The Grooming of the Youngest

grooming of the youngest

Yesterday I ‘ve stumbled upon the new advert from Dove and posted it on our Facebook page.

Here it is:

I dream of the day where all the adverts will remind people of their beauty. Not the type of beauty needing photoshops and breast implants, nor even the one needing a couple of hours of careful preparation in front of the mirror, but our natural beauty radiating from within.

I dream of the day where all adverts will be a glorious celebration of love and self-acceptance  instead of feeding self-loathing, insecurities and obsessions!

Then I spent a couple of hours compiling various playlists for our You Tube channel and after watching video after video with little girls doing make-up tutorials I started to feel a slight depressive feeling in the realisation that YES, this is the system in which we live and many young girls are enthused by make-up and beauty: they are trained from such a young age through family, friends, playing practices and the media and the millions of images,surrounding them…everything starts with what it seems like harmless fun: little girls imitating their mothers, their sisters, their favourite TV character.

Wondering if that depressive feeling was only my one, if my concern was shared by anyone else, I found myself reading the many comments left on every little girl’s tutorial video (most of these girls are between 4-6 years of age and some of these tutorials have millions of views, yes, millions!!). I’ve realised that most viewers find the material “cute” and “funny”: training our youngest to be concerned about their look is for many parents and sisters just a matter of learning how to fit in a beauty-obsessed society I guess…?

I agree that it could be just a fun way for little girls to imitate adult life. I am sure many of us can remember doing the same thing: messing up with our mum’s make-up was in fact pure joy and delight!

So, far from turning my concern into an indiscriminate moral panic, I reckon that playing with make-up can still be seen as a harmless fun, as long as these girls have alternatives and their life doesn’t start to revolve around a mirror.

While watching these girls recording video after video, building their own channel of beauty tutorials by the age of 7, I only wonder more about their life: how healthy and diverse is their embodiment of femininity? Do they know there are lots of other options out there? Do they know they could spend the same amount of time learning to play a sport or an instrument,creating their own music and art, playing with a pet, fundraising for a local charity, learning to dance… becoming confident, empowered, loving beings, capable of improving the life of thousands around them? IF THEY DO, then certainly their make-up tutorials are just another way to express their creativity, they won’t become self-obsessed, insecure and narcistic individuals.

I invite you to have a look at the playlist for yourself and let me know your comments: is this “grooming of the youngest” just harmless fun?



20 thoughts on “The Grooming of the Youngest

  1. I feel exactly the same as you. I feel utterly depressed when I see the effects all this is having on my 9 year old daughter and her friends. What’s more, my daughter doesn’t like it either but now feels she’ll be thought of as “weird” if she doesn’t turn up wearing make-up and skinny jeans for the school disco or friends’ birthday parties. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place; deny my daughter the clothes she feels she must have to “fit in” or reinforce this mad sexualisation of young girls. I compromise by letting her have a selection of what I think is just ok (high heels, bikinis and bras are still not part of her wardrobe but could so easily be). The most important thing I can do is give her the confidence and love to know that she doesn’t need to be judged on her appearance.

  2. It troubles me as well. I feel like the world of advertising is unlikely to change, but we can work on countering their messages with positive messages to girls about things they can do which have nothing to do with looks and “beauty.”

    I live in Seattle, and the women’s basketball team here has done a great job with outreach to girls about the importance of sports, health, fitness, and most of all, play! 🙂 I hope that more groups like the Seattle Storm will allocate resources toward involving girls in positive activities.

    • That is so encouraging to read, Mandy. I have thought quite a bit on how to counter negativity with positive messages to young women. I always thought I would take down the advertising industry and then all our problems would be null. Of course, that is an unrealistic expectation.

      The women’s basketball team of Seattle has the right idea. Healthy and consistent role models is a far better use of time and resources. And who can be against health, fitness, and positive reinforcement of teamwork and unity? Not I for sure.

  3. I have to say that I feel the same exact way as you described. I recently visited some relatives and observed my niece. It was so disturbing and disheartening how preoccupied she was with playing in makeup and nail polish. What’s frustrating is that her parents encourage this. She’s six and they buy her makeup and women’s beauty magazines so she can look at the images but are less inclined sit down with her so she can finally count into the double digits.

    • Ashley it’s sad to hear this. I think parents most time do what they feel is best for their children, passing on what they have been learning from socialisation themselves, so it’s kind of a vicious circle when the same habits and believes are recycled over and over, from generation to generation. That’s why they should be involved in the education process with their daughters, at least to some extent. The most powerful interventions are the ones working with children AND their family, it’s not always possible but always desirable 😉

      • Francesca, I wonder if this is also due in part to the fact that so many children are also being raised by young adults or children themselves. By no means am I implying that this is the case in the post above but many parents are exhibiting adolescent behaviors.

        While I waited in the lounge of a doctors office I witnessed a young mother hand her equally young daughter a Cosmo magazine. The cover page had titles like “How to Satisfy Your Man Sexually” and “Sexiest Valentine’s Day Lingerie.” The young girl flipped through looking at an endless stream of inappropriate content as her mother sat unphased texting.

        Quite possibly some of these cases may not bean issue on whether the parents need to intervene with positive messaging, they obviously too are in need of some guidance!

  4. I read this at a time when I am completely bewildered by my nieces parents. They are deeply religious people who enforce many awkward rules upon their children but then the three little girls show up at Thanksgiving in full on makeup looking like little street walkers. I didn’t know what to say, these two little girls have a natural beauty and they had it covered up by all of this make-up. I understand the use of makeup and I am by no means a prude, but when it’s used on small children, it just doesn’t seem right.

  5. I know that this idea won’t work with the cosmetic companies but I’d love to see a ‘all natural’ day where it’s encouraged to go makeup free and just be natural for a day. Guys have their November month where they don’t shave to raise charitable funds. Maybe it’s time for a charity to start following that train of thought and see where it leads.

    • I think this is a brilliant idea. The two could even be combined into one Natural November which covers unshaven men and unpainted women. I am sure Gillette is unhappy about the idea of no-shave November too but stuff ‘em, I’d love to see something like this. Unfortunately it will likely take a particularly enlightened individual in a position of power to make it happen, and in my experience people in that position are anything but enlightened.

      • Yeah I like this idea as well. There actually have been small movements in the online world about this. Many youtubers and bloggers participate in this movement called Bloggers Without Makeup Day. I don’t have any knowledge of such thing existing outside of the online world but i will support this for sure! :):):)
        When I first stopped wearing makeup, I was REALLY conscious, but after a while I realized noone really cares so I stopped caring! In the end of the day not many people really care if you have no makeup. My boyfriend actually prefers me not wearing makeup but I still do put on bare BB cream and some mascara.

  6. Beauty products are one of the chief and repeat offenders for this kind of thing. It’s such a shame because I know beauty products and services can be marketed entirely differently. My younger sister is a beauty therapist and a lot of her passion for it comes not from wanting to look good for the boys or feeling she is unattractive, but out of a genuine enjoyment in dressing up. This is a human activity and not just a stereotypical girl thing as kids love to dress up from a young age. A nephew of mine prefers to wear skirts and his mother lets him because that’s healthy and what he wants. It’s in no way shaped by what’s seen as right or wrong. Your last paragraph mirrors my own feelings about it. Being enthused about makeup and beauty for the right reasons is a great and fulfilling hobby and even a career opportunity much like everything else that large companies manipulate, monetize and exploit. Instead of discouraging them from something they truly love, what if we just encourage them to do it for the right reasons and make sure they are properly informed about self image and femininity. Putting it online open to comment by anyone and judgement by everyone (with the Like/Dislike system) is where it gets dangerous and this needs to be strictly moderated.

  7. It’s easy to see all of the negatives. Just last weekend my family relaxed at a friend’s property where their 11 year old daughter was more concerned about riding her motorbike and playing with the families’ animals than how she looked.

    You are doing your part – education takes a long time to reflect itself in a change of culture.

  8. Well, who doesn’t want to feel like a beautiful princess sometimes? I think if it is age appropriate, like wearing entirely too much glitter, painting stars and hearts on your cheeks, all the while day dreaming about unicorns and baby kitties; then it truly is harmless fun. I think when it becomes dangerous is when girls this young feel like they need to do their eyes up to get noticed, or they are applying lipstick like they are going to go out clubbing. Too much glitter lip balm applied sloppily is a different matter, and totally part of being a little girl.

    If you have an entire YouTube channel of anything by the time you are seven, you are heading down a rocky road. It doesn’t seem like that much attention from strangers can be a good thing for a child who is still trying to develop a personal identity, boy or girl. I want to believe that the parents are monitoring and guiding, but I’m a realist and I know that many of them are only vaguely aware of their child’s online presence.

  9. I think parents have a huge role to play in this. Yes, we need social change and community awareness (awesome about the Seattle woman’s team!), but as guardians, parents are in charge of how their daughters dress and the type of media they intake. I agree with this article that playing dressup and playing with mom’s makeup can be harmless fun; but it’s all about the context of the rest of the girl’s life.

    I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was at least 12 or 13. Pretty young, but at least at puberty!

  10. Childhood is so short. Why is everyone obsessed with making them grow up so fast? There are only a precious few years where you are innocent. Parents should not help these little girls put makeup tutorials on you tube -sad

  11. This child wears more makeup than I do. I don’t eve know how to put makeup on correctly if you really want to know. I never wanted to be the one that goes out without makeup in the morning and was then told, “OMG, you didn’t wear makeup to come out?”

    I’m scared that my step daughter is going to learn from her mother and sister how to put on makeup. There is a long scary story behind that, but I won’t put it on here. I want the youngest to feel pretty without having to be ‘made up’.

  12. I’ll be honest when I say I wear makeup, but I never go full out to look like what many of these young girls are trying to get to. I know they’re learning about makeup because of teen shows, or certain people in their lives. I would never allow my daughter to wear makeup like that at that age.

    All it does is sexualizing them. These girls are doing it for two big reasons, for boys and to feel more beautiful. Young girls shouldn’t worry about looking beautiful for boys or dressing up to impress. They should be out having fun, playing, getting new friends. They shouldn’t be wasting hours putting on a mask that they think covers them. I really think parents should get much more involved, paying attention to what their daughters watch on TV, how their school life is going and so on.

  13. Young girls do what their mommy or big sister is doing and even what their “bestest” friends’ mom is doing. They are so easily influenced at this age their parents can almost make or break which direction this young girl will take in their life. If you noticed one of the tutorials is called “Mom and daughter tutorial” and the little girl says “just like mommy YAA!”.

    Some of these videos are one time events and it will explain it that way and some of these videos are regular all the time makeup lessons these little girls do on YouTube. Those are the ones I have issues with ….

    The one time events that I saw it was usually the big Sister letting their little Sister have some fun because the big Sister was the one doing the makeup videos all the time and the little sister wanted to do one, so she gave her a chance to “play”, but the one that was the Mother/Daughter was horrible and that little girl should be outside playing with her friends and not on the internet putting on makeup at the age of 8-10 years old! The End! Now I am upset….

  14. WOW! This playlist shines a new light to the prevalence of “feminine” grooming from such a young age. I’m almost speechless, and I tend to lean on the more verbose side of the spectrum. The fact that these videos are out there in the atmosphere is mind blowing.

    “I agree that it could be just a fun way for little girls to imitate adult life. I am sure many of us can remember doing the same thing: messing up with our mum’s make-up was in fact pure joy and delight! ”

    The difference between then and now is that videos weren’t published on the worldwide web for people to stumble upon. Some of the videos are HILARIOUS but the undertone of what is motivating these young girls to do this for the entertainment of an invisible audience is interesting. This blog focuses a lot on the social cues set by the media but I would venture to assert that these girls are learning their cues from sources much closer.

  15. I have to say, I leave parents 100% responsible for this one. I think that no ten year old is leaving a house wearing makeup unless a parent allows it. Yes, there are revels who will put it on at school (yet another reason I feel so blessed I got to be homeschooled, no demand on my looks, lmao) but if parents start disallowing it, it will naturally become less popular.
    HOWEVER, I think playing dress up with makeup is not at all a bad thing, just like wearing silly costumes. But I think little girls need to know that there is an appropriate age where they will be in more control of their looks when out in public, and it saddens me that age is so low. I did not wear a smidge of makeup (again, aside from playing with friends at sleepovers or my sisters, etc) until I was nearly 15. And I love my parents for it.

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