I don’t really watch mainstream news so it took a friend to bring the 7 year old single ladies to my attention. Have you heard? A pack of surprisingly skilled Orange County 7-9 year olds shaking what they don’t have to Beyonce’s unrelenting anthem Single Ladies at a dance competition went viral on the interwebs.
CNN, ABC, MTV, E!, have all been talking about how far is too far as they play the video of the girls in nearly nothing on a loop, in between reporting on Miley Cyrus’ lecherous lap dance, the latest drama on The Hills, Teen Cribs, and commercials for age defying skin cream. Not to mention, one too many bloggers said the routine made them feel dirty and uncomfortable. Needless to say, not one of these entities takes any responsibility for contributing to our youth and sex obsessed culture, nor the inevitable merger of these two larger than life forces in media. Can we really feign surprise at the hypersexualization of seven year olds when just a few years later they are used to sell any and everything in ads and on runways around the world?
Bey’s video is pretty tame compared to what some (white) choreographer taught these white girls to do. Her video is built on the 1960’s Bob Fosse choreographed, Gwen Verdon danced Mexican Breakfast; middle aged white women prancing around a studio does not exactly equal risque. The parents claim that Sasha is just too fierce for their girls and that they got the moves from Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel. You be the judge (I’m giving serious side eye to the parents). And how is it possible that Bey & Co’s outfits are less revealing than the 7 year olds? Which soccer mom stitched those costumes together? And if perhaps in their lust for a trophy, in their craze for victory, they hired a black choreographer or had a brown person sew those tiny nymphet outfits by hand, its still connected to the white privilege of parents who employ people of color to sex up their seven year olds.
I mean lets be honest, part of the reason white folks are upset is because its white girls killing those suggestive dance moves. I did some youtube research and found numerous videos of little black and brown girls doing their best to put a ring on it but none of them quite compare to the tour de force that is this routine. They didn’t invoke a public outrage or garner CNN coverage. When a group of equally young brown boys and girls, spurred on by cheering adults, do some dancing of their own it didn’t make the evening news. So why is the nation up and arms suddenly about children being sexualized? It begs the question, whose children?
This pattern is visible with more serious things like missing children, childhood sexual abuse and child murders. White children are eagerly searched for and black children may not even make the evening news. This disparity in dance however has been marked by other bloggers before without interest from mainstream media.
In addition to the way whiteness is operating in this story, the technical skill of the girls is part of the reason this story has captured the national imagination. Little kids trying to do grown up things is one thing but little girls successful execution of straight up stripper dance moves is something else.
Unlike their brown and black contemporaries on youtube, little Jamie and Allison aren’t doing it for love, they have to win. In an age where upper and middle class helicopter parents are paying Olympic coaches to train their children in team sports, a 7 year old’s reproduction of Annie at the school talent show just doesn’t cut it. If winning means more sex in the routine, fewer clothes, no mistakes, parents are willing to teach their kids to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Good to know you’ve got them learning the important life lessons so early; win at all costs.
But I’m not surprised. American culture sexualizes children just as it infantilizes women every day. Bieber Fever is professed by women of all ages, male bloggers created a countdown clock to when the Olsen Twins turned 18, and as soon as girls get body hair they are learning how to remove it. We say we don’t want children to be sexualized too early but we allow advertisers and media to use sex to sell EVERYTHING and then act shocked when children pick it up or parents use sex to give their kids a competitive edge in a dance competition.
This has everything to do with consumption. Who is consuming these 7 year old sexualized bodies and for what ends? We say we don’t want our kids sexualized but we love to tease pre-schoolers about having boyfriends and girlfriends when they can barely talk, we make bikinis for babies, sexify children’s cartoon characters and yet we still refuse to talk to our children about sex. All of this and we still feed children the myth that sexual predators are out there somewhere and not in our neighborhoods, intimate relationships, and families. All of this as we pretend that people who abuse children are “sick individuals” as opposed to people we know shaped by the world we created. All of this and we teach children that its their responsibility to defend themselves from “bad touches” from strangers as we dangle sexuality in their faces, or have them dance in ways that are overtly sexual. All of this and we have the audacity to pretend that none of it is connected.
What will it take for us as a society to say that we care more about people than profits? Children than competition? Where will we draw the line and begin the serious work of examining culture and the way it informs the way we behave?