brought up respecting women and girls. It’s important not only that he respects girls, but stands up when others are not. So much to teach.

        The good news is that maybe the tide is shifting. Maybe there are enough of “us” out there who are worrying about the important things that if nothing else we can pool our money and buy an island or something. 😉

      • And that would be why I don’t watch shows like Jersey Shore. It’s bad enough being out in public with her while she charms everyone with her big blue eyes and sweet smile. Dan is ready to lock her up already.

        I agree with what you say about raising boys, too. A parent isn’t off the hook just because the equipment is different. Part of a boy’s self-worth should stem from treating others with respect. Anyone’s self-worth, of course, but there are differences that need to be acknowledged.

        I don’t know if it’s tides shifting or not. I think the news/media exploits our fears and shows us a lot of “exceptions” to the rules. Bad behavior boosts ratings. Not that we should let our guard down, but I think it’s safe to say to our children: That’s not how it is, and that is not how you act. I think “we” are the majority. We’re just not that interesting or controversial. 😉

      • I have the benefit of “just” being the aunt in a similar situation — my 7-yo niece wanted a Juicy Couture suit, with “Juicy” across the arse. I told her no, even though I’m “cool” Aunt Brainbo who shops at cool places and buys her things her parents usually wouldn’t think to buy. At 7, I told her why: “it is trashy, and you aren’t trash. You wear clothes that make you look and feel good for you, not for anyone else. Now, can you see that “juicy” on your bottom?” Her: “No” Me: “Exactly. So what’s the point of having it there?” She seemed to buy into it, slowly but surely. EVERY time we shop, I drill it into her about clothes…methinks soon it’s going to be about boys and then peer pressure and then….my brother’s head will explode. Ultimately, I think it’s most important that someone IS telling them no…so, good for you!

      • These are the parts of the argument I am going to have to save for later:

        It is trashy, and you aren’t trash. You wear clothes that make you look and feel good for YOU.

        Thanks. It’s important that girls hear these messages from outside the home too. Because I think sometimes, at some point, all our children hear is “blah blah blah no” and with aunts (and uncles and godparents and even the right media) the message will seep through.

  4. As a dear friend told me when I was pregnant with my second child, “You better hope for another boy. At least with boys there’s only one penis you have to worry about.” Yeah, I had girl.

  5. Totally agree, awful shirt, would have made the same choice.

    But I’m dying to know more about the parameters you give Flora for picking out her own clothes. I would love to let Avi do that but he get’s so excited about the concept of having his own choice be THE choice that he picks the first thing he sees. I can never tell if he’s picking what he really wants, or just picking for the sake of picking.

    Admittedly, shopping for girls is way more fun: there is vastly more to select from, but also way more inappropriate stuff as you found. But beyond this specific shirt incident, how have you talked to Flora about picking out her own clothes?

    • What I do with the girls is pick out two or three shirts/outfits and give them the choice of that many. That way they don’t get so excited that they are overwhelmed with choices, and they don’t just pick the first thing they see (something I suspect happened with the YUM shirt; plus it was purple Flora’s favorite color and closest to the aisle).

      Also, if I give them their choices, and THEN they see something else (well, more in Flora’s case than Kate’s), and want that instead, I can be sure it’s something they want. I make it clear if they want X shirt, then we won’t be getting Z shirt (same with toys, really). I work very hard to not just buy them every little thing they want, even if it’s not super pricey. And believe me, none of the places we shop are super pricey!

      As far as boys’ clothes, I’m sure there are levels of appropriateness in terms of attitude messages, branding, and characters. But girls clothing is a bit more squeee-worthy!

      Thanks for the comments. Hope this helps!

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