The End of Childhood? France’s Biggest Supermarket Chain Sells Bras to 5 Year Olds

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The main reason why I’m working on The Illusionists documentary is because I see an onslaught of toxic messages targeting young girls. I have eight young nieces (aged 3 – 13) and my best friend recently gave birth to a baby girl.

Looking around me, whenever I visit supermarkets or toy stores, I can’t help but notice how corporations are dead set on promoting an idea of girlhood that is extremely limited and bathed in dangerous stereotypes.

Girls are taught since an early age that their appearance is their most valuable asset. I lost count of the number of games/toys centered around shopping and beauty makeovers. In the past 10 years, the stakes have gotten higher: mass media and a plethora of clothing companies are increasingly sexualizing and objectifying young girls – in creepier and creepier ways. There was uproar in the United States this past summer, when the French label Jours Après Lunes launched a lingerie line aimed at 4 year old girls, using inappropriate pictures that made them look like adults. The lingerie line – for the time being – is only available for sale in four boutiques in France and in two international locations. But the trend is spreading.

Lingerie for little girls – who won’t need a bra for years – is becoming the new normal in France.

A couple of days ago I visited my neighborhood’s Monoprix store (Monoprix is arguably France’s biggest supermarket chain, selling food, office supplies, clothing and toiletries). On my way to the cashier, I was stopped cold in my tracks when I noticed something in the kids’ clothing aisle. A teeny tiny bra that could have fit a doll. To its right there were 20+ kinds of cotton panties with labels “5-6 years old” and to its left, various other types of incredibly small bras by the brand C.F.K. (Country for Kids) for pre-schoolers. Some of them were padded. One kind came with a label that said “organic & fair trade” – as a badge of enlightened commerce. This gave me the creeps. Why would a 5 year old want to wear a bra? What I found disturbing – even more than the Jour Après Lunes debacle – is the fact that Monoprix is a major department store with tens of thousand of locations all over France. By putting on sale bras for little girls they are effectively condoning and normalizing them. And starting a very dangerous trend.

bra02 The End of Childhood? Frances Biggest Supermarket Chain Sells Bras to 5 Year Olds

Above: bras for 5-6 year old girls on sale at French store Monoprix.

bra03 The End of Childhood? Frances Biggest Supermarket Chain Sells Bras to 5 Year Olds

Above: a padded bra for 8 year old girls, on sale at French store Monoprix.

I did a little bit of digging around and found that there are many other French retailers selling bras for little girls. Starting at age 4.

From the popular online retailer 3 Suisses:

bra04 The End of Childhood? Frances Biggest Supermarket Chain Sells Bras to 5 Year Olds

Smallest bra size: ages 4-5

Another disturbing product page:

bra05 The End of Childhood? Frances Biggest Supermarket Chain Sells Bras to 5 Year Olds

Smallest size: Ages 4-5.

The product description says: a triangle bra with satin ruffles for appearance-conscious little girls.

From the discount store TATI a “Push Up Bra” for little girls:

bra06 The End of Childhood? Frances Biggest Supermarket Chain Sells Bras to 5 Year Olds

How disturbing!

Something similar happened not long ago in the United Kingdom. The stores Tesco, Primark, Next, and Peacocks were selling padded bras aimed at 5 year olds. Child protection agency The Phoenix Chief Advocates called for a boycott and even Prime Minister David Cameron joined in the protest, describing the sale of children’s padded bras as “disgraceful.” They were eventually withdrawn from the stores.

I wonder if the same could happen in France: a boycott and a ban of these products. The UK has some powerful advocates: Prime Minister David Cameron has backed several measures against the sexualization of children and the commercialization of childhood. MP Jo Swinson (whom I have interviewed for “the Illusionists”) has spearheaded multiple victorious campaigns against excessive airbrushing and she is actively working to promote positive body image through the Campaign for Body Confidence. Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has backed an initiative that will promote media literacy lessons across schools in the UK, teaching kids how “idealized images in advertising and the media are used and how this can affect our body image.” If only we could have similar advocates in France!

Here are some suggestions on things to do:

  • You could voice your displeasure on the Facebook wall of the store 3 Suisses.
  • You could share this post with people & bloggers you know (for instance, you could forward it to tips@jezebel.com or redaction@causette.fr).
  • If you have noticed similar products in your local stores, please send photos at illusionists.film@gmail.com and I will include them in an updated version of this post.

As the Latin saying goes, “Qui tacet consentit” (silence implies consent).

Generous support for The Illusionists provided by:

ced logo 230px The End of Childhood? Frances Biggest Supermarket Chain Sells Bras to 5 Year OldsThe Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt provides a comprehensive continuum of specialized care for children, adolescents and adults with eating disorders. Our holistic and multi-disciplinary approach to recovery helps individuals and families move beyond surviving to thriving.

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/odile-weissenborn Odile

    First “skinny jeans” for 6 year olds; now padded bras for 5 year olds!! I’m in shock. Glad you’re raising awareness of this. Can’t wait for the film.

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  • Bonnie

    What is the excuse for this? Is childhood so long that it should be shorter? Little girls should be women before they are grown? translated via Babblefish into French:Quelle est l’excuse pour ceci ? L’enfance est-il si long qu’il devrait être plus court ? Les petites filles devraient être des femmes avant qu’elles soient développées ?

  • Anna

    Here’s what disturbs me the most. 20 years ago if you got your period at 8 years old you were brought in for a full hormone panel work up. This is now norm with little girls developing “buds.” Do I think 8 year olds need padded bras? No not really, but yeah. Unfortunately now-a-days little girls are “developing” and I can see why retailers are doing it. Do I like it or agree with it even a smidge? No.

    Unfortunately there are tons of chemicals in our beauty products and lotions. These chemicals are often rejected for use in food and then deemed “ok” for products that go on our skin. Some of these products are used from an early age (baby skin care products for starters). Not to mention the hormones and chemicals that go into our food. Again I’m not condoning the advertising but really, our poor kids don’t have a chance!

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  • dee

    its pathetic, I think as parents we need more “picky” to buy undies for our kids, sadly todays some companies sell cute “eye catchy” bra, but often it’s not appropriate for tween age (padded wire, push up etc) so thats why my friend has a website that sells cute appropriate tween bras, just for this reason, she ended up making them herself as she coudln’t get any nice ones. sorry for the plug but it’s http://zinkyzoo.com” it has kids appropriate prints and very cute. your kids will like it I think.

  • Lucy

    I live in france and i once saw a little girl who couldn’t have been older than four or five with her mother. she was wearing a bra and i could see the straps. i don’t know how her mother could have let her wear that in public, but she did.