British model Elizabeth Hurley made her name flaunting her beautiful face and body, but now she's making headlines for promoting a line of children's bikinis that critics say would be more appropriate for her than for little girls.
The suits in question are part of the Elizabeth Hurley Beach 2012 collection. One questionable design is the "Mini Cha Cha Bikini", a leopard print string bikini for kids under 8 that is modelled by a young girl who poses with her hands on her hips while gazing directly at the camera.
In the 8 to 13 age range, the "Colette Bikini" is held together in the front by a metal ring and is described as being "great for girls who want to look grown up."
The collection is available online worldwide, and it hasn't taken long for parenting groups to chastise Hurley -- who is a mom herself -- for the suits and the way they are being marketed.
"The poses in the photographs bother me more than the clothing," says Doone Estey, a partner at Canada's Parenting Network -- an agency that offers parenting courses. "Kids this age should be playing, running, swimming and doing sports, not showing off their bodies."
Estey adds that it is important to not simply blame the media and advertisers though.
"Why are the parents promoting (and buying) these outfits and allowing their daughters to be exploited in this way? Legislating bathing suit sales is not going to solve the problem."
Parenting author Kathy Lynn agrees.
"Children need to be allowed to be kids and should be wearing clothing that is appropriate for play. A better photo would be kids playing in the sand and jumping in the waves."
In Britain, some have pointed to the recommendations laid out in the government-supported Bailey Report, a review of consumer marketing to children. It recommends that retailers offer more age-appropriate clothes for children and sign a code of practice which checks and challenges the design, buying display and marketing of clothes, products and services for children, reports the Daily Mail.
Sara Dimerman is an Ontario parenting educator and speaker, and does not find the Hurley images particularly problematic.
"Neither the bikini bottoms nor tops are too revealing…even the poses are mostly fine," says Dimerman. "I have seen some children posing with legs wide open, full make up and looking a lot more sexualized and inappropriate."
Dimerman is more concerned with some of the more extreme media portrayals of oversexualized young girls.
"Shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras should be banned," says Dimerman. "It is the epitome of sexualization and exploitation of young children. Even shows such as America's Next Top Model, when watched by young children, can have a negative effect on them and the way they want to look and be."
As for Hurley, it would appear she doesn't see the problem. A representative tells the Daily Mail that this is the fourth year of the kids collection, and that they sell extremely well in the U.K., U.S., and Middle East. "'Most of our customers are repeat customers who report that their kids adore the designs,' said the representative.
What do you think of these designs? Would you let you 6 year old girl wear the above bikini? Sound off in the comments.
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