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Since I started working on The Illusionists, I have been paying close attention to the world of children, with a specific question in mind: when do companies start selling the beauty myth to girls? What is the message that toys implicitly convey to girls and boys?

Here is a sample of photos that I have taken during various travels in the past year. You be the judge.

New York City, United States

Toys ‘R Us, Times Square, September 2009

Paris, France

La Grande Récré, February 2010

Milan, Italy

Carrefour Supermarket, April 2010

In their book “So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do About It” Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne explain:

Play makeup, facials, and now makeover fashion boutiques teach little girls that they should spend time focusing on how they look. Children learn from what they do, and when we give them toys and “special” grown-up activities to do, we’re telling them this is what we value and what we want them to learn. When the activities we give them are highly structured, adult-centered activities that tell them when they play they should focus on being pretty, even sexy, we’re letting the sexualized media and popular culture, not ourselves, control the lessons they will learn. And they are harmful lessons. They are very different from the ones little girls learn playing dress-up in their mother’s clothes, something that can be harmless and has gone on for ages. In these activities, children play in their own childlike ways based on their own experiences and ideas. When we take this control away from them, we allow them to be pushed further down the slippery slope of sexualized childhood.

Find out more about the book “So Sexy So Soon