The “Single Ladies” Scandal Drags On

So, we’ve talked a lot about sexualization and what is and isn’t exploitative or offensive. And apparently I am totally insane because I thought that video of those nine-year-olds at at the dance competition was neither. I just wrote an article about it this morning for Salon. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, but here it is. In a nutshell: there is something very not-90s-woman, I think, about ignoring girls’ talent and focusing instead on what they’re wearing.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “The “Single Ladies” Scandal Drags On

  1. katherine

    They are talented. But arn’t there more appropriate ways to showcase that talent? The costumes are a little much, and some of the moves are too. There’s nothing wrong with girls dancing, but I think this was a little over-the-top for their age.

  2. In Grade 6 my jazz dance class did a recreation of the dance from Ice Ice Baby, floor humping and all, while wearing tight leggings and leotards. No one got all het up about it.

    I think that the problem is not with the costumes, or the choreography. The problem is with the adults who slap the “sexualized” label on it. If you don’t tell kids that what they are doing is “wrong”, they won’t internalize it that way. The brouhaha is doing more to harm kids, and shape their perceptions of what is “shameful” than the dance.

    Excellent article, but I couldn’t read more than a few comments. Has no one ever watched kids play? They play dress up, and house and act like tiny adults. Why is that ok, and this isn’t?

    Oy.

  3. Loved your Salon piece, Ada.

  4. Ali

    I think it’s such bullshit how this is being handled by America at large. the fact that this doesn’t even seem sexual to me (yes, those ARE appropriate dance costumes) is secondary to my biggest objection: the unrelenting sanctimony.

    Jesus, if all of us had had our brains turned inside out when we were that age, not one of us would have come out smelling like a rose. I know that on my end, I thought about kissing boys all the time when I was in second grade. there was an incident where my classroom intern’s bra strap was showing and I thought it looked pretty damn lascivious. in a good way. I didn’t know what sex was but I still had it on the brain!

    I can’t speak for all these people who won’t shut up about letting little girls be little girls, but judging children for being sexual seems incredibly stupid. sure, they probably have some premature version of sexual thoughts. why the hell does it matter?

    in closing, I guess, shut the hell up adult America. it could have happened to you when you were locked in your bedroom, making out with your pillow and pretending it was Rhett Butler. it could have happened to any of us.

  5. mmm

    there are two strains of thought here that in a way reveals a rather contentious argument within the feminist community; to be or not to be “slutty.” on one hand is it right to begin equating sex with beauty/attention/blah blah you know at such a young age – these girls obviously did not conceptualize this performance on their own, leading me to question how many of them actually wanted to dress and dance that way? and on another hand we should definitely question those who argue that it is too lascivious and encourages pervyness, afterall it falls into the classic “blame the woman” cliche. aaah so hard to decide whether or not i agree with these cute little girls’ actions?? i just hope some of them discover the stones and ramones ha

  6. nealmedlyn

    Wow, just watched that video again and I cannot get over how goddamn good those girls are. At the end I wish I could send them money for their college funds or something because they’re fantastic.

    For real, America, try doing that arabesque-type move while holding yr ankle near yr ear.

    That shit is awesome and they deserve applause.

  7. nealmedlyn

    and by the by, yr piece is brilliant and the video of how great those girls are at the end should make those obsessed with those girls’ outfits feel a smidge silly. I feel silly now for even entertaining ideas of their outfits being anything other than completely beside the point of their talents.

  8. Thanks, Ada, for a great piece that upsets some all-too-comfortable presuppositions in feminism(s). I really appreciate how you demonstrate that (even and especially feminist) critiques of these girls’ appearance works ultimately to discount/trivialize their accomplishments, and reinforce the idea that the most important thing a woman can do/be is her appearance. The hysteria over their outfits sends the message that (white) girls will never be rewarded for working hard at anything other than protecting/reigning in their sexuality.

  9. feminist

    ada, you completely oversimplified the times magazine article. go back and read it. these girls are doing a “sexy” dance, which no one can deny. the fact that they (probably) don’t understand sex or sexiness makes it worse! little girls nevertheless equate these kind moves with sex and sexiness, but they’re not their own! this is pop culture sexiness and it’s meant to turn on, to cater to, guys — of the lowest common denomination.

  10. feminist

    more: it’s not really even the costumes!

  11. Anna

    “ada, you completely oversimplified the times magazine article. go back and read it. these girls are doing a “sexy” dance, which no one can deny. the fact that they (probably) don’t understand sex or sexiness makes it worse! little girls nevertheless equate these kind moves with sex and sexiness, but they’re not their own! this is pop culture sexiness and it’s meant to turn on, to cater to, guys — of the lowest common denomination.”

    I so strongly agree! When I see this I just see danger. It is not natural we are programing girls, similar to the child pageants.

  12. Anna

    Scrolling down the main page again, my eye just locked in on this photo… what kind of world is it when 6 year olds (they look 6 years old) are dressed as sexy strippers to arouse / provoke. Not that children are arousing but to the mentally disturbed they are, and why else would anyone dress and dance in such a way? Plus the fact that I see too many ads / things that sexualize children and it’s just not cute at all, given serious social problems happening world wide, like child brides, and horrendous sex crimes.

    I wouldn’t want to see this type of behavior normalized anymore then it already is, so at least there is debatable controversy.

    Speaking of the 90’s however, kids certainly are not dressed the same. The sweet little kitty and bunny jogging suits are long gone. Now the style is adult clothing made in junior sizes. So I guess the sweet little dance numbers would be passe as well?

    • katherine

      THANK YOU.
      The last few posts were very reassuring to see. After so many posts were agreeing with the idea that this dance is something to be celebrated.
      I think we need to ask WHY girls are dancing and dressing this way. Someone picked out their costumes, and someone taught them this dance. As previously said the girls in the video (probobly) arn’t aware of sex/sexiness. This is what they are being TAUGHT, it’s not an autonomous decision for them.
      What if we dressed little boys up like chip’n’dales dancers….AHAH

      • katherine

        just going back…my little boys as chip’n’dale dancers idea makes a really good point i think.

        Imagine little boys dancing like this…this is essentially the eqivalent to what those girls are doing….
        ….it would never happen
        That shows how mysogynistic our culture is.

  13. Boys and girls both act out things grown-ups do. Boys do the “Superman” dance and girls do the “Single Ladies” dance and vice versa. It’s a way of playing at being grown-up. I don’t think it’s any more destructive than when my friends and I danced around to “Like a Virgin” or other stuff that we didn’t understand yet. Playing dress-up, participating in pop culture — it’s a way of figuring things out. It’s just when adults get all weird about how “sexy” kids seem that they start feeling like there’s something about what they’re doing that’s shameful. -Ada

    • katherine

      I agree with you…but this dance was not the kids own choreography. An adult dressed them up like this and taught them to dance this way.
      It IS normal when it is just kids playing “grown-up” … but this is not the same. It wasn’t an autonomous decision for the girls.
      And this comes into the bigger social problems of sexism/mysogyny/gender.
      Definately a good debate though!

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