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Latest Government plans: Trivial or just plain wrong?

By Angela Harbutt
December 6th, 2010 at 2:45 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Nudge Dredd

Nudge DreddSarah Teather ,(Children’s minister), has announced today an inquiry into retailers selling “sexualised products” aimed at children. The inquiry will stop retailers selling such things as t-shirts that say “Future WAG”, padded bras for pre-teens, lap-dancing kits and “playboy branded” stationary etc.

My first reaction was to chuckle – raise an eyebrow and ask at what point parents want to resign ALL parental control to the state. what do I care if the government wants to meddle – and parents want to let them – it’s not my concern.

And yet it is my concern because its not its not funny or trivial …this is just plain wrong.

It’s wrong because this is another piece of Government paternalism … Nudge Dredd at its most insidious. It’s another example of ignoring parental responsibility in favour of the Government regulation. I don’t have any kids but I am a god parent and aunt to 4 girls (age from 3 to 14). I know them well. None of them dress inappropriately or overtly sexily. They wear cute stuff suitable for their age. Why? Because they have responsible parents who take their roles seriously (despite their god mothers best efforts to corrupt them). So if some parents can raise their children – with sensible blocks installed on their pc’s and tvs – and a measured, involving conversation about what they can and can’t wear – why can’t all parents? ….

…Because its easier to blame the shops when they lose control of their little ones than have a conversation with them. Because its easier to expect Government action on “sexy products” than tell their kids they can’t have that t-shirt til they are older? Of course when you take a kid to a sweet shop they want everything. Part of being a parent is to set boundaries, impart a moral code, help them through the difficult process of growing up. If parents allow their 5 year olds to watch X FActor then it’s their responsibility to explain that the clothes Cheryl Cole wears are appropriate for women – not for girls. Dont blame Cheryl, or the programme or the shops when their little girl wants to be a princess.

This Government is heading in a dangerous direction. We are seeing review after review targeted at “out of control” children.

  • Cigarette packets to have branding banned because the “sexy” packaging is “encouraging” kids to smoke

  • Minimum alcohol pricing to stop “youngsters” binge drinking on the streets.

  • Now its a review into “sexualised products” for kids.

If the latest piece of “Government nudging” is successful we might see fewer short skirts in the shops . But then we will just have 12 year olds rolling up their school skirt at the waist band, cutting their t-shirts off at the tummy, rolling down their long socks, and pinching their mums lipstick etc – that’s what we did when we were ten year olds in the 70’s. You wont stop girls trying to look grown up by banning the sale of “sexy items” in shopping centres.  

As for padded bras for 5 year olds, or “Future Porn Star” t-shirts for 4 year olds. Well folks thats the parents  decision to buy- not “pressure” from the retailers. Of course middle class parents can look scornfully on as the chavs dress their toddlers to look like mini-me – but now we are talking about the Government stopping the behaviour of one group of people (prols, chavs call them what you like)behaving in a way that another group dont like. That’s just social engineering – trying to stop frowned-on behaviour of the working classes – or just vote-chasing – or both.

So why the need for a review? I thought this Government wanted a “big society” – direct action from the citizen – rather than lobbying for Government “to do something”. If parents were really feeling that pressurised – if the nation is really is that scandalised – why haven’t parents-united simply boycotted the shops selling this stuff or gone on-line with a mass petition?

 When M&S decided it would charge for larger cup sized bra’s – the well endowed women of this country went mental – and the company reversed its decision in a matter of days. No Government intervention. Plain old consumer action.

 If anyone has the power to persuade Next to stop selling black satin ra-ra skirts for 5 year olds – its the cutomers. That customers have not objected (and more importantly are clearly actually buying them) suggests people want them and buy them. I doubt very much that Next is on a mission to sexualise every young girl in the country – they are responding to what sells in the shops – and bought largely by adults for their kids.

So who exactly are all these besieged parents I wonder? This again points to disapproving middle class mothers who object to the working classes and chavs  buying this stuff. That is then putting pressure on them to let their little dears wear it too.

Cue  “chocolate Orange Dave” with his love of the huge pool of voters  influential Mumsnet forum. Don’t worry posh mum’s if we stop the chavs from buying this stuff (and therefore your precious darlings from wanting it) all will be made good. Never mind that its your repsonsibility to tell them they can’t have it, we know it offends your senses . Dave will sort. We shouldn’t really be surprised.

Nor should we be surprised at the findings. The inquiry is being headed by chief executive of Christian charity the Mothers’ Union, Reg Bailey. His first public statement on being appointed was… “It’s about the tone and the style of the way things are marketed to children. When you are so bombarded by marketing and sexualised imagery, it almost becomes wallpaper.”  Hmmm balanced inquiry ? Er… No.  He has actually asked for people to “send him examples of products of concern” ( – no don’t snigger – I am sure it is perfectly innocent – he will had his CRB check) but note he has not asked for comments from those who think this is a storm in a tea cup – or government sticking its nose in where it is not concerned. No. We will see are propsals for a code of conduct  – another  watchdog –  and  prosecutions of those who break the rules (retailers I assume – not the parents that allow them). Why bother with the inquiry ?

NUDGE DREDD just struck again.

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